Road rage is a nationwide problem. Many drivers are quick to anger when they feel they have been wronged by another motorist, especially when traffic is heavy. Some drivers may even deliberately slam on their brakes when they feel another car is following them too closely.
Slamming on the brakes in this way is an illegal driving maneuver better known as brake checking. In addition to being against the law, it is a dangerous action that could result in a serious rear-end collision.
Below, Schmidt Kramer discusses liability for brake-checking collisions and whether victims can seek compensation for damages. If you were injured by the negligence or recklessness of another driver, call to discuss legal options.
No upfront fees or obligations. Millions recovered for crash victims. Call (717) 510-1770.
What Is Brake Checking?
Brake checking means slamming on your brakes for no other reason than to get the car behind you to back off or change lanes and go around you. Drivers do this to scare or irritate the drivers who are tailgating them.
Many drivers who brake check do not want to cause a crash. They only want to scare or intimidate the trailing driver by coming close to causing a collision. Unfortunately, if the tailgating driver was caught off guard, avoiding a crash may not have been possible. The trailing driver may have gotten distracted, such as by texting and driving.
If you were injured in a brake-checking collision, call our Harrisburg vehicle crash lawyers to schedule a free legal consultation.
Is It Illegal to Brake Check?
Reckless driving is illegal across the U.S. Pennsylvania law defines reckless driving as anyone who willfully operates a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people or property.
Braking checking is a prime example of reckless driving. Intentionally slamming on the brakes for no reason increases the risk of a collision. Any behavior that significantly increases the risk of a crash could be considered reckless driving.
Brake-Checking Could Be Part of an Insurance Fraud Scheme
Sometimes drivers do a brake check to cause a crash as part of an insurance fraud scheme. That way the driver who brake-checked you can sue you for damages and get compensation from your liability insurance. They may even try to convince you to pay cash to avoid an insurance claim.
Can I File a Claim if the Other Driver Brake-Checked Me?
Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, so you can seek compensation for your medical costs against your own auto insurance policy, regardless of who may have caused the crash. If your medical costs exceed your coverage, you may be able to seek additional compensation against the other driver’s insurance.
When a rear-end collision occurs, the trailing driver is almost always assessed with liability. In a case where you were the victim of a driver who slammed on the brakes on purpose, your attorney will need to provide evidence that proves that brake-checking driver’s negligence.
How To Prove Brake-Checking
One of the biggest problems in proving brake-checking is that it looks like the victim caused a rear-end crash. The brake-checking driver may not be lying when he or she claims you were following too closely.
Even if you are not at fault, however, it is up to you to prove you were the victim and that the lead driver caused the crash. If you have a dash cam and it was recording when the crash occurred, proving the other driver’s negligence may be easier. However, camera footage is not always available, so victims of a brake-checking crash will need to gather other evidence to prove what happened.
Witness testimony could help to back up your account of events leading up to the crash. However, testimony from a witness may not be helpful if the witness is not credible. The credibility of a witness depends on what this person could see from his or her vantage point and how much of the incident he or she observed before the crash. Additionally, there may be other factors that call the witness’s credibility into question.
The police report contains valuable documentation that may also help support your claim for compensation. In a brake-checking crash, the police officer may ask the lead driver why he or she hit the brakes. If the driver does not have a good reason, such as the presence of traffic up ahead, the police officer may suspect brake checking. The driver may lie about traffic in hopes that the police officer will believe him or her.
If you have a lawyer, he or she might also check out the driving history of the brake-checking driver. He or she may have been involved in similar road rage or aggressive driving incidents in the past. This type of history may work in your favor. It could even help to strengthen your claim for this most recent crash.
Could The Victim Be Partially Liable For Tailgating?
The other driver is likely to claim you caused the crash by following too closely and not giving yourself enough time to avoid a rear-end collision. If you were following that driver too closely, you may be assessed with some liability for the accident. This is something that crash scene investigators will need to determine on a case-by-case basis.
If your attorney can prove the other driver brake-checked you, it may be harder for the insurance company to assess you with liability. Your attorney is likely to dispute liability on your behalf. He or she would likely argue the crash would not have happened if the lead driver had not slammed on the brakes for no reason.
That said, you may still be assessed with some degree of liability since tailgating is a traffic violation in Pennsylvania. However, even if you are assessed with some fault for the crash, you may still have a valid claim if your degree of liability is not greater than 50 percent.
Avoiding a Brake-Checking Collision
Whenever possible, avoid tailgating other drivers. Not only is it a traffic violation in Pennsylvania, but this behavior also increases the risk of a crash. Additionally, you never know how other drivers are feeling or how they may react to a tailgating driver behind them. There are also a lot of scammers out there who are looking for an easy way to fraudulently obtain insurance compensation.
When you go out on the road, you have a legal duty to lower your risk of a crash. For instance, keeping a safe distance away from vehicles in front of you.
If you see an aggressive driver or one who is driving like he or she is angry, the best action is to not engage in antagonistic behavior (like following too closely). It is more responsible as a driver to keep your distance. If you want to travel at a higher speed than the driver in front of you, wait until you can safely pass that vehicle and then go around him or her.
That said, you should not exceed the speed limit. If you find yourself constantly getting too close to other vehicles, you may need to slow down a little.
Contact Schmidt Kramer For Post-Crash Legal Assistance
Aggressive drivers cause many accidents in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. Victims of these crashes often get seriously injured and may require extensive medical care.
If you get injured because of a negligent or aggressive driver, it is vital you contact an experienced law firm. Our law firm has been helping victims of car crashes in Harrisburg and throughout the state for decades. We have a history of securing compensation for crash victims.
There are no upfront costs for our services, and we do not get paid unless you get paid.
Give us a call to learn how we may be able to help you. Phone: (717) 510-1770.