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How Road Rage Makes a Car Accident Lawsuit a Little More Complicated

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Truly accidental car collisions are bad enough when they result in lasting injury and vehicle damage, but purposeful collisions caused by an angry driver can be even worse in both severity and the aftermath. If you're struggling to recover after a car accident caused by an angry or rage-filled driver, you'll need the help of an attorney who can handle the extra complications brought on by the aggressive behavior. Manage your car accident case the right way to maximize your compensation from a road rage collision.

Press Charges at the Scene

It's always best to bring up the road rage incident as quickly as possible when discussing the accident, preferably right at the scene of the collision to the police that arrive first. Establishing a complaint of aggressive behavior early on allows you to point to those first claims throughout the case to show you're not trying to fabricate a story later. If you're too injured or incapacitated to actually interact with the police immediately after the accident, make a point to mention you want to press charges for aggressive driving, assault, or battery as soon as you do get a chance to give your side of the story to the authorities.

Consider Punitive Damages vs. Restitution

Road rage can be handled two very different ways in court. If the rage resulted in direct injury to you or damage to your vehicle, you can press charges and have the state try the driver in a criminal case. You'll be involved, but your lawyer will be representing the state instead of you and can only secure proven damages for you. This means if you had $10,000 in medical bills and $10,000 in damages to the car, the most you can receive is $20,000, regardless of the future impact of your injuries or pain and suffering.

In contrast, sticking to a civil case allows you to

  • be represented directly by your lawyer, rather than just playing the part of a witness in a criminal case.
  • sue for punitive damages, which are larger amounts used to punish the driver in the hopes of deterring future crimes.
  • win with less hard evidence, since the standards for a guilty verdict in criminal cases are higher than civil ones.

In some states you can only chose one type of court case, while others will allow you to press both civil and criminal charges. Talk to your lawyer to figure out which method is best for you based on your injuries and the long-term effects of the accident. In most cases, filling initial charges immediately after the accident won't force you into a criminal case because you can drop the charges later if you decide to go with the civil court route.

Expand the Battery Definition

Don't forget about adding information about road rage behavior to your case even if the driver never personally touched you. Depending on your state's laws, actions like revving an engine at someone standing near the car or banging on the hood of a fellow driver's vehicle can be considered assault or battery. Make sure to mention these actions and other threatening movements even when you're not pressing criminal charges to explain to the judge how fear exacerbated your negative car accident experience.

Remember Your Response

Finally, don't conveniently forget to tell your lawyer about how you responded to the road rage. If you got out of your vehicle and did just as much yelling or punching as the other driver who instigated the event, you're likely to end up 50% liable for the damages done to your car and your medical bills. Stick with a straight car accident case and minimize the road rage on both sides if you suspect your behavior could interfere with the judgment.

Contact an auto accident attorney from a firm like Gelman Gelman Wiskow & McCarthy LLC for further advice.