Tailgating Car Accident Liability
If a driver is involved in a tailgating accident—following the car ahead too closely—the tailgater is often generally liable. Maintaining a safe distance between cars and being able to stop without hitting the car in front are critical to safe driving. Maintaining a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, and being able to stop before hitting that car, are essential elements to using due care when driving.
Fault for a car accident may be associated to a driver’s negligence or a driver’s violation of motor vehicle statutes. A negligence claim following a tailgating accident is premised on four key elements: Duty, breach, causation, and damages. For example, the injured driver must prove the other driver owed a duty of care to drive responsibly; the other driver failed to meet this duty, by tailgating or following too close; the injury was the result of the other driver’s breach of duty, and that the injuries were the fault of the tailgating accident, and not some other cause; and that injuries are provable through medical records, medical expenses, or emotional distress. The tailgater’s violation of driving laws may also reveal fault in an accident.
Nearly every state has laws in place against tailgating, which makes it illegal in those states to “follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the highway.” The other driver may be charged with a crime in the accident; however, tailgating may also be used as a violation as evidence in a civil case.
For example, Arizona state law permits tailgating to be considered, under specific conditions, a form of “road rage.” If caught, offenders may be charged with a criminal offense. Aggressive driving may lead to a traffic citation, while road rage may lead to jail time.
Proving car accident liability in court may be challenging, even in cases that appear to be a seemingly obvious tailgating crash. Photographs of the accident scene, eyewitness recollections, and police reports may help prove that the allegedly tailgating driver was following the injured driver too closely. Some states mandate that the allegedly injured party must prove that he/she had no part in causing the accident by having a broken brake light or by stopping unreasonably, for example.
The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have decades of experience representing clients in accident cases. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a lawsuit.
Tailgating is a dangerous behavior that is often practiced by negligent or inexperienced drivers that decreases the amount of reaction time between vehicles. What’s more, tailgating is a leading cause of auto accidents. In fact, Louisiana State Police data indicates that some 60 percent of all accidents are in some way related to one vehicle tailgating another vehicle. According to that state’s law, a vehicle “shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” According to research conducted by the Highways’ Agency, tailgating is a contributing factor in more than one-third of all crashes on the road and is key cause for vehicular accidents.
While tailgating is illegal in a variety states, many drivers continue to engage in this reckless behavior, which creates a hazardous situation for not only themselves, but for their fellow motorists. Some of the more common reasons drivers tailgate include aggression, being late, distraction, distracted driving, drunk driving, inexperience, negligence, physical impairment, poor visibility, speeding, and texting while driving, among others.
How to Avoid Tailgating
To avoid being the victim of tailgating or a tailgating accident, experts suggest driving at a speed that will allow safe stopping behind the car in front of you. Driving the speed limit is the fastest speed at which drivers are legally allowed to drive; however, drivers should travel at a lower speed when poor roadway conditions are present to allow drivers sufficient time to react.
Leave enough space between the automobile in front of you in the event the driver suddenly slows down or stops. A long-standing rule of thumb has been to maintain 10 feet of distance for every increment of 10 mph you are driving. If you are driving at 50 miles per hour, leave a 50-foot span between your car and the car in front of you. Bear in mind that some vehicles—large automobiles, trucks, and motorcycles, require a greater stopping distance, so leave a larger distance between your car and these vehicles. In inclement weather such as rain, snow, and fog, double the distance between you and the car in front of you as bad weather conditions decrease tire traction and cause the slips and skids that may lead to loss of control.
If being tailgated, experts suggest that the best way to remain safe is to get out of the way of the vehicle that is following you and to not engage in irrational behavior including honking the horn or tapping the breaks. These behaviors usually worsen the situation.
Typically, driving experts and law enforcement agents say that driver should maintain the “three and six second rule.” This means that a driver needs at least three seconds of time space between his/her vehicle and another driver to safely stop under normal driving conditions or six seconds to stop under inclement driving conditions. Should a driver be within three seconds, tailgating may be considered.
Some suggestions on diffusing tailgating specifically include getting out of the way by either moving away or getting off the road by taking an exit or turning off a road. Although this sounds to be an obvious way in which to stop the behavior, many drivers do not think to evade the behavior. Experts also warn against slamming on the vehicle’s break. Regardless of if there is an aggressive driver who is tailgating, slamming on the breaks will likely cause an accident, further aggravating the matter. In other words, never respond with aggression.
Experts also suggest that once a driver has achieved some space and the driver who was allegedly tailgating no longer appears to present a danger, to contact the police. The police may not catch the tailgater in the initial act, but they will be aware of the driver and will be able to be on the lookout for other tailgating situations.
Legal Help for Tailgating Accident Victims
Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing victims injured in accidents. If you or someone you know was injured by someone else’s negligence, including a tailgating accident, you may have valuable legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, please call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).