Is hitting someone with a car assault?

Is hitting someone with a car assault? It depends on the intention behind the collision. If you didn’t mean to and the incident was an accident, it’s not considered assault. However, when a driver gets angry and hits another car, threatens a driver, or drives them off the road, they can be charged with vehicular assault. Assaulting someone with a car can lead to fines, the suspension of your license, higher rates for your insurance, and even jail time.

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UPDATED: Jun 2, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 2, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • Assault is more than just hitting someone – as long as the victim feels genuine fear for their safety, even words can count as assault
  • Hitting someone with your car might be considered assault, depending on the intention behind it
  • Intentionally hitting someone with your car can lead to jail time, fees, higher insurance rates, and the loss of your license

Road rage is on the rise in America, and all you need to do to see it is take a drive down any highway. From improper lane changes to speeding and other more dangerous behaviors, road rage can have tragic results.

The definition of assault can be tricky to understand, but you can commit assault and battery with your car.

Assaulting someone with your car can lead to several negative consequences, such as jail time, community service, higher car insurance premiums, and the suspension of your license.

So, is hitting someone with a car assault? It depends on the intention behind it. Our free tool can’t help with legal problems, but you can enter your ZIP code if you need to find new car insurance rates.

What is assault?

By definition, assault is the act of intentionally causing physical harm to someone or forcing unwanted physical contact. It also includes the threat of harming someone.

A defining characteristic of assault is intention. Unlike battery charges, which you can receive even if the act was accidental, you can only be charged with assault if there was intent behind your actions.

The victim also must understand that they were in imminent danger, not merely worried about a future incident. This means that you can’t be charged with assault for threatening to attack someone in the future – only the act itself is assault.

There can be confusion about what counts as assault. For example, is hitting someone with an object assault? What about if you never touch another person? Many situations stray into the territory of assault. Examples include:

  • Brandishing a weapon (deadly or non-deadly) in a way that makes a victim think they will be struck by it
  • Trying to spit on someone
  • Aiming a gun at someone, no matter if the gun is loaded
  • Threatening to kill someone (however, the victim has to genuinely believe the threat for it to count as assault)
  • Attempted sexual assault
  • Throwing an object at someone
  • Trying to hit someone and missing

As you can see, assault can take many forms. At its heart, assault is simply making someone believe that you will do physical harm to them.

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Is hitting someone with a car assault?

There are two ways you can hit someone with your car: accidentally and intentionally.

Intentionally hitting someone with your car is assault and will get you in significant trouble. You can be charged with assault with your vehicle as a weapon if you hit a person or another car.

Additionally, vehicular assault often comes with other charges that will further deepen the trouble you’ll find yourself in. For example, using your car to assault someone usually accompanies reckless driving like speeding or improper lane changes.

Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs often perpetrate vehicular assault, which comes with another set of charges.

However, not every state considers vehicular assault a separate crime in traffic violations. Whether someone was injured is a factor they use to determine the offending party’s punishment in states that don’t.

In states that do have a separate charge for assault with a vehicle, it’s usually added to another charge. For example, if you drive after drinking, you can be charged with a DUI. If you drive after drinking and hurt someone with your car, you can be charged with DUI and vehicular assault.

Charges will be different if someone dies in a traffic incident involving assault. In this case, the charge will be upgraded to vehicular homicide.

Is accidentally hitting someone with your car assault?

An unfortunate part of life is that accidents happen. As long as you don’t do it intentionally, hitting someone with your car isn’t considered assault.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You’ll likely be charged with reckless or neglectful driving, and you’ll probably have to pay for repairs to the other person’s car or their medical bills. This is why most states require drivers to carry liability coverage.

You should be careful about what you say after an accident, however. Don’t admit to fault or say anything aggressive to the other driver. Lawyers only need to reasonably prove that you intentionally hit someone for you to get an assault charge.

Can you press charges for road rage?

If you find yourself on the receiving end of road rage and your car is damaged or you are injured, you can file charges. The offending driver will also likely face criminal charges for reckless driving.

Road rage incidents can often be considered assault because the actions are intentional. This includes someone threatening to hit your car from within or outside their own vehicle. If they actually hit you, they can be charged with battery as well.

Other examples of assault during road rage include:

  • Someone exits their car and strikes yours with fists or weapons, or tries to pull you from your car
  • Someone purposefully drives into your vehicle
  • A driver runs you off the road, then gets out of their car to fight you

While a criminal charge would help, the other driver doesn’t need to have one for you to file a personal injury lawsuit against them. It certainly helps, though – criminal charges will help prove that the other driver is liable for damages.

You can press charges to cover your repair costs, medical bills, and pain and suffering.

However, you have to know who the driver is to press charges. The safest way to collect a driver’s information is to get their license plate number. No matter how tempting it is, you should never follow or provoke someone being aggressive towards you.

Car repairs can be expensive, but aggressive drivers cause the majority of traffic-related deaths. If it comes down between getting a driver’s information and putting yourself in danger, choose your own safety.

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Consequences of Road Rage

Road rage is on the rise in America. Experts aren’t exactly sure why, but they guess it has something to do with COVID-19 tensions.

If you follow the news, you’ve probably seen road rage stories that involve one angry driver shooting someone else on the road. This is a worst-case scenario, but there are many other negative outcomes when you engage in road rage.

If you’re charged with aggressive driving, you can face legal fees, fines, mandatory community service, suspension of your license, increased insurance rates for a bad driving history, and even jail time.

This is especially true if you’ve committed of vehicular assault. Drivers that commit assault on the road are more likely to do it again and are therefore considered a danger. If you commit vehicular assault and seriously injure someone, you might be charged with a felony.

Vehicular assault can lead to years in jail and financially-crippling fees. At the very least, you’ll probably be required to take driver education classes or anger management before you can get your license back.

Find the Best Insurance After Road Rage

Insurance companies will raise your rates if you commit vehicular assault – they might drop you as a customer as well. Assaulting someone with your car makes you a high-risk driver, which means you’ll pay high-risk rates.

However, you still need insurance if you want to drive. There are options for you, even if your current insurance drops you.

If you’re wondering if hitting someone with a car is assault because you caused an incident, you can save money on your insurance by comparing quotes. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool to see what rates might look like for you.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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