Car Accidents Caused by Brake Checking in Florida

Tailgating is a dangerous practice that constitutes a non-criminal moving violation under Florida law. Florida police officers can issue a citation when a driver “follows too closely,” resulting in a fine if the driver cannot give a legal justification for tailgating. The driver could also bear liability for a car accident resulting from tailgating.

But Florida law is less clear about the legal status of brake checking. Florida has no traffic law criminalizing brake checking. But a driver who brake checks could still face criminal and civil liability depending on the driver’s intent, the circumstances surrounding the brake check, and the harm resulting from the incident.

Here are some facts you should know about brake checking in Florida and car accidents that result from them.

What is Brake Checking?

Brake check means different things to different people. But the most widely accepted definition of brake checking is sudden braking in response to tailgating.

In this scenario, a trailing vehicle tailgates by following a leading car too closely. The tailgating driver has created a dangerous situation. The trailing driver might not have enough time to avoid a rear-end crash if the driver of the leading vehicle slows or stops.

Whether intentionally or not, the tailgating driver has also created a conflict with the leading driver. Sometimes, the leading driver escalates the situation by brake-checking the trailing driver.

The leading driver could have a few reasons for brake checking, including:

  • Prompting the tailgater to back off
  • Punishing the tailgater
  • Communicating frustration to the tailgater
  • Teaching the tailgater a lesson

Most drivers who brake check do not intend to cause a collision. But brake checking significantly increases the risk of causing a car accident.

Brake Checking Accidents

Brake checking can lead to a rear-end collision. The tailgater might not have enough time to react to a sudden stop by the leading vehicle. As a result, the tailgating vehicle may plow into the brake-checking vehicle.

Rear-end collisions produce distinctive injuries. When the leading driver slams on their brakes, their body bends forward into their seat belt. The impact of the trailing vehicle throws them back into their seat, causing their back and neck to hyperextend.

In the rear vehicle, the impact throws the tailgater’s body forward into their seat belt. The seat belt stops the tailgater’s body, but their head whips forward. As with the leading driver, the tailgater’s neck and back hyperextend.

This whipping motion produces two characteristic injuries:

Whiplash

Whiplash happens when your neck tendons, muscles, or ligaments get stretched or torn. As your neck hyperextends, it can stress the soft tissue in your neck. 

If you strain the tendons or muscles in your neck, you might experience:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms

If you sprain the ligaments in your cervical spine, you may hear or feel a pop in your neck. 

You might also experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Neck instability
  • Limited range of motion
  • Bruises

Neck strains and sprains can begin to heal without medical intervention. It usually takes about four to six weeks with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Concussion

A concussion can result from a rear-end crash. A concussion happens when your brain gets jostled in your skull. The pressure of the cerebrospinal fluid cushioning your brain stops it from hitting the inside of your skull. But it can squeeze your brain and damage brain cells in a violent collision.

Symptoms of a concussion can include:

  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Clumsiness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurry vision or seeing stars

Symptoms of a concussion may take up to two months to clear up.

After a rear-end crash involving brake checking, the leading driver might face criminal and civil consequences.

Criminal Consequences of Brake Checking

Florida traffic laws do not specifically prohibit brake checking. As a result, the leading driver will not receive a ticket for brake checking. But the leading driver might face worse consequences than a ticket.

Reckless driving happens when a driver operates a vehicle with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others, which means the driver understood the danger posed by brake checking but dismissed or ignored it.

The sentence for a reckless driving conviction can include:

  • Up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine
  • Up to one year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine if the driver caused an accident
  • Up to five years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine if the accident caused a serious injury

For comparison, a ticket for tailgating will result in a fine of up to $500 but no jail time, even if someone dies or gets seriously injured.

Civil Consequences of Brake Checking

Florida uses no-fault auto insurance. Under Florida law, you cannot pursue a claim against the at-fault driver for minor injuries. Instead, you must rely on your no-fault PIP insurance benefits.

Florida law only allows accident victims to pursue claims against the at-fault driver for significant, permanent injuries and damages that exceed their PIP policy limits. Drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage.  

An accident victim must prove that their injuries were caused by another driver’s negligence to recover personal injury compensation. Negligence happens when a driver fails to exercise reasonable care. Negligence does not require intent. A driver could act negligently even if the driver did not appreciate the danger of their actions.

Equally importantly, Florida uses comparative negligence to allocate liability after an accident. This means an accident can have multiple at-fault drivers, with each responsible for a percentage of the cause of the accident.

Alternatives to Brake Checking in Florida 

According to the AAA, when someone tailgates your vehicle, you should de-escalate the situation by allowing the tailgater to pass. This might not provide the satisfaction of brake checking, but it will minimize the crash risk. This, in turn, reduces your chances of getting injured or killed in a rear-end collision.

Contact Our Gainesville Car Accident Law Firm in North Central Florida

If you need legal assistance, contact the Gainesville car accident lawyers at Allen Law Firm at your nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We have three convenient locations in North Central Florida:

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Gainesville office
2550 SW 76th St #150
Gainesville, FL 32608
(877) 255-3652

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Downtown Gainesville
621 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
(866) 928-6292

Allen Law Firm, P.A. – Ocala Office
112 S Pine Ave
Ocala, FL 34471
(352) 351-3258