Driving can be frustrating. But when a driver turns frustration into hostility, being on the roads can be downright scary. When road rage causes an accident, the victim may bring a claim for compensation. Call our local California car accident lawyer today to discuss your claim.
What is Road Rage?
Road rage is violence motivated by anger, frustration and stress while driving.
Does California have a road rage law?
California does not have a law that is called a road rage law. However, there are many crimes that fall under road rage behaviors including assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving and various traffic offenses.
Can an accident claim be based on road rage?
An accident claim may be based on road rage. Accident claims are based on negligence, recklessness and distracted driving or intentional misconduct. Most claims reference negligence, but road rage is more serious than negligence. It is recklessness or intentional harm. In fact, the claim may qualify for punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages typically awarded.
California Road Rage Crimes
While California doesn’t have a law prohibiting “road rage,” with a specific definition, a person engaging in road rage may commit many different crimes.
Here are some crimes, civil infractions and penalties that may fall under the broad auspices of road rage:
California Vehicle Code § 23103 prohibits driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people or property. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. (Salazar v. Upland Police Department, 116 Cal.App.4th 934, 2004).
Vehicular manslaughter occurs when a person drives with gross negligence in the commission of an unlawful act, or in a lawful way which might produce death in an unlawful manner. (California Penal Code § 192(c)).
If road rage results in death, and the driver displays actual or implied malice, they may be charged with murder. See People v. Watson, 30 Cal.3d 290 (1981).
Assault with a dangerous weapon
Assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by up to four years in state prison or up to one year in county jail plus a fine of up to $10,000. (California Penal Code § 245(a); Peace v. Roe, 60 F. App’x 107 (9th Cir. 2003).).
Assault and battery
Unlawful use of force or violence against a person is assault and battery in California. Without serious injury, it is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. If serious bodily injury results, the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, carrying possible incarceration of up to four years. (California Penal Code § 242, § 243(d)).
Brandishing a firearm
If a driver brandishes a firearm in a road rage incident, they may be charged with a violation of California Penal Code § 417.4. It is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in county jail.
Threatening to commit a crime resulting in death or great bodily injury is a violation of California Penal Code § 422. (See People v. Velasquez, Cal. Ct. App., D079053 (2021), where a driver was charged with making criminal threats in a road rage incident.)
Driving too fast for conditions/Basic speed law
A road rage driver may be charged with a violation of basic speed law. California Vehicle Code § 22350 prohibits driving too fast considering the weather, visibility, traffic and other conditions.
One way a driver may show road rage is by cutting off another driver. If they do not properly signal before turning, they may receive a citation (California Vehicle Code § 22108).
Tailgating/Following too closely
A driver may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent given all the conditions of the roadway. Tailgating is a common road rage behavior that may violate California Vehicle Code § 21703.
If a driver slows their speed to block someone else in traffic, they are in violation of California Vehicle Code § 22400.
Road rage-related driver’s license suspension
A driver who commits road rage may have their license suspended. California Vehicle Code § 13210 allows the State of California to suspend the license of anyone striking a person on a highway due to road rage. The suspension is six months for a first offense and one year for a second offense. A court may alternatively order an anger management or road rage education course.
Compensation Claims Based on Road Rage
A claim for compensation may be based on road rage. The victim must suffer a physical injury, property damage or both. Road rage is strong proof of fault for the crash.
The victim may claim damages available to car accident victims. Generally, this includes economic damages like medical care, lost income and property damage. Non-economic damages may be claimed, too, like pain and suffering, mental anguish and disability. Punitive damages in car accident claims are rare – however, a claim based on road rage may qualify. The victim must prove that the defendant’s conduct demonstrated malice, oppression or fraud. The burden of proof is clear and convincing evidence.
Proof of road rage is extremely important in a claim. The defendant’s motivation may be shown by their actions leading up to the crash and their statements to others. Witness testimony and cross-examination of the defendant may be key. The credibility of witnesses may be an important consideration for the jury.
While a conviction against the defendant or a finding of responsibility for a traffic ticket may be helpful, it is not necessarily conclusive of fault for a car accident claim. Responding to allegations of comparative negligence and other defenses is critical for the victim to receive justice.
Help With Crash Injuries Involving Road Rage
If you are the victim of a car accident where road rage was involved, you have important rights. Call the Sargent Law Firm Injury Lawyers today for assistance. Our experienced car accident lawyers in California can investigate road rage as a possible cause, build the evidence and take the needed legal steps to claim compensation. Even if criminal charges or a traffic ticket were not issued, we can work to demonstrate the truth and protect your rights to recover your damages.
Contact us today to talk about your case.