Chased fleeing driver to residence, where he pulled a handgun on me...
As I and my family were returning home from the grocery store, a suspect in a white 2005 Ford F-150 was dangerously tailgating me as I was attempting to make a left turn at an intersection. The suspect, a 6'1" or 6'2" African American male, then slammed into me about 40+ mph.
I pulled over to see if there were any damages or injury to my 29 year old wife, my 18 month old daughter & my 4 year old son. The suspect then took off. My wife immediately was on the phone with police dispatch identifying the driver, the make & model of the vehicle, as well as the license plate information.
I followed/chased the suspect to a residence where he pulled into the driveway. The suspect then exited the vehicle and drew a hand gun. I then took off with my wife, still on the phone with police dispatch screaming at me to get away. I was able to keep the suspect in view of my vehicle's rear-view mirror, keeping myself out of firing range.
I made a u-turn to locate the suspect driver & he disappeared on foot as police arrived. I then directed police to the location of the vehicle that struck me. At this time, the actual owner of the vehicle came out of the house yelling, "What's going on?"
EMTs arrived to transport my son & wife to the hospital. The owner of the vehicle is claiming that he let his cousin borrow the vehicle & does not know the individual that struck mine. What can we do? Is the owner liable, or the cousin? Any perspective on our recourse in this situation would be great. Thank you!
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ANSWER for "Chased fleeing driver to residence, where he pulled a handgun on me...":
Tony (Charleston, SC):
In most cases, owners of vehicles are responsible for traffic accidents caused by themselves or others who had permission from the owner to drive the vehicle. However, there is an exception. If the driver was using the vehicle in furtherance of a crime, then the owner would likely not be liable.
In this case, the drawing of the weapon might be argued by the owner as a defense to his liability. The argument is thin, but be prepared for the owner to rely on it.
From this point forward, in answering your question we will take the position the driver’s drawing of the weapon does not exclude the owner from liability.
Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report. In it may be a notation made by one of the officers of the issuance of a traffic citation to the driver for "Following too Closely."
South Carolina law Section 56-5-1930(a) states the following:
"The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."
If that citation was issued, and it should have been, in addition to the more serious felony offense of exhibiting a weapon, then that citation can be used as evidence of the driver's’ negligence. As a result, the owner and the driver should be liable for the damage to your car and possibly for the medical bills sustained by your wife and son.
Why you decided to pursue the driver instead of driving directly to the hospital so your wife and son could receive medical treatment is curious. It would seem your family's health should have been much more important than pursuing a driver who collided with your car. This argument could be used by the defendant in the case to make it appear you were acting recklessly and aggressively, and that's why he drew the gun.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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