Determining Fault in Lane Change Accidents

hand on steering wheel reaching for turn signal

Lane change accidents are a common occurrence on roads and highways, often resulting in serious consequences for those involved. Unfortunately, determining fault in a lane change accident is not always easy. A qualified accident attorney can help you seek compensation in the event your accident was caused by full or partial negligence. 

Causes of Lane Change Accidents

As the name suggests, lane change accidents occur when a vehicle or vehicles attempt to change lanes on a road and either collide with another car or force another driver off the road. Most often, this results in a type of collision known as a sideswipe accident. The causes for lane change accidents are varied, but most often involve one or more of the following: 

Driver Distraction

One of the leading causes of lane change accidents is driver distraction. Whether it’s texting, adjusting the radio, or engaging in other activities, taking attention away from the road increases the risk of colliding with other vehicles during a lane change.

Failure to Signal

Neglecting to use turn signals is a common mistake that can lead to accidents. Signaling informs other drivers of your intentions, allowing them to react accordingly. Failure to signal often results in confusion and unexpected lane changes. 

This situation might also apply if a car’s rear signal was not working. Even if the driver was unaware that the bulb was out, he or she has a duty to maintain their vehicle for safe operation. 

Blind Spot Neglect

Drivers may change lanes without properly checking blind spots, leading to collisions with vehicles that were not visible in the side mirrors. Blind spot neglect is a significant contributor to lane change accidents, especially on busy highways. 

Checking blind spots should involve a combination of looking out windows and mirrors on the side you wish to merge. Shockingly, the NHTSA found that 36 percent of drivers failed to look in the center mirror, right mirror, and right windows in the last 8 seconds prior to a planned right lane merge, and only 72% of drivers used their turn signal prior to making a planned right lane change. The same study found that 17% of drivers failed to properly check windows and mirrors in the 8 seconds before a left lane change, and only 85% used their turn signal. 

Speeding and Aggressive Driving

Speeding and aggressive driving can escalate the chances of lane change accidents and/or sideswipe accidents. Rapid lane changes, weaving through traffic, and tailgating create an unpredictable and stressful driving environment. Not only is the aggressive driver more likely to have an accident, he or she puts pressure on other drivers to react under stress. 

Impaired Driving

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in a driver engaging in any or all of the above risky driving behaviors. They may also find themselves the victim of a lane change accident: reaction times are slowed while intoxicated, meaning an impaired driver may not be able to avoid a sudden lane change by another driver. 

Determining Fault in Lane Change Accidents

In most cases, the party who was actively changing lanes and hit another vehicle is responsible for an accident. However, liability is not always cut and dry. In some cases, more than one driver may be liable, including the one who was hit. Consider the following scenarios:

The Sideswiped Vehicle Was Speeding

A driver signals to change to the right lane. He or she carefully checks mirrors and blindspots. It appears there is enough room for them to merge safely. Suddenly, however, another car that was behind the signaling driver changes lanes quickly and begins speeding past the driver attempting to legally change lanes. The result is a crash that is not entirely the fault of the merging driver. 

A Vehicle Made an Unsafe Stop

A lane change accident may occur if a driver in front of the merging vehicle stops or slows down suddenly without good reason. As the merging driver verifies it is safe to merge in front of the car behind them, they are then confronted with an obstacle in front of them. They may not be able to slow or stop in time to avoid a rear-end collision. 

So, while the merging driver has a duty to ensure it is safe to do so, other drivers have a responsibility to observe for lane changes and maintain their current speed. 

When to Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney After a Sideswipe Accident

A personal injury attorney will be an important ally should you decide to pursue legal action against the person or persons you believe caused your sideswipe accident. Contacting an attorney after a lane change accident will be especially important in the case of:

Severe injury: if you were badly hurt in the crash, your medical bills may quickly become unmanageable. An accident attorney can help you seek compensation for the treatment of your injuries and any care you may require in the future. 

Disputed Liability: if fault is contested or unclear, an attorney can help navigate the legal complexities and advocate on your behalf. Colorado’s comparative negligence laws mean you may still be able negotiate for a settlement, even if you are found to be partially responsible for the crash. 

Insurance Disputes: when dealing with insurance companies, especially if there are disputes over coverage or compensation, an attorney can provide invaluable assistance in negotiating a fair settlement. An experienced attorney will ensure you do not receive an unfair denial or low-ball settlement amount for your sideswipe accident, allowing you to focus on getting better instead of dealing with insurance red tape. 

Sideswipe Accident Attorney in Colorado

If you have been in a lane change accident in the state of Colorado, contact the accident attorneys at The Roth Group. Our skilled professionals will help guide you through the legal and insurance processes, ensuring you receive fair compensation for your pain and suffering. Call or go online today to schedule your free consultation.