civil actions for road rage

We would probably all agree that aggressive driving, often referred to as “road rage,” is a serious problem in our country. 

In fact, according to the American Safety Council, 66% of all traffic fatalities are caused by some form of aggressive driving. 

What’s worse, 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.  Those are scary numbers. 

The good news is, in addition to possible criminal charges, you can bring civil actions for road rage as well.

Family vacation ends in road rage attack

The family was returning from a vacation in Hilton Head, SC, with their three children in the back of their Ford Expedition.  They first encountered the other driver at a traffic light near the on-ramp to I-95. They claim the driver was driving recklessly and erratically and pulled his luxury vehicle directly in front of their SUV, then slammed on the brakes.  The father admits he threw up his hands in frustration, but the other driver claims it was an obscene gesture.

They parted ways, but encountered each other again on the interstate, where the driver was traveling well below the speed limit.  As the family passed his vehicle, the driver let down his window and began firing a handgun at their SUV.  While no one was injured, at least one bullet passed through the vehicle, shattering both the driver’s and passenger’s side windows.

Jury verdict for $4.8 million for road rage attack

The jury believed that this family was the victim of a road rage attack, and awarded them a total of $4.8 million — $1.6 million in compensatory damages and $3.2 million in punitive damages.

Because the jury found that the other driver’s actions established a specific intent to harm, the damage award was not subject to the normal $250,000 cap state cap on punitive damages.  The CEO later pleaded guilty to aggravate assault, but the family brought a civil action against him as well. 

His criminal penalties amounted to only six months in jail, while the family was utterly traumatized by the incident.

Is aggressive driving the same as road rage?

The past several years, have seen an increase in rude, obnoxious, and often violent drivers on our roadways.  This type of behavior has become known as “road rage,” appropriately dubbed by the media reporting on those surprising incidents.  Road rage and aggressive driving, though often used interchangeably, are not actually the same thing.  Aggressive driving is a traffic offense, whereas road rage can lead to criminal charges, like the incident in Georgia.

The legal distinctions between the two

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines the term “aggressive driving” as the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.  This type of offense includes speeding or driving too fast for conditions, improper lane changing, tailgating and improper passing. Road rage, on the other hand, includes violent acts ranging from physical confrontations to an assault with a motor vehicle or even a gun.

If you have questions regarding road rage, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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