What's the best way to deal with road rage?

A road rage incident in New Orleans last week demonstrates how crazy our highways have become. The two male drivers pulled off the road. One man accused the other of cutting him off. An argument ensued, and ended when one driver pulled out a gun and shot the other man dead.

The victim was former NFL running back Joe McKnight, who played for the Jets and Chiefs.

Road rage is on the rise. You can be driving along and suddenly another driver appears, mad as hell. They think you cut them off, or were driving too slow, or failed to signal.

Why are they so mad?

You get the feeling that they are really angry about something else, and you just got in their way. It's extremely upsetting. The driver may curse at you, shake a fist, threaten to rear-end you or drive you off the road entirely. The angry driver may get out and pound on your car, and threaten you. Sometimes you get angry, too, as happened in the McKnight killing.

Any of these examples are serious enough that the other driver, if identified, may be charged with battery. Even if no blows are landed, they may be charged with assault because they made you think you were in danger.

Can you be compensated for road rage injuries?

But are injuries caused by road rage compensable? They can be, under certain circumstances.

The main requirement is that you be able to identify the driver. In many road rage incidents, this is hard to do.

If you were injured in the incident, you may sue the individual for medical bills and lost wages. If the behavior was plainly egregious, you may be able to demand punitive damages. But be sure there is no likelihood of violent retaliation.

Poor targets

Sometimes, road rage drivers are poor targets for a civil suit. They may be uninsured or underinsured. They may have no resources to compensate you. In such cases, you may seek compensation from your own policy.

If the other driver is arrested, remember that criminal charges against him don't do you any good. If you wish to pursue the matter and obtain damages, it's not the prosecutor's job to protect your interests. Only an experienced personal injury lawyer can effectively make your case.

More important than suing the other driver later is surviving the immediate ordeal. Here are some tips for minimizing the violence angry drivers can do:

  • Don't get angry yourself. Testosterone-fueled combativeness can make bad situations much worse.
  • Suspend judgment. Your priority must be safety until this heated moment passes.
  • Don't respond. If the other driver is blaring his horn, or following you too closely, don't hit your horn or slam on the brakes.
  • Don't try to win the argument. You may not feel like apologizing, but the best response is often to mouth the word SORRY. Even if you're not particularly sorry.
  • Respect the craziness. The other driver may be psychotic, or drunk, or on angel dust, or may have just been fired, or divorced, or be a violent criminal. You don't want to mess with any of that.
  • Don't pull over. As the McKnight incident shows, bad things can happen alongside the road.
  • Get the other driver's license number. It may be your only way to identify him as he speeds away.

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