Legally speaking, road rage falls under the umbrella of assault and battery in most states, although a few have specific “aggressive driving” laws. In either case, the initial offense is prosecuted in criminal court, and usually requires you to press charges against the offending driver.
To receive restitution for damages and injuries caused by an aggressive driver, most car accident attorneys will recommend you pursue your case in civil court, where punitive damages can be applied.
Common Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Behaviors
Road rage manifests in number of ways, some more dangerous than others. Drivers experiencing this reaction — considered an impulse control disorder by psychiatrists — engage in dangerous behaviors including speeding, throwing objects, and intentionally colliding with cars, pedestrians or bicyclists.
The fact that most aggressive drivers are prosecuted under assault and battery charges helps the victims. Specifically, a driver expressing aggression may not always use an automobile as a weapon. Some drivers leave their cars to assault fellow citizens physically, in some cases using firearms or other items.
Restitution for Damages
The court does not automatically recognize your right to restitution above specific medical and repair bills related to the incident. It does, however, allow you to seek punitive damages. The difference here is intent. Rather than compensating you for property damage or injuries, punitive damages serve as an additional punishment to deter aggressive drivers from repeat offenses.
While criminal prosecution may allow you to be compensated for specific bills incurred as a result of another driver’s road rage, attorneys in these cases represent the government. Their interest is in establishing that laws were broken rather than making sure you receive adequate compensation.
A car accident attorney can help you pursue the case in civil court. The burden of proof is less in civil cases, and civil court allows you to seek additional punitive damages, while criminal courts limit liability to specific property damage and medical costs.
Your best option for pursuing punitive damages in a road rage case is to hire an experienced car accident attorney, who will work to prove and establish that you have incurred financial loss and suffering as a result of the incident. This usually involves compiling documents relative to the case, such as accident reports and medical records.
Regardless of how you intend to pursue the matter, pressing charges against the offending driver is your first step. Making sure drivers who engage in road rage are held responsible and cannot continue to endanger others serves your community as a whole. Additionally, criminal charges and the police records related to those charges help your car accident attorney meet the burden of proof required by the court system.