Most of the time when a person suffers injuries in an incident involving an automobile, one expects those injuries to be accidental, caused by an inadvertent collision resulting from momentary inattention or other negligence. However, there is another terrible scenario in which people can be harmed in automotive-related incidents, and it is the story behind the $1.6 million judgment recently awarded in a Mercer County lawsuit: road rage.
On the Saturday morning of June 18, 2016, retired New Jersey police officer Matthew Lee was attacked by Silvio L. Bizzari, Jr. of Trenton, in the parking lot of Hamilton’s Mercerville Shopping Center, according to police reports. Bizzari was driving a vehicle belonging to his mother (who is also named in Lee’s lawsuit) when a verbal altercation between him and Lee took place, which escalated into the physical attack.
Bizzari, aged 42 at the time of the incident, was arrested the next day on the charge of aggravated assault, for which he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to probation. Lee, aged 70 at the time of the assault, was hospitalized for his injuries; his head struck the pavement during the attack, resulting in memory and cognitive difficulties in addition to other physical injuries. At present, nearly six years after the assault, Lee’s attorney reports that he has made strides in his recovery, saying that Lee is “doing better” and is “a fighter.”
With the help of his attorney Sungkyu Lee (no relation), Matthew Lee filed suit against both his attacker and the owner of the vehicle driven by his assailant; he also filed an uninsured motorist claim with his own insurance company, which has yet to be resolved. Lee’s lawsuit against Bizzari and his mother was resolved in March with a default judgment against the defendants, who failed to respond to the proceedings. Matthew Lee has not yet received any compensation funds from either lawsuit as of this writing.
Sadly, the attack suffered by Matthew Lee is by no means an isolated or rare incident among automotive-related injuries. Road rage incidents are a serious problem on America’s streets and highways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
Unfortunately, obtaining just compensation for injuries suffered in a road rage attack can be somewhat more difficult than it might be for injuries sustained in a more typical car accident. A big part of the reason for this difficulty is insurance coverage; according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), many auto insurance policies specifically exempt from coverage road rage incidents, because they involve the deliberate choice to engage in risky or illegal behavior on the part of the insured. When no insurance coverage exists, it may not matter how conclusive the evidence is in support of the injury victim’s case, or how much compensation they deserve – if the defendant doesn’t have the money or property to pay the damage award, the injured plaintiff cannot collect money that doesn’t exist. In these situations, it becomes particularly necessary to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side, to consider other ways of obtaining the compensation you need and deserve – such as through a claim on your own auto insurance policy’s uninsured motorist coverage.
While you cannot control the actions of reckless or aggressive drivers, there are a few steps you can take to avoid dangerous motorists and de-escalate potentially threatening situations.
- Keep your distance from aggressive drivers. Change lanes, slow down, or allow the driver to pass you if another motorist is exhibiting behavior that makes you feel unsafe.
- Record a description of the unsafe vehicle, including license plate. If you have a passenger in your vehicle, ask them to snap a photo of the car or write down details so you can keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. You can pass this information along to police later; if this driver is behaving unsafely around you, they will probably do the same around others.
- Do not engage with or challenge the aggressive driver. No matter how tempting it may be to respond to a rude gesture or shouting, avoid any interaction, as it may escalate the situation. According to AutoVantage Club, 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm. Don’t take that risk.
- Keep yourself safe. If you are being followed by an aggressive driver, DO NOT STOP. Keep your doors locked. Drive directly to the nearest police station. If the aggressive driver doesn’t take the hint and give up, you will have help and protection there.
Most of us would never think of resorting to deliberate violence in response to traffic frustrations, but it’s imperative to keep in mind that there are individuals on our roads and in our communities who do exactly that every day. It’s important to know how to keep yourself safe, and what to do if you are the victim of such an attack.
Contact MyNJInjuryLawyer Howard P. Lesnik
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in an accident in NJ, you should contact an attorney familiar with handling these claims. An experienced NJ Injury Lawyer will know how to obtain medical records, videos, photographs, experts, locate witnesses and contact the insurance company so you can make a claim for your injuries.
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