If you drive regularly, chances are you’ve witnessed road rage or been the victim of it. For some unfortunate drivers road rage escalates into violence and can even turn deadly. These dangerous encounters can happen to anyone, as recently proven by Denise Richards. The actress and her husband were driving in Los Angeles when a pick-up truck began to aggressively tailgate them while yelling that they had cut him off. It wasn’t until they got to their destination that they realized the driver had also shot at the back of their truck before speeding off. They were lucky to escape unscathed, but others aren’t as fortunate.
No one can deny that being on the receiving end of another driver’s out-of-control anger is frightening, especially if you have loved ones in the car with you. But being traumatized by the experience, as awful as it was, isn’t usually enough to file a civil lawsuit against the angry driver. However, if the other driver’s actions injured you, you would have grounds to sue them. Whether they deliberately hit you with their vehicle, physically attacked you or shot at you, they will face criminal charges too.
“If you are injured in a road rage incident with another driver, you can sue them in civil court if you can show their actions caused your injuries,” states attorney J.J. Dominguez of The Dominguez Firm. “Normally there will be a police investigation and report outlining what happened. This would show proof of their unlawful actions.” He continued, “You should call a car accident attorney right away, even though the act was deliberate. They can help you file a civil claim against the responsible party and make them pay for their outrageous behavior.”
Keep in mind that any criminal charges against your attacker are separate from your civil case. In a criminal case, the goal is to punish the acts of the defendant with possible prison time. Also, only the government can file a criminal case, not the victim. In a civil case, the victim can sue the defendant directly for their actions. But instead of seeking prison time, the road rage victim is seeking financial compensation from their attacker. This can include economic, non-economic and punitive damages.
Economic damages are exactly what they sound like, they are meant to reimburse the victim for all of the expenses caused by the road rage incident. This can include medical bills, mental health counseling and any damage to their vehicle. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate the victim for the emotional toll the incident has had on them and their family. Because a criminal act was involved, the victim would likely receive punitive damages also. Although this category of damages is not commonly awarded in a regular accident case, it is if the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by a malicious act, which road rage surely qualifies as. This is done more to punish the defendant and discourage similar behavior from others in the future.
There has been a sharp rise in road rage incidents involving violence in the last few years. Being careful and driving defensively can help you avoid becoming a victim. If you do find yourself in a situation where another driver is threatening or shouting at you, avoid making any eye contact and don’t confront them. Usually they’re speeding so if you can, let them pass you. Don’t drive home or to your job if you’re near either one. If their behavior gets worse, call 911 immediately. Stay safe and always be aware of your surroundings.