These steps will get you closer to the compensation you deserve after a street racing accident results in a personal injury.
Personal injuries are always painful and potentially catastrophic interruptions of our lives. It adds insult to literal injury, though, when an injury is caused by a reckless, dangerous, and illegal act.
This is the case with injuries resulting from illegal street racing, which surged in popularity in the beginning of 2021.
An illegal street race is one that takes place between motor vehicles in a public area without official sanction. Hollywood is filled with examples of this kind of behavior. James Dean’s “chicken race” from “Rebel Without a Cause” is a classic example. Modern audiences love “The Fast and the Furious” movies and the thrills they offer.
The reality of street racing is not so glamorous. Accidents resulting from illegal street racing are often high speed and high impact. These car crashes can be deadly and debilitating. Traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and violent death can result.
These consequences aren’t just limited to race participants. Drivers take the risk of injury upon themselves, but what about others? Drag races and other street racing can also injure innocent bystanders or motorists.
This article will look at injuries arising from street race accidents. We’ll also examine the issue of legal responsibility. Claims and lawsuits can differ based on the injured person’s relationship to the race.
Who pays for the injury can also be a tricky question. So, we need to take a look at the question of who pays the injury victim’s medical bills and other damages.
Injuries and Criminal Charges
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the United States has seen more than 30,000 fatal car crashes per year over the past two decades. Street racing accidents appear at the top of the list most years.
The injuries from street racing accidents have the distinction of being easily preventable.
Street racing involves driving powerful motor vehicles through public roadways at high speeds. It presents serious risks to both drivers and nondrivers.
Some examples of actionable claims from street racing include:
- High-impact crashes with uninvolved motorists
- Bystander injuries, including hit-and-run accidents
- Property damage caused by racers (e.g., running into buildings or other structures)
- Negligent infliction of emotional distress for people fearing injury to themselves or loved ones
Street racing is almost always illegal. So, any injury may result in criminal charges as well as a civil injury case. In California, engaging in or even facilitating a street race is a misdemeanor. If it results in homicide or serious injury, a felony charge can result.
Bringing a Street Race Accident Claim
Injury claims resulting from street race accidents are different from other injury claims. There are two things you should focus on first: collecting evidence and finding who’s at fault.
1. Collecting Evidence
After a street race accident, evidence can be hard to find. Because these activities are illegal, there are usually few recorded accounts.
Security camera footage or records of the accident may be scarce. Witness accounts can be few and far between, if they are available at all. Don’t lose hope, though.
Somebody else may have film footage of the accident. A person or business’s security camera could have captured footage that can help your claims. This footage can give information showing what happened and when. It may also give some clues about the involved parties.
Also, law enforcement can be a valuable resource. Work with them. Police want to hear from victims of street race accidents. That testimony can help arrest and convict wrongdoers. The local police department may also be able to share information with you (like police reports) that can support your injury claim.
2. Identifying Responsible Parties
Street race accidents are sudden. The perpetrators rarely share their personal information afterward. This is particularly true in the case of hit-and-run accidents. This doesn’t mean you are powerless, though. Security and police camera footage can help with these kinds of identifications.
Red light cameras or security cameras around the race route can be helpful. You could even get license plate numbers or other key information identifying the person who injured you.
Keep in mind that there may be responsible parties other than the racers. Apart from the illegal race, there could have been a condition in the road that also caused your injury. For example, let’s say a city failed to maintain its roads. That failure created a pothole that caused a racer to lose control and strike you. In this case, the city may be a proper defendant.
Think about your own responsibility, too. For example, if you were a participant in the race, your own negligence in doing so could reduce or bar your claim. A defendant could also argue that, by engaging in an illegal street race, you assumed the risk and your claim is thus barred.
Compensation: Who Pays for Your Injury?
Assuming that you didn’t cause your own injury and that you have evidence of who did, the question then becomes how you get compensated.
Street racers probably don’t have a lot of assets to pay a judgment. The racer’s car insurance company may be responsible, but an illegal racer may also have decided to forego coverage.
In this case, you may be able to make a claim against your own uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, if you have it.
Unlike with slip and fall claims, there is rarely a commercial insurance policy against which you can make a claim. But keep in mind that if a public or private entity is also partially responsible for your injury, you may be able to make a claim against their insurance policy.
Also keep in mind that, due to the reckless driving associated with street racing, any person or insurance company compensating you would probably also be liable for punitive damages in addition to hard costs and non-economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering).
Why Are Punitive Damages Important in a Street Racing Case?
Punitive damages, which are awarded to punish intentional or reckless behavior in civil court, can increase the amount of damages you are legally entitled to by as much as nine times.
The possibility of an award of punitive damages can be especially helpful when negotiating with an insurance company. If an insured was drag racing on a public street and putting public health and welfare at risk, an already large insurance claim can quickly grow into a massive liability. An insurance company may settle sooner to avoid the risk of a large judgment.
Using Roadways Safely
Every person using public roads has a responsibility to everyone else to use them safely. Car accidents caused by ordinary negligence are bad enough. Intentional misuse of public roads in a way that presents the risk of serious injury or death to pedestrians and motorists is unacceptable.
Perpetrators should be punished criminally and civilly for their irresponsibility.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an illegal street race accident, evidence can be fleeting and difficult to find. In order to preserve your claim and have the best chance of compensation, you should take action immediately. Contact a qualified personal injury lawyer in your state for a free case evaluation.
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