Brake-checking and rear-end collisions: Who’s at fault?

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2024 | Car Accidents

When you’re cruising down the road in a steady flow of traffic, the last thing you expect is the driver ahead of you to slam on their brakes for seemingly no reason. Brake-checking is more than frustrating; it is a risky maneuver that can escalate into a rear-end collision.

Brake-checking is common among aggressive drivers who feel the need to express their frustration while in traffic. It’s an intentional act to startle or provoke those behind them. You might wonder if you are at fault under such circumstances, and whether a leading driver’s aggression may be reason to hold them accountable in the event of a resulting accident.

Liability in rear-end collisions

The reason for many rear-end collisions is a following driver’s failure to maintain a reasonable following distance. Traffic regulations require drivers to keep a safe distance between themselves and the vehicle ahead. This is meant to preserve a buffer zone so that the following driver has sufficient time to react if the front car brakes suddenly.

Now, here’s where things get tricky. On the one hand, brake-checking is undeniably reckless behavior that can catch you unawares. As a result, you might inadvertently rear-end a leading driver. For this reason, the leading driver may be liable for this kind of accident.

On the other hand, if you were tailgating the vehicle in front, you may be found partially at fault for the rear-end accident despite being startled by the brake-checking. The logic of a safe following distance is that, even with a brake check, if you weren’t tailgating, you should have been able to avoid the collision.

The burden of proof

Since a rear-end collision in the face of a brake-checking scenario is unique, there is a need to determine the ratio of fault between you and the leading driver. Suppose your vehicle has a dashcam; you or your legal team can use the real-time footage it captured as powerful evidence to present in court.

Additionally, if the brake-checking incident was heated, there were probably witnesses who could give an account of what happened. Their accounts can help strengthen your case, especially if you were not tailgating. The police report could also corroborate your version of events, especially if it mentions the possibility of a brake check.

Rear-ending a vehicle that was brake-checking you is a complicated legal scenario. While the default assumption in rear-end collisions places the blame on the following driver, evidence of aggressive driving, like brake-checking, can shift or share liability. If you do find yourself in such an unfortunate situation, seeking legal guidance is critical to help ensure a fair resolution, given the complexities of these circumstances and all that is at stake.


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