Who is responsible for tailgating accidents?

Accidents caused by tailgating happen almost daily in South Florida. And even though they happen quite frequently, many people have a few misconceptions about them. In addition to believing these accidents are minor, many people believe that tailgaters are always at fault for tailgating accidents. Below, we discuss when the tailgater will be liable and when the parties might share liability.

How does Florida law view tailgating?

Many people admit to tailgating, or following the car in front too closely, on a regular basis. In fact, 80 percent of drivers admit to engaging in various road rage behaviors, especially tailgating, according to AAA. Sometimes drivers simply get into a bad habit and do not realize that tailgating is unsafe. Young drivers, in particular, may not know that what they are doing is wrong. Other drivers tailgate out of frustration or impatience.

No matter the reason, tailgating in Florida is illegal. Under Florida Statute § 316.0895, it is against the law to “follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent.” If officers catch a driver tailgating another vehicle, they can issue the driver a citation. 

Who is responsible for a tailgating accident?

Because violating a state statute is often proof enough of negligence, the rear driver will almost always be responsible for any resulting accident. This does not, however, mean that a tailgater will always be 100 percent responsible for an accident.  

To prove a tailgater is liable, the other driver must prove that the accident would not have occurred but for the driver’s negligence. For example, if the driver slowed down for traffic, a tailgater will likely be liable if s/he hits the driver who stopped.

However, there are a few reasons that might limit or deflect liability.

  • If a tailgater runs into a driver whose tail lights are out or who did not put on hazards after a breakdown, s/he might only be partially liable.
  • The preceding driver might be liable if s/he “brake-checked” the driver in an attempt to dissuade the driver from following closely. In this case, the preceding driver might be totally liable or both parties might share fault.
  • Both drivers could also share liability if the driver brakes quickly to make a turn or change lanes.

Why does it matter if we share fault? 

Sharing fault in a car accident case can significantly reduce the compensation you can recover. For example, if you needed to brake quickly to avoid missing a turn, the insurer might find you 30 percent at fault for the accident. If you requested $10,000 for your injuries, you will only be able to recover $7,000.

The accident attorneys of Coffey Trial Law can help you collect the facts you need to prove that the other driver was to blame for your accident. We will help you collect photographs from the scene of the accident, gather eyewitness testimony and police reports, and, if necessary, hire an expert to reconstruct the accident.

Call Coffey Trial Law at 954-541-3194 to set up an appointment at our Fort Lauderdale office to get started on your case today.