Damages and Liability for Road Rage Incident

Over the last several years, incidents of road rage have been gradually increasing. Sometimes these incidents even result in personal injury or property damage. When you are a victim, you will probably wonder, “Can I sue the other driver, who assaulted me in a road rage incident?” Assuming that you can identify the person who actually assaulted you, you may be able to sue the driver for any personal injuries or property damage to your vehicle, in addition to potential criminal charges.

Assault and battery are both intentional acts. Assault B is reasonable apprehension of an immediate battery. This means the other person threatened to hit you or did something which placed you in reasonable apprehension of being struck by the other party. Battery is the harmful or offensive touching of another person without consent or privilege. If the other party struck you, this would constitute harmful or offensive touching to establish liability for battery. Harmful or offensive physical contact with the person or with something near the person would establish liability for battery. Examples of battery include:

  • The other driver started hitting your car with his car;
  • The other driver gets out and starts pounding on your car, while you are in or near the car;
  • After driving you off the road, the other driver gets out of his car and strikes you.

Any of these examples may be considered sufficient harmful or offensive contact for the other driver to be liable for battery. It would also be sufficient to establish liability for assault because you were placed in reasonable apprehension of an immediate battery in that the other party's actions indicate that he may hit you.

If you were injured in this road rage incident, when you finish your medical treatment and are released by the doctor, obtain your medical bills and medical reports. The medical bills, any wage loss due to your injuries and the medical reports will support your claim for damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit). The medical reports will document the nature and extent of your injuries. Since assault and battery are intentional acts, in addition to compensatory damages for your injuries, you could also seek punitive damages against the other driver in the road rage incident. Punitive damages are amounts to punish the other party for intentional, malicious acts that caused your injuries.

Assault and battery are both civil and criminal matters. In addition to your civil suit and filing an insurance claim, you should contact the police and/or the district attorney's office to pursue criminal charges against the driver in the road rage incident. If there were witnesses to this road rage incident, their testimony will provide additional evidence supporting both your civil and criminal cases. It will be easier to establish liability in your civil case as opposed to the criminal case because a lesser burden of proof is required in a civil case.

In a civil case, proof is established by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the evidence establishes that it is more likely than not that the incident occurred while in a criminal case; guilt has to be established beyond a reasonable doubt—a much higher standard than in a civil case. Your damages are also more limited in a criminal case. Most states only allow prosecuting attorneys to collect actual damages, not punitive damages.

Also keep in mind that the prosecuting attorney represents the county or state, they do not represent you personally. Even if a criminal charge is pending, you should still consult a private attorney to explore all of your options and remedies as a victim of road rage.