Who is Liable for Tailgating Car Accidents?


The term tailgating refers to a driver who is following another driver too closely, causing a car accident when the car in front hits the brakes or stops suddenly.

The general rule is that the car in the rear end of a tailgate collision is the one responsible for the accident, because all drivers are taught to stay enough distance away from the car in front that they can brake in a timely manner to avoid collision. This is referred to as due care or duty of care in legal terms.

Specifically, drivers are expected to leave two car lengths between their vehicle and the one in front. But of course, in real life, there are always cars that pull into that space from another lane and the car behind might not be able to hit the brakes in time.

Across the nation, there are laws against this type of tailgating. Liability will be assumed for the car in the back end of an accident if it is determined to have been following too closely that is reasonable and prudent, which means that the driver needs to always keep focus on the road and leave room for changing circumstances on the road, given:

  • The speed of vehicles
  • The number of vehicles
  • The condition of the highway
  • The weather

However, not all accidents are simple and the person driving in the rear of a tailgating accident is not always responsible.

There are situations in which the driver in front brakes suddenly and violently, not owing to a change in the road ahead, but because they are angry at how close the car behind them is following. In cases such as that, this act of baiting the car behind will lead to the conclusion that the driver in front was at least partially responsible.

Other circumstances that could lead to the driver in the front end of a tailgating accident being found liable, or partially liable, include the following:

  • Pulling out in front of another driver; switching lanes without due caution
  • Braking suddenly
  • Reversing into a car
  • Road rage
  • Drunk driving
  • Texting and driving
  • Driving with broken taillights

Issues for Liability in Tailgating Accidents

When two drivers are involved in a tailgating accident, there are a few things to know about fault, or liability, in this type of accident. Regardless of if this is going to court or is an insurance matter, the following issues will factor into any compensation determined:

  • Duty. Drivers have a duty of care or responsibility to others: the passengers in their car; other drivers on the road; and any others who might be on the road, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. That responsibility means each driver needs to make decisions that keep the lives of others safe on the road.
  • Breach of duty. The driver seeking damages must prove that the other driver did not exercise duty of care.
  • Causation. The driver seeking damages must prove that their injuries were the result of a breach of duty by the driver being accused of liability and not some other cause.
  • Damages. Injuries must be established, through medical or hospital records.

Proving Liability

Proving fault in a car accident can be difficult, even when it looks obvious at first glance. Taking photos at the scene can help substantiate the case; also important are police reports and eyewitness accounts. In Washington DC and Maryland, where contributory negligence rules guide auto accident settlements, a driver who is found to be even 10 percent at fault in a car accident may not get any compensation at all from the other driver, owing to these car accident laws in effect.

Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Those Injured in Car Accidents Involving a Tailgating Driver

If you have been involved in an accident caused by a driver who was tailgating, the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King are available to help. We will thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident and fight to get the compensation that you deserve. Call us at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington, DC, we work with car accident victims in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, and Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.