Road rage has become increasingly common on Ontario streets and highways, and like all forms of aggressive driving, it can, unfortunately, lead to motor vehicle accidents. According to the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association of Ontario, aggressive driving is one of the top three causes of accidents in the province. Unfortunately, we seem to be hearing about these types of altercations more frequently, and in some cases, one person’s aggressive behaviour can help lead to an accident they aren’t involved in. But they may not escape liability for damages, as demonstrated in a recent case. A person found to be partially at fault for an accident due to their actions may be found liable as a third party and required to contribute to the total damages.
In a recent case, Fabrizi v. Chu, a defendant in a motor vehicle accident brought a “third party” claim against a road rage instigator, claiming that he was partly responsible for a crash that he was not involved in. The court determined that the road rage incident had contributed to the motor vehicle accident and found the third party 50% responsible.
Defendant Struck Plaintiff in Attempt to Get Away From Third Driver
The plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle struck by the defendant, Fabrizi. After the plaintiff brought a claim against Fabrizi for injuries arising from the accident, Fabrizi brought a third-party action against the defendant, Chu. Fabrizi claimed that Chu’s actions caused the accident between the plaintiff and Fabrizi.
The plaintiff’s claim settled, so the issue before the court was whether Chu was liable for the accident.
Fabrizi and Chu had different recollections regarding what had happened. Fabrizi claimed that he had been driving behind Chu. Chu had been driving very slowly and talking on his cell phone, so Fabrizi passed Chu on the recommendation of his girlfriend (who was also a passenger in the vehicle). Chu then began driving erratically and appeared angry. He sped up to “block in” Fabrizi’s vehicle and exited his vehicle to confront Fabrizi and his girlfriend. Fabrizi claimed that Chu was “swearing, yelling, and punching and hitting” his car. Fabrizi was able to escape the road rage altercation by reversing his vehicle and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle shortly thereafter.
On the other hand, Chu claimed that Fabrizi had “zoomed by” his vehicle and caused a young boy to fall off his bike and onto the road. Chu was upset about this incident and sped up to catch Fabrizi. He claimed that he rolled down his window and told Fabrizi that he had been driving recklessly and that Fabrizi had spat at him. He admitted to hitting Fabrizi’s car with his fist.
The Test for Causation in Motor Vehicle Accident Claims
Based on Fabrizi and Chu’s testimony and the testimony of witnesses to the road rage incident, the court accepted that Fabrizi and his girlfriend had been the victims of Chu’s road rage. However, it did not find that Chu had “pinned” Fabrizi’s car or that a young boy had fallen off his bike. Nonetheless, the Court determined that Chu’s actions directly impacted Fabrizi’s state of mind as he drove away and struck the minivan.
The Court then turned to the issue of causation. To establish that Chu was in some way responsible for the accident, the Court had to determine was whether the accident would have happened “but for” Chu’s actions against Fabrizi. While the Court was not convinced that Fabrizi’s vehicle had been “pinned” by Chu, it found that if the road rage incident hadn’t happened, Fabrizi would not have hit the plaintiff’s vehicle. Based on this assessment, the court determined that Chu was 50% responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.
What This Decision Means for Personal Injury Claimants
Beyond a lesson on why drivers should never act upon feelings of road rage, this decision is a reminder for personal injury claimants, defendants, and lawyers alike to leave no stone unturned in a personal injury claim. If you do not fully explore the facts surrounding your claim, you might miss out on naming a potential defendant or splitting liability with another wrongdoer. This can be particularly important if the primary defendant has insufficient insurance coverage for the damages involved. If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, be sure to speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers to ensure you have a full picture of your potential claim.
Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers work tirelessly to pursue all avenues of recovery for claims relating to car and truck accidents and the resulting injuries. By following developments in our ever-changing legal landscape, we remain up-to-date on liability and legal strategies to ensure you obtain the best possible outcome.
Our lawyers recognize that no two injury claims are the same, which is why we give each claim the personalized attention needed to protect your rights and bring about the best possible outcome. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our team.