Auto Accident, Criminal Law, Personal Injury

Slamming the Brakes on a Tailgater: How It Can Land You With A Criminal Charge AND Prevent an Injury Recovery!

Slamming your brakes when being tailgated can lead to criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and an empty hole in your wallet when it comes to personal injury cases.
 

We’ve all done it, or had it done to us.  One car is tailgating another and the front car slams on his brakes to back the second car off.  What you may not know is that this tailgate stopping action can lead to both civil and criminal assault charges and can block the front driver from any injury recovery if it actually leads to an accident.

First, lets think about the idea of assault charges.  Ask yourself what slamming on the brakes is supposed to accomplish?  The easy answer is to say “to get the other car to back off.”  But there is an underlying answer that is more important, it is “to scare the other driver into thinking they might rear-end the front car so that they decide to back off.”  This is the important distinction.  Slamming the brakes is intended to cause fear, fear of a potential accident and possible injury.

The Crime of Assault, in many states, includes any action that is intended to cause fear of immediate harm in the mind of another person.  In Maryland, there is even a specific Criminal Jury Instruction under the category of Assault called “Intent to Frighten.”  To be found guilty of 2nd Degree Assault in this context, the state must prove 4 things:

  1. That the front car driver committed an act with the intent to place the driver of the second car in fear of immediate physical harm;
  2. That the front car driver had the apparent ability at the time of the action to actually cause physical harm;
  3. That the driver of the second car (or any other person in the area) was reasonably put in fear of physical harm; and
  4. That the front car driver was not legally justified, or acting in self defense.

Lets analyze these elements in this context.  (1) You intentionally slammed on your brakes, with the intent to scare the second car into thinking if they don’t slow down there might be an accident – Check; (2) you are driving a hunk of steel weighing upwards of a ton and if an accident occurs, it is likely to cause at least a minor injury – Check; (3) someone was actually put in reasonable fear that they might immediately be hurt as a result of your action — Maybe; (4) there is no legal justification for slamming on your brakes to scare someone – “he was tailgaiting me” is not a valid justification here — so, Check!
So, with 3 of the 4 elements being fairly obvious, as long as there is some proof or good faith belief that someone was actually scared as a result of your actions, you just committed an assault.

Ok, lets face it, not many people are going to come after you for scaring them, especially if they were tailgating you.  But, there is an even bigger consequence to your actions, if by slamming on your brakes, you actually end up in an accident when the second car rear-ends you.  You may not be able to recover any damages for your injuries!

That having been said, just because you break a law doesn’t mean you will be charged with one.  Unless you did something serious on top of this, or it caused an accident, there are bigger crimes out their for the prosecutors to deal with, so you may not be charged at all.  Just remember, every cop and prosecutor has a pet peave that they refuse to be lenient with, and technically you could  be charged with criminal assault if you decide to try this tactic.

Even if the police don’t get involved, you could be sued by any number of people who you placed in fear by slamming on your brakes, with a claim for Civil Assault.  This includes the driver of the second car, any passengers in that car (or your car), or even occupants of nearby cars or bystanders.  Similar to the criminal charge, all the individual has to allege in order to file a valid complaint is that you acted intentionally when you slammed on your brakes, that you acted with the intent of putting the second driver in fear, and that because of your actions, the person suing you was actually and reasonably put in fear of immediate injury.  Whether the complaint makes it to court or whether you get a judgement against you are different questions, but as long as the complaint alleges these specific things, it is most likely valid and you then end up with a public lawsuit against you for assault.

Ok, lets face it, not many people are going to come after you for scaring them, especially if they were tailgating you.  But, there is an even bigger consequence to your actions, if by slamming on your brakes, you actually end up in an accident when the second car rear-ends you.  You may not be able to recover any damages for your injuries!

There are two different defenses that will come into play here, depending on what state you are in: Comparative Negligence and Contributory Negligence.  The majority of states follow Comparative Negligence, which assigns a percentage of negligence or responsibility for the accident to each party involved.  Then, the damages are awarded or reduced by those percentages.  For example, lets say you end up with $10,000 in damages, but because you slammed on your brakes the court finds you were  30% negligent or responsible for causing the accident.  Your recovery is then reduced by your portion of the negligence (30% of $10,000 = $3,000) so you only get $7,000 in recovery.  While this seems slightly unfair, it is the law in most states.

Then, there is Contributory Negligence, which is used in only 5 jurisdictions in the U.S., Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., Alabama & North Carolina.  Contributory Negligence acts as a 100% bar, preventing ANY recovery for your damages if you are found to be even 1% negligent in causing the accident.  So, if in the same above scenario, where you have $10,000 in damages and are found to be 30% negligent, you get a whopping $0 in recovery.  Yes, you don’t need to go get your glasses, you read that right.  If you are found even the slightest bit negligent, then you get NOTHING.

What could be even worse is you get sued for causing the accident, even though you were the one who was rear-ended.  Why, you ask?  Because the argument will be that if you hadn’t slammed on your brakes, then there wouldn’t have been an accident.  You may counter that argument by saying that if they hadn’t been so close to you, then there wouldn’t have been an accident, but the facts would show that until you hit your brakes, there had not been an accident.  If the court decides that the second car was not following too close, that you intentionally slammed on your brakes, and that the other driver didn’t have enough time to react or couldn’t get out of the way and hit you by accident, then not only could you be on the hook for the criminal assault charges, a criminal battery charge (for actually harming someone after intentionally trying to cause fear), you wouldn’t get your injuries or damage paid for, and… you could have to pay for all the damages and injuries that the other people received.

So, while tailgaters are annoying, the best way to deal with them, while keeping yourself out of trouble and able to recover damages if they cause an accident is to slow down and let them by you.  Yes, it is hard to be the bigger person (especially when we all know the tailgater is using you as a rabbit and the minute they are out in front they are going to slow down), but it is the safer, more responsible, and less negligent option.

If you end up in this situation, on either side of the issue, remember that this is just a basic overview of the problems that you could be dealing with, and it already sounds confusing.  You should contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options, before you sign anything or need to show up for a court date.  An experienced attorney can guide you through these issues and protect your best interests.

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About jimcorleylaw

Maryland Attorney, focusing on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury cases. Centrally located in Baltimore County, near Towson.

Discussion

20 thoughts on “Slamming the Brakes on a Tailgater: How It Can Land You With A Criminal Charge AND Prevent an Injury Recovery!

  1. Great article. Slight correction to final paragraph(s), I’ve found the best way to deal with road rage is to literally do nothing. Worrying every few seconds about pleasing everyone by moving over (unless there is a really good reason you should move over – but not just because Joe Schmo in the big truck behind you wants you to) is frustrating, impossible, and a dangerous objective.

    When someone is experiencing road rage and you are the target, DO NOTHING. Keep driving “normal” and do not make eye contact nor show any signs of aggression or frustration yourself.

    Posted by Isaac | November 4, 2013, 11:08 am
    • Isaac, thank you for your comment.

      Generally I will agree with your thoughts. You should not do anything to encourage or provoke any type of road rage, whether it is your own or another driver’s. However, I have found that many drivers use the “safety” and “privacy” of their vehicles to exhibit behavior that they would not otherwise engage in if they were outside of the car. For example, many people sound their horns and yell at other drivers when they are behind someone slow or someone who they feel is not obeying the proper traffic laws. However, if the same person were walking behind another person, either on a sidewalk or in a supermarket aisle, who was obstructing the flow of “traffic” or stopping and blocking your path, they would not scream and yell. They may politely ask if they can get by, or simply say “excuse me.” However, because there appears to be a greater chance of personal confrontation outside of the car, people are more friendly or passive (at least outwardly).

      Your comment appears to suggest that if someone is tailgating you, because they want to go faster than you do, that you should simply ignore them and stay in your lane, regardless of their behavior. I would ask this, if you were in a supermarket and the person behind you appeared in a hurry and asked if they could get by you, would you still ignore them and not move out of the way? If the goal is to prevent road rage, then I would argue that the best thing to do if someone comes up on your bumper and wants to get by is to move over at the first convenient opportunity. I am not suggesting that you dangerously force your way into the next lane just to get out of the way, but if you have a chance to get over and choose not to simply because you don’t feel you should have to, then you may be provoking the road rage that you suggest should be avoided.

      That said, I agree, you should not allow someone to force you off the road, or to engage in dangerous driving yourself, but if you can pull over to let the “raging” driver go, then you may be safer in the long run because you really don’t want to be around them any longer than necessary.

      Posted by jimcorleylaw | November 6, 2013, 11:15 am
      • Yes, I see your point. I’m sure we are on the same page. If someone is exhibiting behavior that really stands out as over the top, then it’s time to swallow any pride and do the safer thing. I guess where I was going with it is, in the city I live in, there are just too many obnovious drivers to follow this advice all the time. If a person worried too much about it, they’d literally be focusing on NOTHING else, it would consume almost 100% of their driving. Which ultimately seems absurd and unfair. What I have done is try to arrive at a compromise: There are plenty of times when people get ancy behind me, but if I know that I am only slowing a little bit temporarily for a curve in the freeway (etc), I ignore them. Another example is if I am in the HOV lane and already going above the speed limit significantly (let’s say 7-10 miles over). Occasionally someone will come up behind me and be perturbed, but I generally wait and let them go around me, as opposed to immediately looking for how I can accomodate them. Especially if they have the ability to go around.

        So in the supermarket example: If someone acted very agitated and pushy and asked me that, Yes – I’d almost certainly let them past. However, if doing that in the supermarket was common, and 75% of all supermarket shoppers did that to each other, it would be much more common to ignore them. In other words you can’t presuppose that one drives in a place where that behavior is rare … if it was, the decision would be much easier. And I do not believe that all prudent drivers (not talking about driving extremely or unusually slow, just somewhere within the general vicinity of the speed limit – even let’s say 7-10 miles over) should all be banished to the far right lanes at all times simply because that’s the wishes of the imprudent majority.

        So it depends on the context. In the Phoenix area where I live, unfortunately a large percentage of drivers are what I would consider very, very imprudent. My driving theory is to accomodate some of them, but not necessarily all of them, it would be a burden so large and unfair as to make driving next to impossible. I know this may come across a little bit like the “punish them” emotion that psychologists warn us against when feeling road rage, but it’s slightly different and only lightly applied in the way I’m describing it.

        Hope that makes more sense. I suppose you’re talking more about specifically road rage whereas I’m talking more about everyday driving. I’m probably getting off track. 🙂

        Posted by Isaac | November 6, 2013, 12:36 pm
      • “Your comment appears to suggest that if someone is tailgating you, because they want to go faster than you do, that you should simply ignore them and stay in your lane, regardless of their behavior. I would ask this, if you were in a supermarket and the person behind you appeared in a hurry and asked if they could get by you, would you still ignore them and not move out of the way?”

        I disagree with this comparison. You can’t get a speeding ticket by walking too fast. Unlike walking in a supermarket, the law imposes limits on the speed at which we drive. Why the disparate treatment? Because moving along in a 2 ton vehicle is inherently more dangerous than simply walking fast in a supermarket because you are in a hurry. The problem of road rage stems from a particular mindset…and that mindset comes primarily from those who ignore the speed limit and feel that everyone else has the responsibility to get out of their way (i.e. the tailgaters), not those who are driving at the limit who refuse to be bullied. This is even more clear when you realize that the tailgaters are the ones least likely to reciprocate and pull over when someone is tailgating them.

        I agree that slamming on one’s brake is unacceptable but I absolutely agree Issac’s take that you should simply continue to drive as before and ignore the tailgater. There is no legal obligation to move over and get out of the way. In my jurisdiction the law is clear: if the other driver is obeying the speed limit and you’re in a hurry then what happens next is your responsibility…not his.

        Posted by Mou Jalout | April 10, 2014, 11:57 am
      • Mou, thank you for your comment. This is obviously a topic in which many people have strong opinions.
        Let me be clear, I am in no way suggesting that a lead driver, who is obeying the speed limit, has a legal obligation to move out of a tailgating driver’s way, or that they are responsible for an accident caused by the tailgating driver if the lead driver is doing nothing wrong. All I am saying is that if someone is driving dangerously behind you and you have the ability to change lanes to let them by, then why not do it? If you let them drive past you, then you allow a greater distance between yourself and the dangers posed by that unsafe driver. Yes, you can legally stay in your lane and not move. However, that has the potential to make the tailgater more angry and aggressive.
        In my opinion, and that is all I am giving here, if someone is driving too close to my bumper and acting in an unsafe manner, I am probably going to take the next opportunity to pull into another lane and let the driver go past.
        Again, thanks for your comment.

        Posted by jimcorleylaw | April 10, 2014, 1:12 pm
  2. slamming on the bakes to make a tailgater back off is standard practice in New Zealand. This is because our police seldom enforce laws against tailgating despite it being more dangerous than driving with an elevated blood alcohol level. Our police tell us write down the rego number so they can send the offending driver a “please don’t do it again letter” (which is usually scorned and ripped up by the recipient). I have heard of cases where people who stand up to these Bullies have been put in ICU. Its sad that here you have to have the situation lead to an assault to get the police involved.

    Posted by Ezekiel | December 21, 2013, 12:39 am
  3. This is why the law is held in such low regard. The tailgater has scared a driver, who may have little recourse, depending on traffic. But regardless, the person who breaks the law and commits “assault” by your logic should be subject to whatever repercussions result from careless (and you would say criminal) action. Putting ANY blame on the lead driver is an offense to justice and common sense … yet this is the state of law in America.

    Posted by greg | April 5, 2014, 11:27 pm
    • Greg, I appreciate your comment and opinion. I agree with you that the tailgating driver should bear the appropriate responsibility for the situation. Which is why, at least in the state of Maryland, if your actions are deemed to contribute to an accident at all, you cannot recover for your losses. This is called Contributory Negligence. In other states, it becomes a percentage game, where if the tailgating driver is found to be 40% responsible for causing an accident, they can still recover 60% of their losses. Maryland, on the other hand, says that if you are found to be even 1% at fault for causing the accident you recover nothing. But, this is only in the civil context, such as a personal injury lawsuit.
      However, in the criminal arena, you have to look at the cause and effect of each person’s actions. If the lead driver, who is being tailgated, slams on their brakes and causes the accident, the argument can be made that they are the at fault party. Why? Because if they had not slammed on their brakes the accident likely would not have happened. The lead driver makes a choice to make an intentional action which directly leads to an accident. They may have had other choices, such as simply slowing down and moving over to another lane. I agree that the tailgating driver is likely the initial aggressor, but when the other party responds in such a way as to create an exceedingly more dangerous situation, the roles switch and the driver who slams on their brakes becomes the aggressor.
      In your scenario, a driver who has little recourse other than slamming on their brakes due to traffic is not the type of person who would be affected by this. Why? Because in that scenario, they are presumably not slamming on their brakes to respond to the tailgater, but are slamming on their brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of them. That is normal and reasonable, and the tailgating driver would then be cited for following too closely and failing to control their speed to avoid a collision. My article is addressed towards those lead drivers who slam on their brakes for the sole purpose of trying to scare the tailgating driver into backing off.
      Again, I appreciate your input and the time you took to respond to my article.

      Posted by jimcorleylaw | April 8, 2014, 10:02 am
      • So can you bring charges against a tailgater for attempted assault? If slamming on your brakes can be considered assault (“assault” and “battery” are used interchangeably in my jurisdiction and are both deemed “assault” in the statute), then can tailgating can be considered an attempted assault when the lead driver is put in apprehension or fear?

        Posted by Mou Jalout | April 10, 2014, 12:10 pm
      • Mou, thank you for your comment.
        In theory, yes, you could file charges against the tailgater for a variety of different charges, depending on your jurisdiction’s laws. In Maryland, you could go to a District Court Commissioner and file a civilian complaint alleging the other driver committed an assault against you. You would have to provide enough information to identify the other driver and to show that if everything you said was true, the person could be found guilty of that crime. For assault, you would have to show that the tailgating driver acted with the intent to put you in fear of imminent harm, that he had the ability to cause that harm, that you were in fact put in fear of harm, and that he wasn’t legally justified in his actions. Note, you have to prove that he tailgated you with the actual intent to cause you fear, not just that you were put in fear. If the commissioner found that your complaint was sufficient, then they would issue a criminal summons and the other driver would be notified of a court date. But, it would be up to the prosecutor to decide if they actually wanted to go through with the charges or just drop them.
        Thank you for your comment and opinion.

        Posted by jimcorleylaw | April 10, 2014, 1:20 pm
  4. Just to clarify my original message (or what I intended, anyway), I think a lot of this comes down to context, culture and norms in the location where one is driving. This is why I did indeed find the grocery store comparison very irrelevant. Generally if someone asks to go in front of me I’ll say “sure”. But why? I do this because the question would be very rarely posed. Maybe it’s happened to me 5 times in my entire life. Now pretend that when you walked into a grocery store, every 3 seconds someone asked to go in front of you. In fact, every 3 seconds, most everyone asked to go in front of most everyone else. Do you see where this is going? Obviously at some point the entire question would become silly and people would just say “no”, and stay put. This latter scenario in a grocery store (although silly sounding) is much closer to the actual driving conditions where I live. If you slow down just slightly (maybe down to the speed limit) around a major freeway curve, someone is bound to come aggressively close to you – conveying the message that “you ought to move over”–it is that message to which my hypothetical & in fact behaviorial response is, “no”. Every few seconds, 75% of the people are tailgating someone. The idea that I should be flying all over the freeway to acquiesce to what might be 100 demands in a 10 minute period, even if 98% of those demands are very temporary or don’t really make any sense, borders on absurd.

    Having said that, I do agree with Jim’s basic scaled-down example that if someone is really standing out from your overall driving experience by aggressively demanding a specific behavior that you can easily provide…..Sure, the prudent thing is to do it. Sounds like we’ve both clarified our opinions at this point.

    It’s all about culture and norms. What type of ‘aggressive demands’ you might pay a lot of attention to in Baskerville, NE, you might totally ignore in a large city bustling with the pulse of ever-changing traffic. And be “right” in both scenarios.

    This is why I say, driving on a cross-town freeway might cause me to ignore most demands, assuming my own behavior is fairly mainstream. Driving on a highway outside the city, I’ll generally do whatever people are asking me to do, because it’s a once-every-once-in-a-while deal.

    Posted by ipisorsIsaac | April 10, 2014, 3:11 pm
  5. so then, if the person tailing is causing fear in the person in front, did it because they wanted to go faster and wanted you to get scared of them following closely and move over, the hunk of steel comment you made above, then the tail gaiter is the one at fault. the person in front has an argument that they were acting in self defense because they wanted to get the danger (the person riding their bumper) away from them so they reacted to that stimulus. point being, tail gating is a problem and causes a lot of problems. granted it is racing, but imagine drivers on the highway driving nose to tail like talladega in 2009. youtube edwards talladega 2009. youtube jeff gordon flip daytona. youtube daytona coke 400 2014 crash. the cars drive so closely because it makes the car in front go faster. if something happens, there is not enough time to react. it is a dangerous situation.

    Posted by MICHAEL | July 21, 2014, 3:28 pm
    • Michael, thank you for your comment and perspective.
      I think the question that must be addressed in your comment is, “What is the point of Self-Defense?” It is to protect yourself against harm, not to cause harm to yourself by slamming on your brakes to intentionally cause an accident.
      Yes, the tailgating driver has started the dangerous situation. And, if he causes an accident without the front driver doing anything, then the tailgating driver is solely at fault. However, the tailgater’s goal is probably not to cause an accident with the front driver, it is only to get the driver to move out of the way. So, if the front driver voluntarily and intentionally slams on their brakes to cause an accident, even if the accident would likely not have happened if the rear driver was not tailgating, then the front driver is the one who actually caused the accident.
      You are right, when tailgating is going on, it is a dangerous situation and there is often not enough time to react. However, the most simple way for the front driver to get away from the danger is to simply move over and let the tailgating driver by. I’m not saying that the tailgater is right, I’m just saying that a driver who intentionally slams on their brakes to cause an accident is at least as much at fault for the accident as the tailgater. After all, the accident may not have happened at all if the front driver didn’t decide to take drastic action to intentionally cause an accident.
      Again, I thank you for your comment and perspective.

      Posted by jimcorleylaw | July 22, 2014, 10:15 am
  6. Michael I agree with Jim strongly here. Furthermore, do you know what I do when people tailgate me? Absolutely nothing 75% of the time, I move over 25% of the time (something like that). Usually the tailgating isn’t because I’m doing something obnoxious by going slow in the left lane, usually it’s just a momentary thing inside a city cross-town freeway and many people are tailgating many other people. There’s really no point or reason to it, it’s just bad behavior by drivers. In many metro areas (like the one I live in), tailgating doesn’t really “mean” much of anything. People tailgate me even when there is a car just a few carlengths in front of me, and there really isn’t anywhere else to go. People tailgate me even when I”m in the middle lane, and the tailgater has every opportunity to go around me – left or right side, either one.

    The best response is no response at all. The person moving their car from lane to lane to lane at the beck and call of every tailgater is bearing an unfair majority of the risk. Therefore, if someone wants to drive recklessly, I allow them to do it – I don’t consider it an ugent need for ME to go moving my car all over the freeway–taking the risk FOR them, to HELP them. I let them go around me which they are free to do at any time. Of course, if I am going significantly slower than the norm, I won’t drive in the left lane, but–absent signage otherwise–that’s not a law, it’s just a custom. And my safety is always a priority over custom as well as over other people’s request.

    But slamming your brakes on has nothing to do with self defense. It’s deliberately trying to make someone hit you, which is absolutely criminal assault.

    I have found tailgaters to be like most other bullies. Completely ignore them and the fun of it is taken away for them. Act all scared and apologetic and moving around from lane to lane at their beck and call–it reinforces and increases their bad behavior. Most of the time, no action seems to be the best course of action. Assuming you are driving a reasonable speed (like the speed limit or a bit over), and all else is equal.

    By the way, all of my comments pertain to in-town, cross-metro freeway type of situations. On the open road where people are on the long haul, I think the “left lane is for passing” is a much stronger expectation. But even then, while you are passing a sequence of vehicles (more than one), someone may come up along behind you and tailgate you because they are going just a HAIR faster than you. That is foolish behavior, and instead of trying to pander to it by darting into a dangerous hole in between cars, as if you are required to do that, just maintain your speed and complete your passing process. They’ll live.

    Posted by Isaac | July 22, 2014, 11:52 am
  7. What a worthwhile read! Thank you for the information. Your article was result #3 of my Google search term “is brake checking legal?” and it has changed my perspective completely and also raised another question in my mind.

    During highway driving, I find myself “brake checking” a vehicle behind me regularly (probably because people tailgate regularly). But my definition of “brake checking” is acting to touch the brake pedal with my left foot in order to illuminate my brake lights for a short moment for a tailgating vehicle if; (1) I am in a left lane and unable to move right or (2) I am in any lane and notice a hazard (e.g. busy onramp or busy merging lane) ahead that will likely require braking.

    I will admit that my “courtesy brake lights” has escalated into me slamming on the breaks to scare the idiot behind… but only rarely and now I will never let that happen again.

    Prior to reading your article, I think I would have had slightly more sympathy for some of the opinions in the comments but I absolutely understand what you’re saying and 100% agree with your opinion. And I like your supermarket analogy. My thought is also that the people who keep to the left lanes, when there is no right lane obstruction and there is faster moving traffic, inadvertently perpetuate tailgating and road rage in general.

    In any event, I would like to get your thoughts on managing tailgaters by illuminating your brake lights. Is there anything wrong with illuminating your brake lights without the intention of actually braking and without being obnoxious or aggressive or doing so repeatedly or what have you?

    Many thanks.

    Posted by Andrew P - NJ | August 21, 2014, 3:58 am
    • Andrew,
      Thank you for your response and questions. First, let me say that, in my opinion, an aggressive tailgater cannot be managed. Why? Because they don’t think that they are doing anything wrong. Moreover, it is my belief that they tailgate you because they believe you are the one doing something wrong. In their mind, you are the one impeding the flow of traffic and causing the situation that makes it necessary for them to tailgate you. So, I don’t believe that something as minimal and benign as simply lighting up your brake lights would do anything to curb their behavior.

      Second, you asked if there is “anything wrong with illuminating your brake lights without the intention of actually braking and without being obnoxious or aggressive or doing so repeatedly…” I would say that the issue of whether there is anything right or wrong with that behavior would be judged differently by different people. Brake lights are intended to signal a following car that you are in fact slowing down. If you are just lighting up the brake lights, without slowing down, then your purpose is to cause a behavior change by another vehicle. My guess is, as I alluded to up front, because a tailgating driver doesn’t think they are in the wrong, they will view any act or response by you, other than changing lanes to let them by, as some act of defiance or a “screw you” gesture. This would hold even more true if you are doing so repeatedly. Why? Because by doing so you are acknowledging to them that you know they are there and that they want to get by you, but that you are making the choice not to move over and are instead going to just try and get them to back off. Since they likely already think you are in the wrong for being in their way, they will likely view your simple benign act as an obnoxious response. This could lead to an escalation of the situation which puts you, and everyone around you, in greater danger.

      Let me reiterate one thing that I have tried to make clear in the original post and all my responses. I don’t condone the tailgater’s actions. However, choosing to try and take any action of your own to change a tailgater’s behavior just creates a greater chance of a more dangerous situation.

      Listen, I get it. Tailgaters are obnoxious and dangerous. They irritate me as well and there have been more than a few occasions where I would have loved to see them pulled over or worse. I also won’t deny that I have occasionally taken much longer to move over than I really needed to. However, in the end, there is virtually no chance that your actions, whether it is to slam on your brakes or just light up the brake lights, will convince an aggressive tailgater that they are the unsafe driver and that they should change their ways. It is more likely that they will be provoked into tailgating even closer, trying to pass you and then cut you off, or engaging in some of the even more shocking road rage episodes that have been on the news in recent years. It just isn’t worth it in my opinion. Sooner or later they will get what they deserve. It is safer to let them by, keep yourself and your family out of harms way, and complain about the tailgater later, than it will be for your family to try and justify why you did what you did if something goes horribly wrong.

      Posted by jimcorleylaw | August 25, 2014, 12:38 pm
  8. This just happened to me. About three weeks ago a road rage driver did this to me, causing me to rear end him. Luckily he admitted to the police that he did it on purpose. My problem is I had foot surgery 6 weeks rope and was in my first week post boot and I am concern I damages my for again. What do I do?’bn

    Posted by Cynthia hawkins | January 3, 2015, 9:38 pm
    • Cynthia, first off, I’m very sorry to hear of your accident.
      The most simple piece of advice that I can give you is to contact a personal injury attorney in your area. An experienced attorney can protect your interests and evaluate the case to see what additional damages can be linked to this rear-end accident. The attorney can then make a claim against the driver and his insurance company for your additional or even just exacerbated injuries. What will be critical in this situation, in my opinion, is the officer’s testimony that the other driver admitted causing the accident. It is important to identify the officer and verify what his testimony will be very early in the process.
      Here is the oddity in the situation. Because the driver, as you said, “did it on purpose,” it could cause problems with his insurance coverage. Why? Because insurance covers accidents. When a driver causes a collision on purpose, it isn’t an accident, it is intentional. Many, if not all, auto insurance policies now include an “Intentional Acts” clause, which basically states that if you intentionally cause an accident the insurance company isn’t responsible for the damages.
      Your case has many different moving parts that I believe require some significant investigation and evaluation. The best thing to do is to call an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. Most will give you a free consultation over the phone before making you come in for an in person meeting.
      Good Luck!

      Posted by jimcorleylaw | January 7, 2015, 10:45 am
  9. So how would they prove intent unless the front driver is complete idiot and admits it? There could be dozens of reasons I slammed on my breaks. I certainly wouldn’t be telling them about my dash cam. “I felt dizzy and needed to stop asap before I caused an accident and hurt somebody. I would have succeeed if it wasn’t for the knucklehead following too closely. “

    Posted by Roman | April 13, 2015, 6:22 pm
    • Thank you for your response and perspective. You are correct, in that proving intent is not simple. However, it is possible. If there were other drivers or passengers who witnessed the event, their observations could show that the driver in front was the aggressor. The question is whether the risks of an accident, injuries, civil liability, and/or a criminal charges are worth the satisfaction you might get from slamming your brakes in front of someone.

      Posted by jimcorleylaw | April 15, 2015, 7:05 am

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