Car Accidents Caused by Brake Checking in Florida
Gregg Hollander | January 5, 2023 | Car Accidents
Tailgating is annoying and dangerous. Rear-end collisions remain the most common type of collision, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). And many of these rear-end crashes result from following too closely, also called tailgating.
Most traffic safety experts recommend allowing tailgaters to pass. They usually have nothing personal against you. Once you move to the side, they will simply pass you and tailgate someone else. But occasionally, drivers take it upon themselves to deal with tailgaters by brake-checking them, endangering themselves and the tailgater.
What Is Brake Checking?
Some people might define brake checking broadly to include all hard braking events. But the term “brake checking” comes from a much narrower braking event.
When a driver tailgates you, they leave a gap too small to stop safely. This creates a dangerous situation because the tailgater can cause a rear-end collision with your vehicle.
Brake checking happens when the driver being tailgated slams on their brakes to check the tailgater’s brakes, which is meant to scare the tailgater into backing off.
But the rear driver has already left too little space to stop. As a result, brake checking can cause the tailgater to rear-end the brake checker. In other words, the brake checker causes the car accident they presumably wanted to avoid.
Consequences of Car Accidents Caused by Brake Checking
A brake-checking driver who triggers a rear-end crash could suffer serious health and financial consequences, including:
Injuries from a Rear-End Collision
In a rear-end collision, a trailing vehicle hits the back end of a leading vehicle. During the collision, the occupants of the leading vehicle get pushed back into their seats. As the vehicle slows, the leading vehicle occupants whip forward.
This back-and-forth whipping can hyperextend the neck and back. As they come to a stop, the vertebrae of the spine crash into each other. As they compress, the vertebrae can fracture. A broken neck or back can cause paralysis.
The vertebrae can also crush the discs in your spine, causing them to bulge or herniate. A deformed disc can press on nerve roots near the spine. This pressure can cause a range of symptoms, including:
- Radiating pain
- Loss of dexterity
A rear-end collision can also shake your brain. When your brain gets jostled, it can inflame and cause physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms such as:
- Ringing ears
- Blurred vision
- Emotional outbursts
Fortunately, rear-end crashes rarely cause death. According to the National Safety Council, rear-end collisions make up about 42% of car crashes but only about 18% of fatal car crashes.
Criminal Liability for Brake Checking Car Accidents
Florida has no law specifically addressing brake checking. A police officer could not give you a ticket merely for slamming on your brakes.
But Florida has two traffic laws that could apply to brake checking. Careless driving happens when someone fails to exercise care and prudence while driving. Reckless driving occurs when a driver drives with wanton and willful disregard for the safety of people or property.
A police officer would not need to wait for brake checking to cause an accident. Merely observing a driver brake check a tailgater could support a careless or reckless driving charge.
The difference between careless and reckless driving is the level of knowledge the driver has when brake checking. The lack of care and prudence needed for a careless driving ticket just requires proof that you knew or should have known of the dangers of brake checking.
Reckless driving, on the other hand, requires a much higher level of knowledge. Willful or wanton disregard means that you knew of the dangers of brake checking or you willfully blinded yourself to them.
The difference in the legal standard reflects the difference in penalties. A ticket for careless driving will result in a fine and points on your driving record. An arrest for reckless driving could result in a sentence of up to:
- 90 days in jail if you caused no injuries
- A year in jail if you injured someone else
- Five years in jail if the injured person suffered serious injuries
The risk of getting ticketed or arrested after a brake-checking accident only covers your criminal exposure. You could also face civil liability in a lawsuit filed by accident victims.
Civil Liability for Brake Checking Car Accidents
The liability for car accidents falls on the negligent driver. Negligence happens when a driver fails to exercise reasonable care while driving and as a result, causes a collision.
In most situations, the driver of the trailing vehicle bears liability for rear-end crashes. That driver is legally responsible for leaving a safe gap to the vehicle in front of them. When they crashed into the back of another vehicle, they were either too close or failed to react quickly enough.
But in a brake-checking crash, both drivers bear some blame. That means Florida’s pure comparative fault rules come into play. When multiple drivers contribute to the cause of a crash, a court or claims adjuster assigns each driver a share of the blame. For example, in an accident where a driver brake checked a tailgater, a jury could assign 60% of the blame to the tailgater and 40% to the brake checker.
Two consequences arise from getting a share of the blame assigned to you:
Reduction in Your Compensation
You can only recover compensation in proportion to the other person’s share of the blame. When the other driver bears 100% of the fault for a crash, you can recover 100% of your losses. But as your share of the blame increases, the amount of compensation you can recover decreases.
Thus, if you bear 40% of the liability for a crash, you can only get compensated for 60% of your losses.
Liability to the Other Driver
As your recovery shrinks, the other driver’s recovery increases. Thus, if the other driver was 100% at fault for a crash, they recover 0% of their losses. But as their share of the blame decreases, they become eligible to seek compensation from you.
Using the same example, if you bear 40% of the liability for a crash, you must pay for 40% of the other driver’s losses.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in South Florida
If you’ve been injured in an accident, please contact our experienced personal injury lawyers in Florida at Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation today. We have three convenient locations in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach.
We proudly serve Palm Beach County, Broward County, and its surrounding areas:
Hollander Law Firm Accident Injury Lawyers – Boca Raton Law Office
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Boca Raton, FL 33433
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Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
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West Palm Beach, FL 33401