Recovering Damages in an Intentional Collision
In Arizona, and elsewhere, motor vehicle accidents typically occur due to the negligent or reckless conduct of a defendant. Of course, there are many cases in which the defendant has intentionally caused injuries to the defendant — such conduct falls within the umbrella of intentional torts, and may expose the defendant to civil liability for damages you suffered as a result, as well as criminal liability.
Many injury plaintiffs are not familiar with the prospect of twin criminal and civil liability, and don’t quite realize how one affects the other. Put simply, the fact that the defendant is currently engaged in — or will be engaged in — a criminal prosecution will have no bearing on your ability to recover damages in civil litigation. Even if the defendant is found innocent in criminal litigation, it’s worth noting that criminal liability requires the satisfaction of a much stricter burden of proof (i.e., 99 percent certainty, as opposed to the 51 percent certainty required in civil litigation).
Road rage is an unfortunate reality. In the spur of the moment, many drivers lose their senses and engage in behaviors that are designed to frustrate another driver who they perceive to be doing something wrong. Such conduct is unarguably intentional, and can expose others to a significantly heightened risk of harm.
Intentional collisions give rise to unique considerations in the Arizona motor vehicle accident context, which an experienced Phoenix accident lawyer can use advantageously in litigation. Consider the following.
Intentional Misconduct and the Sliding Scale of Liability
In a motor vehicle accident, the defendant-driver’s conduct falls on a sliding scale, with one side being negligence, and the other side being intentional misconduct. In the middle lies reckless conduct (otherwise known as gross negligence). Negligent actions are so careless that they violate the standard of reasonable care for a given situation. Proving that the defendant engaged in negligence requires that the plaintiff establish the proper standard of care and demonstrate that the defendant violated that standard. By contrast, proving that the defendant engaged in intentional misconduct requires that the plaintiff demonstrate that the defendant actually intended to cause them harm — the state of mind must be made clear. It’s worth noting that the plaintiff can always plead negligence or recklessness in the alternative.
For example, suppose that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident where the defendant swerved into your lane and collided with your vehicle. You assert that the defendant intentionally caused such harm due to “road rage.” Your attorney will likely also plead that — in the alternative — the defendant engaged in negligent conduct that violated the standard of care in the circumstances (i.e., a reasonable person would have merged only after using their blinkers, and only if there was sufficient space to merge). As such, you can still recover damages even if establishing the specific intent of the defendant proves too difficult.
Potential for Punitive Damages
In Arizona, punitive damages are sometimes awarded in personal injury lawsuits when the defendant has acted in such a way that their conduct was indicative of an “evil hand and an evil mind.” An evil mind is demonstrated by evidence of the defendant’s intention to cause harm to the plaintiff, or when the defendant’s conduct was motivated by maliciousness or ill will. If the defendant collides with you intentionally, for example, there is a strong likelihood that you will be awarded punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
Contact an Experienced Phoenix Accident Lawyer Today
If you have suffered injuries due to the intentional misconduct of a driver in Arizona, then you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Here at Hirsch & Lyon, our attorneys have decades of experience litigating a range of claims on behalf of injured clients, including those that involve a defendant’s intentional misconduct (such as a car accident caused by the defendant’s “road rage”).
We are committed to personalized representation. Throughout the litigation process, we strive to keep our strategic objectives aligned with those of our clients. We believe that transparency in the attorney-client relationship is critical to success in litigation.
Call (602) 535-1900 today to speak with an experienced Phoenix accident lawyer here at Hirsch & Lyon. Your initial consultation is free, and thereafter, we work on contingency — you only pay if we obtain damages on your behalf, and thanks to our discounted contingency fee arrangements, you get to keep more for yourself!