Car Accidents Caused by Brake Checking in Texas
The most common type of car wreck in Texas is a rear-end collision. According to a query on Texas’s Crash Records Information System (CRIS), the state had 155,858 rear-end crashes out of a total of 455,536 motor vehicle collisions in 2022. This means that over 32% of all car crashes in Texas that year involved a rear-end collision.
In a rear-end crash, one vehicle hits the back end of another vehicle traveling in the same direction. Most of these crashes result from tailgating, speeding, and distracted driving. But at least a few rear-end collisions happen due to brake checking.
What Is Brake Checking?
Brake checking has a few definitions with subtle differences. Broadly, brake checking can happen any time you slam on your brakes to test or check them. This type of brake checking can catch a driver following you by surprise. If that driver has failed to leave a safe following distance or is distracted, they can slam into the rear of your vehicle.
The liability for the crash would probably fall on the driver of the trailing vehicle. The trailing driver in this example was either too close or distracted. They were responsible for creating the danger that led to the collision.
A more focused definition of brake checking describes a response to tailgating. A driver slams on their brakes to force a tailgater to back off. In this definition, the driver of the front vehicle is checking the rear driver in the same sense used in hockey. By slamming on their brakes, the leading driver forces the trailing driver to slow down.
A driver who brake checks a tailgater might bear some or all of the liability for the resulting crash. The brake checker deliberately hit the brakes when they knew or should have known the tailgater was too close.
Rear-End Collisions from Brake Checking
Brake-checking collisions take the form of rear-end crashes. These crashes happen when the brake checker slows or stops before the tailgater has the time to react.
Your total stopping distance consists of your reaction distance plus your braking distance.
The reaction distance equals the distance your vehicle covers during the time it takes for:
- Your eyes to spot a hazard
- Your brain to decide what to do
- Your foot to depress your brake
This time varies from driver to driver. But an average and adequate reaction time is roughly 2.5 seconds.
The problem is that your car travels different distances in 2.5 seconds based on your speed. At 25 miles per hour, your vehicle travels about 92 feet in 2.5 seconds. At 45 miles per hour, you cover 165 feet or 55 yards in 2.5 seconds.
Your braking distance is the distance your vehicle covers from the time you press on the brakes to the time your vehicle stops. This distance depends on your speed and your vehicle’s braking system. It can range from one to three times your reaction distance.
Common Injuries in Brake-Checking Crashes
In a rear-end crash, the occupants of the front vehicle get pushed into their seats and headrests. Their necks and backs arch backward due to the weight of their heads. This arching can hyperextend the soft tissues of the neck and back, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can also compress the spinal discs, leading to herniation.
The occupants of the rear vehicle whip forward. If they are wearing seat belts, their bodies slam into their restraints, causing chest bruises or even broken ribs. Their heads continue forward, pulling on their necks. Again, the stress on the neck can hyperextend the soft tissues of the neck and compress the discs.
In both vehicles, the occupants can suffer concussions due to their brains sloshing inside their skulls. They may also fracture bones in their hands or arms as they try to brace themselves for impact.
Some common injuries in brake-checking accidents include:
- Neck strain
- Sprained neck
- Bulging or herniated disc
- Spine fracture
These injuries rarely kill. But they can cause temporary or permanent disabilities. For example, doctors cannot repair bulging or herniated discs. And while surgery can remove a damaged disc, the removal can place additional strain on the spine, leading to chronic back pain.
Liability for Brake-Checking Injuries
The liability for brake checking falls on the driver whose actions intentionally or negligently caused the crash. Texas uses modified comparative negligence to allocate the fault for accidents. Under this doctrine, a claims adjuster or jury examines the actions of all parties involved in a crash. They then allocate percentages of blame.
For example, suppose that you were following another driver closely. The other driver brake checks you and you plow into their car. A claims adjuster might reasonably place some blame on you for tailgating. But they might also reasonably place some blame on the other driver for brake checking.
The percentage of blame each party bears will determine the compensation that is paid. In the example, suppose that you get assigned 45% of the blame, and the other driver gets assigned 55% of the blame. Under Texas’s version of comparative negligence, an accident victim can seek compensation from anyone who was more than 50% at fault.
You would be able to get compensation for 55% of your losses from the person who brake checked you. Since your share of the blame is less than 51%, the other driver cannot recover any injury compensation from you.
Getting Compensation After a Brake-Checking Crash in Texas
Most car accident cases start with an insurance claim. You should not assume that your claim will get denied due to your tailgating. If the other driver brake checked you, they may bear some responsibility for the crash.
But your path will not be easy. You will need to gather evidence and make arguments that the other driver brake checked you rather than stopping for a road or traffic hazard. You may also need to provide some excuse for your proximity to the other vehicle. If you were trying to move out of the way of an ambulance, you might bear less blame.
You may need a Dallas car crash lawyer’s help to recover compensation after a brake-checking crash. Lawyers have the experience to recognize the evidence that persuades claims adjusters and jurors that you deserve compensation for your brake-checking injuries.