Road rage is fairly common these days; many on the road experience anger brought on by the stress and frustration of driving—but not all of us act on it. When an individual does however it can be dangerous, sometimes placing someone else’s life at risk. Unfortunately, these incidents take place frequently, and they can become exacerbated if one or more drivers involved is also under the influence of alcohol or something else that negatively affects driving. If this results in personal injuries, those that are victimized by road rage may need to seek damages from the other driver, who has acted negligently and, in some instances, even intentionally.

Road rage isn’t limited to one particular age range: Recently a 67-year old man was charged in what authorities termed a “drunken road rage” wreck that killed someone else when he intentionally hit another pickup truck–sending it rolling–and then fled the scene. When the police found him, he stated that he did it because the guy in the pickup cut him off. Sadly, that victim died as a result of the accident, and the man charged in his death has two previous drunken driving convictions, indicating that this could be a pattern. He now faces criminal charges, including motor vehicle homicide while drunk and leaving the scene of a death or personal injury.

The Law in Rhode Island

While many of these types of incidents result in injuries, some also result in wrongful death. In Rhode Island, wrongful death is defined as death caused by the wrongful act, negligence, or fault of another. In other words, if the deceased had survived, they would have been able to bring a personal injury claim, thus personal injury and wrongful death are connected; the law on wrongful death effectively enables someone else to bring the victim’s claim to seek damages as though they had survived.

Sometimes wrongful death claims are filed simultaneously with the wrongdoer being prosecuted under criminal charges. The State prosecutes for criminal charges while the administrator of the deceased’s estate sues for wrongful death. While the State seeks criminal sanctions such as jail time the administrator’s civil suit seeks financial compensation.

Although the claim is brought by the estate administrator, it is often for the benefit of the victim’s surviving family members; specifically, the surviving spouse, children, and/or other heirs such as parents or grandchildren. Compensation received for wrongful death claims can include any medical expenses the victim dealt with due to the injury, lost wages as a result of the injury (including wages that would have been made in the future), pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and, in some instances, punitive damages intended to punish the party responsible for the wrongdoing.