As a bicyclist, your first reaction after being victimized by a “road rager” is probably to demand their arrest. In many cases, this may actually be an appropriate course of action. But, what do you do after that? There are two ways you can proceed with your case: civil court or criminal court–many bicyclists prefer to pursue only criminal charges.
But it isn’t always best to limit yourself, as you cannot recover non-economic damages (like pain and suffering) in criminal court. Further, any restitution orders issued by a Judge aren’t covered by insurance (California Insurance Code §533.5). Plus, if you work to show that the driver’s road rage was an “intentional act”, his insurance may exclude coverage of the event, as intentional acts are not covered by insurance (California Insurance Code §533).
The bottom line? It is easy to put a lot of work into cases against drivers with road rage and get very little in return. But there are things you can do: Argue the driver’s acts of road rage were reckless and malicious, and report the driver to the DMV for license revocation.
Reporting the driver with road rage to the DMV for license revocation will often result in a “re-examination” of the motorist’s driving privilege (California Vehicle Code §§12818 and 13800). Your legitimate report of road rage could make the road safer for you and other bicyclists like you! For more information on this strategy please refer to my article “DMV Justice” at www.911law.com.
Arguing that the driver’s acts of road rage were reckless and malicious will keep your civil case alive and also help you to establish punitive damages (See California Civil Code §3294). Although the punitive damages themselves are not covered by insurance policies, the underlying cause of the action is. Your civil claim will be enhanced, not damaged, by this strategy.
So, pick a justice strategy carefully. The wrong argument could be ineffective and a waste of time and resources, but the right one could maximize your civil damages and make the road a safer place. If you’re injured, hire an experienced trial attorney.