“Brake checking” is the common name for slamming on the brakes to get someone who is tailgating you to back off. While this is often incredibly dangerous – especially at highway speeds – it happens quite often. When one person is tailgating and the other person brake checks, it can often lead to car crashes, and the question of who is at fault will inevitably arise.
Generally, it is illegal to brake check someone. If this causes a crash, you will likely be held at fault for the accident. However, tailgating is also illegal. Because of this, there is often a legal battle over who is at fault, and a jury might have a hard time deciding. In many cases, the court can decide that both drivers were at fault, shutting down the potential for either driver to file an injury claim.
For help with your car accident case, call the Maryland personal injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today. Our phone number is (410) 694-7291.
Tailgating vs. Brake Checking – Who’s in the Wrong Under Maryland Law?
When driving, there are a few requirements that you have to follow. First, you have a duty to follow the rules of the road, i.e., you have to follow the rules of Maryland’s Vehicle Laws and you have to follow posted signs and signals. Second, you have to act reasonably behind the wheel. That is, you have a legal duty to drive as a “reasonable” driver “of ordinary prudence” would drive. Both brake checking and tailgating can violate these requirements.
If one driver follows another too closely, that is a violation of Md. Code, Trans. Art., § 21-310. This law essentially codifies the reasonableness standard and says that you can’t drive closer “than is reasonable and prudent.” This reasonableness also needs to take into account the speed the other car is going and the road and weather conditions. Ultimately, driving so close to someone that it might cause an accident is itself illegal.
However, two wrongs don’t make a right. If the driver in front is feeling pressured by a driver tailgating them, slamming on the brakes is a dangerous response. Most courts would find that a reasonable driver would not do this, so it would in fact be a violation of this reasonable person standard to brake check someone. A court could potentially find that this would also violate statutes against reckless driving or blocking the roadway.
All in all, these rules point to both drivers being in the wrong if one driver is tailgating and the other brake checks them.
Determining Fault in a Brake Check Accident in Maryland
Because both drivers violated the law, it is possible that both drivers could be found partially at fault for any resulting. If you were injured in a car crash, it is vital to work with a Maryland car accident lawyer who can advocate for your rights and fight to get you damages for your injuries. However, special rules in Maryland might block you from getting compensation is you were found to have actually participated in tailgating or brake checking.
Elements of Negligence
To prove that another driver is at fault for a car crash, you have to prove that they were “negligent.” Negligence is made up of four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. If you can show that another driver violated a legal duty that they owed you and that the breach of duty caused your injuries, you should have a strong case against them.
As discussed above, both tailgating and brake checking are violations of the rules of the road. As such, either driver could be deemed negligent, and both drivers would apparently have a case to file a car accident lawsuit against the other driver. However, Maryland has special rules that block this.
Under the rules of most states, a court can determine a percentage of fault for each driver and order damages paid based on their degree of fault. In a crash like this, it is possible that a court could assign blame 50/50 to both drivers, essentially rendering a lawsuit useless because you would each pay half of the other driver’s damages and half of your own damages.
Under Maryland law, the lawsuit isn’t even allowed. Maryland uses a “pure contributory negligence” system that blocks lawsuits when the victim is partially at fault. That would mean that in a crash where both drivers did something wrong, no one can sue. Instead, you might need to work with a Baltimore car accident lawyer to recover any compensation you can from insurance coverage if you have qualifying first-party benefits.
How to Prove Someone Brake Checked You in Maryland
Many accident cases are not as cut and dry as the situation discussed above. Rarely to drivers realize that they are tailgating, and what is perceived as “brake checking” might have been a perfectly legal attempt to slow down or stop for dangers.
Proving a brake checking accident can be difficult. There are many excuses that a driver can give – such as a squirrel in the roadway – that might help them defeat accusations of brake checking. Instead of focusing on the specific instance that caused the crash, evidence of repeat, unnecessary braking over a stretch of road can help defeat any of these excuses and show the driver’s intent to brake check the driver behind them.
Additionally, accusations of tailgating might be unfounded as well. If you were in fact slowing down to avoid tailgating when the driver in front of you slammed on the brakes, your Maryland car accident lawyers could potentially argue against their claim that you were tailgating in the first place.
All in all, it is important to have our Annapolis car accident lawyers review your case and help you with any claims you make.
Call Our Maryland Car Accident Attorneys Today
For help with any type of car accident claim, call our Ocean City car accident lawyers at (410) 694-7291. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, we offer free case reviews.