If you are a careful driver, the odds are high that you have been tailgated at some point. Aggressive drivers often drive too closely to slower cars in front of them. And while tailgating is illegal, there are rarely any consequences for it unless the tailgater causes an accident.
Some drivers get frustrated by being tailgated. And in response to this frustration, they slam their brakes, with the intent of forcing the driver behind them to swerve or also slam their brakes. Unfortunately, this often results in an accident rather than the tailgating driver learning a lesson.
Who Is At Fault in a Rear-End Collision?
In most rear-end collisions, the rear driver is responsible for the accident. The rear driver has a duty to maintain a safe distance behind the other driver. That safe distance should be far enough that they can brake if the other driver slows, based on the speed at which they are currently traveling.
Since rear drivers have that responsibility, the default assumption is that if a rear-end collision occurred, they weren’t maintaining a safe distance. Or perhaps they were following at a safe distance but were not paying attention to the front driver. That would also make them liable.
However, there are exceptions to the general rule. The most common exception happens when the front driver backs up unsafely. These types of accidents usually happen in parking lots.
Brake-checking is also an exception. The front driver also has a duty to drive safely. Braking for no reason except to disrupt the driver behind them is not safe, and it is generally considered reckless.
Why Do People Brake-Check if It Is Illegal?
Usually, people brake-check because they are angry. They see someone driving too closely behind them in their rearview mirror and want to do something about it. Braking seems like an obvious way to get the person to back off.
While this decision may seem logical in the heat of the moment, it is an act of road rage. If the person behind a driver is too close, they may be too close to react when the front driver brakes. This means that instead of the rear driver slowing down or swerving, they crash into the other vehicle. And at the usual speeds involved in brake-check accidents, this often means a serious accident.
Brake-Checking as a Form of Insurance Fraud
Another reason that someone might brake-check is to intentionally cause an accident. Since the rear driver is almost always found liable for rear-end collisions, the front driver might try to take advantage of that to get compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.
This type of fraud could also involve phantom injuries and or other falsifications. It is sometimes successful because brake-checking is very hard to prove: There are plenty of legitimate reasons to brake suddenly. Proving that someone did it specifically to cause an accident is hard, even for the best car accident lawyers.
What to Do if You Were Brake-Checked
If you believe that another driver brake-checked you, resulting in an accident, you should consult with a car accident lawyer immediately. Due to how Ohio law works, the insurance companies involved will likely assign fault to you during the investigation, and you need an attorney to challenge that.
When speaking with your lawyer, you should be as honest as possible. While some brake-check accidents are attempts at fraud, most are due to road rage. And this means that the rear driver was tailgating. If you aren’t willing to admit to tailgating, it will be very difficult for your attorney to prove the other driver brake-checked.
Regardless of whether you were tailgating or not, though, you should expect your case to take a long time. Even the investigation phase will likely be longer than normal. Investigating the accident scene usually isn’t enough. Your car accident attorney will probably:
- Interview witnesses
- Find camera footage of the scene
- Consult with experts
- Get a copy of the accident report
- Investigate the financial situation of the other driver
- Subpeona insurance records if there is a reason to believe fraud is involved
It is difficult to find evidence that a brake check occurred. And it can be even more difficult to convince the other insurance company that their client was guilty of the act. If that is true, they are liable for paying compensation to you. That isn’t something an insurance company will agree to easily.
Furthermore, you should expect that this type of case could go to trial. When there is no clear video evidence that proves the other driver intentionally brake-checked, the facts might need to be argued in front of a jury. And even with a good car accident lawyer, it could take years to get a verdict.
Injuries Caused by Brake-Checking
The most common injury for someone in the lead car in a rear-end collision is some form of whiplash. Whiplash varies in severity and can potentially cause lifelong paralysis. Unfortunately, whiplash is also relatively easy to fake. This is why some people intentionally cause brake-check accidents.
Injuries to people in the rear vehicle are more varied. They could suffer:
- Head injuries
- Broken bones
- Organ damage
And those are just some of the more common examples of injuries. If you have been hurt in a rear-end collision, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer immediately. Serious injuries cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to recover from, and an attorney can help you get the money you need.
Brake-Checking Makes You the Bad Guy
No matter how much tailgating angers you, the moment you slam your brakes, you become liable for any harm caused by a resulting accident. Contain your anger and drive safely. You don’t want to go through the emotional and financial consequences of injuring another driver, even if they were driving poorly.
And if you were harmed by another driver brake-checking you, contact the personal injury lawyers at Slater & Zurz immediately to schedule a free case evaluation.