Most traffic collisions are caused by unintentionally, due to driver negligence. Examples of collisions that occur out of negligence include distracted driving by using a cell phone, speeding due to impatience, or cutting another driver off because of a failure to use side view mirrors. The vast majority of collisions are caused by driver negligence, with careless driving, drowsy driving, and intoxicated driving making up the top three types of negligence. However, some collisions are not caused by negligence but are caused by intent. In these situations, the injured victim can sue for intentional harm. In addition to being awarded compensation for your injuries, property damage, pain, and suffering lost wages, and other damages, you may also be awarded punitive damages if it can be proven that the other driver intended to cause the crash.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving is “the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to
endanger persons or property.” And, according to AAA, 80 percent of drivers “expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year.” It is difficult to determine what percentage of collisions are caused by road rages, such as intentionally tailgating to make a point or recklessly speeding past another vehicle at the first opportunity because it was going “too slowly,” because at-fault drivers keep this information to themselves when questioned by police and insurance adjusters. Moreover, most cases of road rage do not involve intentionally hitting another vehicle—the intention is simply to scare, intimidate, or let the other driver know about the frustration that they have caused the aggressor. Only when it can be proven that the driver intentionally caused the crash, intentionally hit a pedestrian, or intentionally drove a motorcyclist or bicyclist off the side of the road can the incident be pursued as intentional harm.
In personal injury torts, the plaintiff can receive compensation for their damages; this compensation is considered just that—compensation awarded for injuries, not compensation to punish the negligent party. However, if a party who caused the collision did so intentionally, the victim can seek punitive damages on top of damage compensation. Punitive damages are a form of punishment for the defendant, and are awarded based on numerous factors, including the defendant’s degree of culpability, whether or not the defendant has engaged in similar conduct in the past, the likelihood that the award will deter the defendant from similar actions in the future, and the wealth of the defendant (see South Carolina Code Section 15-32-520). As such, a court can award large punitive damages if the defendant is very wealthy, even if the personal injury damages were not great.
As a victim of road rage, intentional harm, or negligence, you deserve to be compensated for your injuries and other damages. Depending on how the crash was caused, you may also be entitled to punitive damages. For more information, do not hesitate to call the Anderson, S.C. personal injury attorneys of Krause, Moorhead & Draisen, P.A. Call us at 864-932-3001 to schedule a free consultation today.
Steven Krause is a personal injury, auto accident, and workers’ compensation lawyer who practices in Anderson, SC. He graduated form the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law and has been practicing law for 40 years now. Steven Krause believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience here.