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Rammed from Behind at High Speed

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who wanted legal advice based on the following scenario. He had been driving along at night and stopped for a stoplight. A driver headed in the opposite direction flashed his headlights numerous times, trying to get the caller to disengage his high beams. The caller did not have his high beams on, but apparently, the other driver thought that he did.

When the light changed, the driver, who had been flashing his lights, quickly pulled behind the caller, doing an illegal U-turn, and driving at high speed, smashed into the rear of the caller’s car.

The caller was upset because the police report didn’t reflect all of the information just described. Instead, it matter-of-factly reported that the caller’s car was rear-ended by the other driver.

We get calls of this nature occasionally. The primary complaint that the caller had is that he believed that the crash was intentional. He pointed out that the fellow who rear-ended him got out after the crash and started yelling, flipping him off.

After listening to the caller, who was obviously upset about what happened, I asked.  What do you think would happen if you proved that the other driver intentionally rammed you, intending harm to you?

The caller said that he thought that the fellow’s insurance company would pay more money in the case if it could be made to understand that the crash was intentional.

When I pointed out that proving an intentional act would have the exact opposite effect, the caller was very confused.

Here’s the law in a nutshell. When you buy liability insurance to protect you from negligently colliding with another car, that insurance invariably excludes coverage if you act intentionally to cause a crash.

In other words, insurance covers unintentional acts of carelessness. It rarely covers an intentional action where the insured purposely harms someone by ramming a car into them.

So in most cases, the last thing you want to do is claim that the other driver intentionally harmed you.

Most policies will cover negligent conduct and reckless conduct, but usually, intentional conduct is excluded.

So if the fellow that hits you from the rear is a billionaire, and you don’t care whether he has insurance, you can go ahead and work hard to prove intentional harm. But in almost every other circumstance, you wouldn’t want to go to the effort of trying to prove he intended to harm you.

Moreover, as a practical matter, proving intentional conduct would be difficult. Perhaps in the caller’s case, the person who rear-ended him tried to slam on his brakes and just scare him. Still, the car got away from him, and he ended up accelerating instead of applying his brakes.

Unless you can get inside the person’s mind, it is challenging to determine if a particular act was intentional or not.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”