Video of a violent road rage incident that reportedly occurred last Tuesday has surfaced and is being broadcast by major media outlets. According to the story run by KTLA news, the incident happened at about 3:30 p.m. on the northbound 5 Freeway at 7th Street in Los Angeles. From the video, one man (who was driving a Honda) is seen arguing with a group of three younger men (all occupants of a Volkswagen) outside of their vehicles on the freeway. At one point, the Honda driver and one of the younger men square off and a fist fight begins. Eventually, another of the occupants from the VW jumps into the brawl, and the Honda driver is taken to the ground. He is ultimately kicked in the head at least four times after he appears to be unconscious from an earlier head kick. Police are looking for witnesses and the occupants of the VW, license number 3UGW962.
See the KTLA news story and the video HERE.
The violence of the incident above is shocking, and the legal ramifications are surprisingly complex. First, although it is unknown what happened before the video began, it seems pretty clear this road rage assault was initially a case of "mutual combat". Both the younger and the older gentleman appeared to agree to fight, and both raised their hands to begin. It was actually the Honda driver who threw the first blow, a straight kick. Under the law, voluntary mutual combat outside the rules of sport is a breach of the peace, mutual consent is no justification, and both participants are guilty of criminal assault. As for civil liability, as between the combatants, the tort involved is that of assault and battery, and the general rule is that each participant has committed a battery on the other, so each may hold the other liable for any injury inflicted although both consented to the contest. In the case above, the three who actually engaged in the fight would all appear to be guilty of criminal assault, and each would be civilly liable to the other for the injuries. The kicks to the victim on the ground, however, went beyond the mutual combat, and would likely be characterized as separate crimes, perhaps rising to the level of a felony depending on the nature of the Honda driver's injuries.
In situations such as this, sometimes the question arises as to whether those present had a legal duty to intervene. In general, there is no duty to act as a "good samaritan" and go to the aid of another in situations like this. However, if aid is commenced then it must be carried out in a careful manner, so as not to worsen the position of the party who is to be rescued. The good samaritan rule is different if there exists a "special relationship" between the victim and the rescuer, such as that existing between a business owner and invitee.
Compensation for the victims of criminal assaults should be an important concern for all Californians. When an assault takes place, the perpetrator(s) should be held accountable and compensation paid to the victim. An Orange County injury lawyer with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has more than 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, including just this type. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you or a family member been a victim of an assault that could have been prevented?
Nothing in this post is intended to suggest the Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph currently represents anyone involved in the news story above. This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.