Crazy Driver on Highway 25 Causes Accident: Any Legal Redress for Those Not Injured?

Folsom Police responded to calls recently reporting an erratic driver on Highway 25. Unfortunately they were not able to get to the scene before the dangerous driving led to an accident. The driver at fault, Lesley Myers of Angie, was reportedly traveling south through Folsom at high speeds when his 1993 Pontiac Bonneville crashed into a horse trailer near the intersection of HIghway 25 and Broadway Street and then struck a northbound truck.

According to an article in the St. Tammany news, this was no ordinary traffic accident. In fact,

When the call came in, it was reported that Myers was in possession of a gun and that he was holding the firearm as he stood in the center of La. 25.

Rumors also circulated that passersby had seen Myers throw a body from his vehicle while passing near Fricke’s Cave in Washington Parish.

When Officer Hutchinson of the Folsom Police Department arrived on the scene he found Myers standing in the middle of the highway. Myers did not respond to repeated requests for him to place his hands on the hood of the patrol car. Hutchinson even tasered Myers twice with little effect. Finally, more police arrived and Myers was taken into custody and charged with reckless operation, driving while intoxicated, vehicular negligent injuring, and resisting an officer. Police never found a gun in Myer’s possession, in his vehicle, or in the area around Fricke’s Cave.

While Mr. Myers will probably be legally and financially responsible for the damages caused by the accidents in this case, what about the other drivers on the road who witnessed what must have been a terrifying scene of a man with a gun in the middle of the highway who may have just thrown a body from his car? Can individuals recover based on their emotional distress alone?

The answer is maybe. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) is a fairly new type of claim that allows recovery of damages for intentional conduct that results in extreme emotional distress. Some jurisdictions even refer to this claim as the tort of outrage.

IIED was created to allow for liability in situations where an individual was subject to severe distress but would not be able to bring an assault claim because the threat of harm was not imminent. An example is if someone were to threaten someone else with future harm or told them something untrue simply to subject them to severe mental anguish.

IIED is very difficult to prove and requires the proving of four separate elements:

First, the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly.
Second, the defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous.. Extreme and outrageous is a very important element. The conduct must be such that a person of average temperament (rather than the very frail or sensitive) would have suffered emotional distress.

Third, the defendant’s act caused distress.
And fourth, the plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress as a result of the defendant’s conduct.

The ability for any witness to recover for IIED here would depend on many factors. One issue is crucial: What the driver was saying or screaming while in the middle of the road , whether he was waving his gun, whether the gun was discharged, etc. However, it is helpful to know that liability for injury sometimes can stretch beyond those who were physically harm.