Woodland Hills Personal Injury Attorney Barry P. Goldberg hears about Road Rage and accidents resulting from Road Rage all the time. But, what is “Road Rage”? However, from a legal standpoint, the conduct such motorists may be considered either aggressive driving or road rage. Understanding the difference between the two is important when deciding how to proceed.
What is Road Rage?
Road Rage is intentional behavior — the offending motorist engages in conduct intended to harm the victim. Examples of Road Rage are 1) the motorist pounds on the victim’s windows; 2) rams his car into the victim’s vehicle; 3) throws objects at the victim’s vehicle; 4) runs over the victim; or 4) verbally threatens the victim coupled with an intent to put the victim in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact.
What can I sue for if I am injured or suffered property damage?
Assault and battery are the most common civil causes of action in a road rage case, but other actions could include false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Assault occurs when a motorist intentionally puts another motorist in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful or offensive contact. For example, an assault could be when an enraged motorist approaches the victim motorist armed with a weapon and with the intent to use the weapon, but falls short of doing so. The victim motorist could reasonably be fearful that the enraged motorist will imminently harm them or their vehicle, especially when the motorist is waving the weapon around menacingly.
Battery occurs when a motorist inflicts harmful or offensive contact on the victim motorist with the intent of doing so. If the enraged motorist above used his weapon on the victim or her vehicle, then he committed a battery. This conduct would constitute both assault and battery because the enraged motorist put the victim in apprehension of imminent harm, and did in fact harm the victim. If the enraged motorist damaged the victim motorist’s vehicle rather than harming the motorist, then the victim must be in or in close vicinity to the vehicle for the conduct to constitute a battery.
In addition to actual damages sustained by the victim, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are intended to punish the offending motorist for his unacceptable conduct, and, in egregious circumstances, could total several times more than the actual damages awarded.
Discourteous gestures on the road, such as flipping another motorist off, can erupt into an unfortunate road rage incident. Recently, the Sacramento Bee reported a case where the victim motorist’s passenger “flipped off” a tailgater. The tailgater freaked out, and forced the victims off the road. Then, he approached and waved an identification badge falsely stating she was a law enforcement officer. The victims sped away, but the tailgater gave chase, crashed into them!
The lesson is simple: be courteous to other motorists as you wish they were towards you. While it may be satisfying to express your own frustration towards other motorists on the road, such expression may be very dangerous.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a serious motor vehicle incident involving road rage, then it is critical to hire an experienced personal injury attorney that can conduct a sufficient investigation to determine if the at fault motorist’s tortious conduct was intentional and may require punitive damages.