Tailgating is both distracting and dangerous. It involves following another vehicle more closely than what is reasonable, given the circumstances. It contributes to a substantial percentage of all motor vehicle accidents on California highways. If you are injured in a tailgating accident, you should consult a skillful litigator about filing suit to recover damages. Travis G. Black is an experienced California car accident attorney with a background in both the insurance industry and law enforcement. He may be able to use his unique insights to help you recover damages if you were hurt because another driver tailgated you.
Claims Arising From Tailgating Accidents
Under California Vehicle Code section 21703, tailgating occurs when one driver follows another driver more closely than what is prudent and reasonable if they had due regard for the speed of the vehicle, as well as the traffic or road conditions. In most cases, it is important to maintain a distance of one car length for every 10 miles per hour of speed. For example, if you are going 60 mph, you would leave six car lengths so that you have enough space to stop in case the car ahead brakes suddenly. However, quite often in California, aggressive drivers try to fill any space, and they may even try to coax the first car into a slower lane by tailgating.
If the other driver in a tailgating accident was cited after the crash, you may be able to recover damages under a theory of negligence per se. This doctrine can be used to recover damages if the defendant broke a safety law, the failure to abide by the safety law caused an accident, and the plaintiff was in the class of people who were supposed to be protected under the law. Generally, negligence per se makes it easier to recover damages because there is no dispute about what the standard of care is in the situation. In most cases, it is helpful for the plaintiff’s case that the defendant received a citation for the law that was violated.
In other cases, your lawyer may be able to recover damages for a crash caused by tailgating by showing that the defendant was obliged to use reasonable care, failed to abide by this obligation, and thereby caused your injuries. Although this can be a little more difficult to prove, most juries will find that tailgating or related behaviors like speeding violate the duty to use reasonable care. Reasonable care is based on what a prudent driver would do under the circumstances. Even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, a prudent driver leaves some room to stop in case the driver in front comes across stopped traffic or another hazard on the road.
If you successfully establish liability, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, lost earning capacity, mental anguish, pain and suffering, out-of-pocket expenses, property damage, and loss of consortium. The damages are awarded to put you back into the position where you would have been had the other driver not tailgated you. The exact amount varies depending on the nature and extent of your injuries, as well as how much they affect you specifically. When the tailgating was a result of drunk driving, which it sometimes is, you may be able to recover punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are not normally available in car accident cases, but there is an exception for drunk driving.
Your damages may be reduced if you were comparatively negligent. For example, if you failed to fix your brake lights, and as a result the person behind you did not brake in time, you might be considered partially to blame, and your damages would be reduced according to what the jury believes is your percentage of fault for the accident.