What Happens if I Brake Check a Tailgater and Get Into a Car Accident?

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Is Brake Checking the Tailgating Car Behind You Legal in California?

Is Brake Checking the Tailgating Car Behind You Legal in California?

Jul 29, 2022

California can be a dangerous place for drivers, with the state’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) reporting that 3,606 traffic collision fatalities occurred in 2019. In total, 3.316 fatal car accidents were reported in California that year. Here in Los Angeles, 289 people were killed in traffic collisions in 2021 (according to data up to December 25 of that year). That figure is a staggering 21% increase from the same period in 2020 and a 19% increase from 2019.

What Happens if I Brake Check a Tailgater and Get Into a Car Accident?

Car accident injuries are also a major issue, particularly for Southern California drivers. The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that 1,465 people were seriously injured last year in car accidents through December 25, 2021.

A common cause of car accidents which often lead to serious injuries is aggressive driving. Aggressive driving can take many forms, such as:

  • Speeding in heavy traffic
  • Cutting in front of another driver and then slowing down
  • Running red lights
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Blocking cars attempting to pass or change lanes
  • Tailgating

The last form – tailgating – is one we’ve unfortunately all been forced to deal with at one point or another while driving. But what should you do if you’re being tailgated by another driver? Are there laws against “brake checking” a tailgating driver in California?

In the sections below, we’ll review everything you need to know about brake checking a tailgater, including whether or not the practice is legal, who is liable in the event of a car accident, and how to file a claim to recover damages for any injuries.

Is Brake Checking a Tailgating Car Legal in California?

When someone is tailgating you as you attempt to drive safely down a roadway, you can understandably become filled with anxiety, stress, and even anger. But is brake checking – essentially pumping the brakes to alert the tailgating driver who is too close to your bumper to slow down – actually legal?

A recent report from FOX 5 San Diego confirmed that, despite how annoying a tailgater can seem, brake checking may actually be a punishable offense.

As California Highway Patrol Officer Hunter Gerber told FOX 5, brake checking could actually fall under California Vehicle Code 22400(a).

According to California Vehicle Code 22400(a):

“No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law.”

Additionally, the law explicitly states:

“No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle on a highway without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give the signal.”

Accordingly, Gerber said that any act by a driver “performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for the safety of others,” could be considered “road rage” or aggressive driving under the law. This includes brake checking as well as tailgating, and if a collision is caused as a result of either and injuries occur, proving fault can require the help of a skilled car accident lawyer.

Gerber added that “to intentionally apply your brakes because somebody is tailgating you” could be considered a violation.

Who is Liable When Brake Checking a Tailgater Causes a Car Accident?

While most people assume that a rear-end collision is always the fault of the driver in the back vehicle, that’s not necessarily true. It’s true that rear-end collisions are typically caused by a tailgating driver who is too close to the car in front, and the collision happens as a result of that vehicle not allowing the first vehicle to stop in time. But in some cases, the front driver can be liable in a rear-end collision. And when an injury occurs, that liability can prove to be very costly.

California applies what’s known as comparative fault to car accidents and personal injury cases. Accordingly, a percentage of liability is assigned to all car accident claims. This means that one driver may be held 100% responsible for a car accident (a common occurrence). However, when it comes to rear-end or tailgating car accidents, although the driver following too close may have truly caused the crash, if you attempted to brake check at any point, he or she will most certainly argue this action was in fact the cause of the collision (and therefore you are at fault).

Some car accident claims involve liability being assigned to both drivers – the tailgater and the brake checker. For example, if you were injured in an aggressive driving car accident but you also brake checked the driver, you may be found to be 30% liable (leaving the remaining 70% of the total liability applied to the tailgater). In such a case, if you recovered a $1 million settlement for your injuries, your final damages award would actually only be $700,000 (reduced according to the 30% liability you held).

However, because California applies comparative fault under the law, it’s important to note that if you were injured in a tailgating car accident, even if you held some portion of the responsibility for the crash you could still be able to recover financial compensation for things like hospital or medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, and more.

What are the Dangers of Brake Checking a Tailgater?

Tapping on the brakes may seem like a sensible course of action – particularly if there’s enough space between the two vehicles, but the other driver is either tailgating or distracted behind the wheel. However, brake checking is not generally advisable, as a driver may misjudge the amount of space between his or her vehicle and the tailgater’s, thereby causing an accident.

Additionally, brake checking could instigate more aggression on the part of the tailgater, causing the situation to become increasingly dangerous. And if you tap your brakes at one point and then actually have to slam on the brakes later on, the tailgater may not be able to discern what is a signal and what is actually an urgent need to stop.

What Should I Do if Someone is Tailgating Me?

The California Highway Patrol advises drivers to remain in control – calm and courteous at all times. This will decrease your chance of getting involved in a dangerous encounter with another driver.

The California Highway Patrol offers the following tips for handling tailgaters and aggressive drivers:

  • Maintain adequate following distance
  • Use turn signals
  • Allow others to merge
  • Use your high beams responsibly
  • Tap your horn if you must (but no long blasts with accompanying hand gestures)

Additionally, Highway Patrol Officer Gerber provided FOX 5 San Diego with the following tips for dealing with tailgating and aggressive drivers:

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Do not respond to aggression with aggression
  • Keep your distance
  • Have passengers record the incident if possible
  • Have an escape route
  • Do not drive home if the aggressive driver continues to follow you
  • If you feel you are at risk, call 9-1-1, and drive to a police station
  • If you are confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible
  • If you feel threatened, call 9-1-1. Be prepared to give the description of the driver, vehicle, license plate number, location, and direction of travel.

Can I Sue for Damages in a Tailgating Car Accident?

Suffering an injury in a California tailgating or aggressive driving car accident can leave you on a long road to recovery. Hiring a personal injury lawyer to fight for maximum financial compensation after a rear-end tailgating car accident can have numerous advantages. As noted above, proving liability in California car accident cases is paramount, and having a skilled and proven personal injury lawyer from Dordulian Law Group (DLG) can help ensure you recover the maximum compensation that you both deserve and need to make a full recovery (and that all applicable damages are added into your claim – including those that are hard to prove, like pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and more).

If you were injured in a tailgating or aggressive driving accident that was due to another driver’s negligence, we will fight tirelessly to help you secure justice. Moreover, if you played a role in the car accident – perhaps by brake checking the tailgating driver – but were not the primary cause, we may also be able to help you obtain justice and recover a cash settlement.

How much your settlement is worth after a tailgating or aggressive driving car accident can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:

  • The extent of your injuries
  • If you received medical treatment and have documentation
  • The knowledge, skill, and ability of your personal injury lawyer
  • The extent of the other driver’s liability
  • The extent of your liability (if any)
  • The complexity of the case

If you’ve suffered an injury due to an aggressive or tailgating driver, you may be entitled to a significant cash settlement. Contact DLG’s top-rated, proven, and dedicated car accident lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation.

Do I Need a Lawyer After a Tailgating or Aggressive Driving Car Accident Injury?

Hiring a DLG California personal injury lawyer to handle your tailgating, brake checking, or aggressive driving car accident lawsuit can have multiple benefits. In fact, personal injury victims who hire private attorneys often secure greater financial compensation for their claims.

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) recently conducted a study which confirmed the following personal injury claim statistics:

  • Settlements for injured claimants were 40% higher when they had secured private legal representation.
  • The average insurance payout was 3.5 times higher for injured victims who hired private attorneys (when compared to those representing themselves).
  • 85% of all money paid by insurance companies for bodily injuries is received by victims who have secured representation from a private personal injury attorney.

Contact a California Car Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation

With DLG, your tailgating or aggressive driving car accident consultation is always free, confidential, and without any obligation. We’ll review the facts of your case and provide you with all available legal options to ensure that your rights are protected and the maximum financial damages award you deserve is pursued. We serve car accident injury clients in California and throughout the United States.

Contact a member of Dordulian Law Group’s Car Accident Division today at 818-322-4056 for a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation. With DLG, there’s never any upfront fee or out-of-pocket expense for your tailgating or aggressive driving car accident injury claim. We don’t charge a dime until after we’ve successfully secured a maximum financial damages award on your behalf.

Schedule an appointment online for a free consultation today, or call us directly to speak to our top-rated, expert car accident attorneys.

Reach out to one of our dedicated Los Angeles, California, car accident lawyers today to discuss your tailgating or aggressive driving case. We’ll review the facts, offer you a detailed explanation of all available legal options, provide you with an estimate for how long your claim may take to settle, and include an estimate for how much you can expect to receive from your settlement.

For a California car accident injury, the best call you can make is to the experienced personal injury lawyers at DLG.


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