Am I at Fault in an Accident if Someone Brake-Checks Me?

By Peter DePaolis

Being in an accident can be traumatic enough, but when you are involved in a rear-end collision where you strike the other driver it can be terrifying. In some cases, it happens due to the driver in the rear not realizing that traffic has slowed or come to a stop, however, sometimes it is obvious the driver in front was doing brake checks. If this is the case, regardless of how the accident seems to have started it is best to work with a Washington, D.C. personal injury attorney since the claims system functions differently from many others.

Rear-End Collisions Can Have Several Causes

There is a very common misconception that no matter what happens to precipitate the collision, the driver in the rear during a rear-end collision is at-fault. This may be the case in some situations, particularly those involving negligence such as distracted driving or following too closely, but not always. 

You May Not Be At Fault

Some rear-end collisions happen as a result of the driver in front doing a “brake-check”, also known as a “brake test”, without reason and subsequently causing an accident. When this happens, they are deliberately trying to make the person behind them either crash or take potentially dangerous evasive action.

Proving the Other Driver Brake-Checked

This can be a challenging burden to meet in any claim. Some victims, however, will be able to locate people who were at the scene and witnessed the crash. Other cases may see their vindication by the luck of a dash-mounted camera. 

Washington, DC Uses a Rare System

In most jurisdictions around the nation, there is a system of fault determination in place for vehicle accidents. In DC, however, there is a no-fault system in place, which disallows filing personal injury claims with any insurers but your own in the majority of cases. It also sets limits to the damages that may allow the victim to seek through settlement.

This means that no matter who was the person responsible for causing the accident, the compensation for damages will be paid to each driver by their own respective insurance company. If there are injuries, most jurisdictions also require drivers to carry personal injury protection or PIP as part of the legally-required minimum insurance coverage.

Are There Exceptions to the No-Fault System?

It may seem like the no-fault system is rigid, but there are situations where a personal injury case may be able to be heard outside of the constraints of the no-fault rules. Situations like these can include:

  • The claim damages exceed predetermined limits of the victim’s PIP coverage
  • Injuries that cause impairment of 180 days or longer
  • Injuries that result in permanent disfigurement, scarring, or other total impairment

The Most Important Thing to Do if You’ve Been Brake-Checked

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by a brake-check on the part of the driver in front, working with a personal injury attorney is crucial to a successful recovery. Not only will they help simplify the process for you, but they will be your advocate from beginning to end. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.