A sideswipe accident occurs when two cars are going the same direction and the side of one car hits the side of the other car. Most of the time this happens because one car leaves its lane of travel and sideswipes the other car. This is commonly referred to as an unsafe lane change.
The car that leaves its lane of travel is usually the one that is at fault for causing the sideswipe accident. The two most common types of sideswipe accidents occur when changing lanes and when merging. This article will address who is at fault in a car accident when changing lanes. It will also address who is at fault when merging.
DETERMINING FAULT IN A SIDESWIPE ACCIDENT
All cars have a duty to stay in their lane of travel and not leave it unless it is safe to do so. It is easy to say the car that leaves its lane of travel and makes an unsafe lane change is the car that is at fault for causing the sideswipe accident. But it is not always easy to determine which car left its lane of travel. Sometimes the type of damage and the location of the damage on the vehicles can give you clues. Sometimes where the vehicles came to rest can also give you clues. But most of the time the determination of which vehicle entered the other vehicle’s lane of travel will be based on the car driver’s accounts and the witnesses accounts of what happened. Unfortunately, drivers and witnesses can have different accounts of what happened. For this reason, determining who is at fault for a sideswipe accident can sometimes be difficult.
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WHO IS AT FAULT WHEN CHANGING LANES?
The driver that changes lanes is usually at fault. Before changing lanes, a car driver has the obligation to ensure it is safe to do so. What the driver needs to do will depend on the circumstances. In general, the driver must make sure there is enough room to enter the other lane. Most drivers will look in their mirror before changing lanes. But mirrors often have blind spots. Some drivers will not take the time to check their blind spots. Other drivers will not use a turn signal before changing lanes. Of course, none of this means the driver that does not change lanes has no fault. Sometimes the driver that does not change lanes can have some fault too.
When does the Driver that Changes Lanes Have Fault?
Common ways the car driver is at fault changing lanes are:
- Failing to make sure there is enough room to change lanes
- Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes
- Drifting into another lane because of a distraction
- Failing to put on a turn signal before changing lanes
- Driving too fast for the road conditions or the weather
- Failing to turn on headlights at night
- Intentionally cutting off another car because of road rage
- Intoxication on alcohol or drugs causing a driver to swerve between lanes
- Hydroplaning or spinning on wet or icy roads
- Cutting off the other vehicle
When does the Driver that does not Change Lanes Have Some Fault?
The driver that does not change lanes usually will not be completely at fault for the accident. But they can have some fault when they do not fulfill their driving obligations. The driver that does not change lanes has an obligation to pay attention to the movement of the other cars and drive a safe speed for the conditions. When a driver fails to do these things, they can have some fault for an accident when another driver changes lanes. Common ways a driver that did not change lanes can have some fault in an accident when another car changes lanes include:
- Speeding up as the other vehicle is changing lanes in front
- Slowing down as the other vehicle changes lanes behind
- Texting or talking on the phone. This is commonly referred to as distracted driving
- Purposefully refusing to let the other car enter the lane of travel
WHO IS AT FAULT WHEN MERGING?
Merging occurs when a lane is about to end and a car driver must enter into a lane that will be continuing to go forward. Most of the time drivers that are merging during an accident are at fault because the other driver has the right of way. The merging driver is supposed to yield the right of way. When they fail to do so they are at fault. Of course the vehicle that is not merging can also have fault when there is something they could do to avoid the accident.
When is an Accident the Merging Drivers Fault?
It’s not possible to list all the ways a merging driver can be at fault. But there are some types of merging accidents that occur frequently. Common ways the merging driver is at fault include:
- Merging onto the roadway to fast
- Merging onto the highway to slow
- Cutting off the other vehicle
- Failing to use a turn signal
- Hesitating when merging
- Failing to check for cars in the other lane before merging
When does the Non-Merging Driver have Some Fault?
The non-merging driver has an obligation to recognize the lane next to it is about to end and anticipate drivers from that lane will be merging into their lane. When the non-merging vehicle fails to do so, they can have some fault in causing the accident. Common ways the non-merging driver can have some fault are:
- Failing to adjust speed to allow the merging driver to enter the lane of travel
- Failing to slow down
- Purposefully speeding up so the merging driver cannot enter the lane of travel
- Tailgating the vehicle in front so there is no room for the merging driver to enter the lane
WHO IS AT FAULT WHEN BOTH CARS ARE SWITCHING LANES?
When both cars are switching lanes, they probably both have some fault in causing an accident. This commonly occurs when there are three lanes or more of travel in one direction. A car in the outside lane attempts to move into the center lane at the same time a car in the inside lane attempts to move into the center lane. Some part of the side of each vehicle collides as they both enter the middle lane at the same time. Both cars will usually have some fault because neither car has the right of way to enter the middle lane. They both have an obligation to ensure the middle lane is clear before they switch lanes. Common reasons drivers fail to anticipate the middle lane is clear before switching lanes are:
- Failing to look at the cars that are two lanes over before entering the middle lane
- Failing to see the car two lanes over has their turn signal on and is already switching lanes into the middle lane
- Attempting to cross multiple lanes at once without pausing between lane changes
- Switching back and forth between multiple lanes to try and get ahead of traffic