What do you do when another driver starts following too close behind you?
Do you get over so they can pass? Or do you slow down and start hitting your brakes to aggravate them, hoping it will get them to back off or go around you?
If you chose the second option, you’re not alone. Many people who get frustrated with tailgating drivers hit their brakes instead of moving out of the way. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous act.
Understandably, you might get frustrated by a driver who speeds and drives close behind you, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to respond to their aggressive driving with aggressive behaviors of your own.
Responding to aggression with more aggression typically only makes matters worse and can lead to an accident.
But who would be at fault for the accident? The driver who was speeding and tailgating you? Or you, as the driver who was brake checking?
Read on to learn more about brake checking accidents and who is liable. And if you have any further questions about a San Francisco car accident case, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team here at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers for assistance.
What Is Brake Checking?
Brake checking is what occurs when one driver intentionally slows down and starts pumping their brakes in an effort to get a tailgating car behind them to slow down or go around.
If you hit your brakes to slow down and go the speed limit, this is not brake checking. But if you purposely hit your brakes to go so slow as to aggravate a driver behind you and get them to go around you, this is considered brake checking.
Of course, people might brake check for other reasons besides a tailgating driver. But it most often happens when a driver is speeding and tailgating, and the driver in front of them intentionally slows down to pester them.
Is Brake Checking Illegal?
Technically, yes, brake checking is illegal.
In California, there are strict laws against reckless and careless driving, and brake checking is considered reckless.
California Vehicle Code 22400 also states that “no person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the movement of traffic.”
The driver who is speeding and tailgating is also driving recklessly, yes, but brake checking them is reckless because it could result in a rear-end collision. When drivers start brake checking the car behind them, they also tend to start paying more attention to the driver behind them than to the road in front of them, which may lead to an accident.
And when drivers brake check, they tend to slow down so much as to annoy the driver behind them, which can mean they are violating the California vehicle code stated above.
So even though the tailgating driver is the one initially driving recklessly, this does not make it okay to start brake checking them as this is also illegal and constitutes reckless driving.
Who Is At Fault in a Brake Check Accident?
As brake checking is illegal and reckless, you could be held liable if you were brake checking and it caused an accident. If you were brake checking because another driver was speeding and tailgating you, the other driver could also be held liable.
When car accidents occur, there can be more than one party held liable. And in the case of a brake check accident, both the driver who did the brake checking and the driver who did the tailgating will likely be held accountable.
Brake checking is not considered a reasonable response to someone else’s aggressive driving. If someone starts speeding and tailgating you, you are supposed to move over and let them pass if possible.
Understandably, this might feel like letting them get away with their aggressive driving, but it is not your responsibility to put them in their place. If you brake check them because you are trying to get them to slow down, authorities will not view this as helpful—they will view it as you responding to a reckless driver with more recklessness.
Brake Checking and California Pure Comparative Fault
It’s important to note that if you cause a brake checking accident, this does not automatically bar you from filing a claim to recover compensation for damages, such as medical expenses for injuries or car damage.
California is a pure comparative fault state, which means more than one party can file a claim and recover compensation, even if they are liable for the accident. Your accident settlement would simply be reduced based on your percentage of fault.
So if you were doing a brake check and another driver was tailgating, and you are each found 50% responsible for the accident, your compensation would be reduced by 50%. For example, if you were initially awarded a $40,000 settlement, you would only receive $20,000 because you were 50% at fault for causing the accident.
We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus On Your Life
If you are involved in a brake check accident, our team can help you navigate your claim to ensure the best possible outcome.
At Sally Morin, we have represented thousands of California clients and are dedicated to providing the best service possible to win a high-value settlement.
Call us at 877-380-8852 or contact us online today for a free case evaluation.