Who is at Fault For a Sideswipe Accident?


The driver who fails to maintain a single lane of travel is at fault for a sideswipe accident. Texas law imposes a duty to maintain a single lane of travel and not deviate from that lane unless it is safe to do so and proper signals are given. The party that fails to do this and causes a sideswipe accident is generally at fault, not the side-swiped car. However, who is at fault for a sideswipe accident may be more than one driver if other drivers do something to force the deviating vehicle out of its own lane of travel.

What is a Sideswipe Accident?

A sideswipe accident occurs when two vehicles collide side-to-side. They may be traveling in the same or opposite directions. Sideswipe car accidents occur because one of the two vehicles involved moved out of the lane it was traveling in when it was unsafe to do so.

These collisions can be extremely dangerous, especially when they occur on highways at high speeds, because neither the swerving vehicle nor the sideswiped car is typically aware that the collision is about to occur and, therefore, they are both unprepared. The surprise of the impact can cause the impacted vehicles to lose control or overcompensate while trying to maintain control. This can easily lead to a chain of events where the vehicles swerve from their lanes and impact other vehicles, guardrails, or objects or even slam on the brakes resulting in a rear-end collision. Thus, it is important to understand the causes of sideswipe car accidents and what to do when they happen and you are a victim in the side swiped car.

What Are Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions?

The most common causes of sideswipe collisions vary slightly depending on the direction of travel of the two vehicles involved.

Sideswipe Car Accidents Going the Same Direction

When a sideswipe accident occurs between two vehicles moving in the same direction, the most common causes are that one or both drivers:

  • Fails to check a blind spot before changing lanes. (This is why they are sometimes referred to as “blind spot collisions”)
  • Drifts into other lane while distracted by electronic devices, radios, or others in the vehicle,
  • Drifts into the other lane while drowsy driving or simply falling asleep at the wheel,
  • Swerves into the other lane due to impaired driving from the use of alcohol, drugs, or medications,
  • Loses control due to road rage, racing, or reckless driving,
  • Makes an unsafe lane change,
  • Hydroplanes on a wet or icy road,
  • Experiences a tire blowout or other emergency situation.

Sideswipe Car Accidents Going the Opposite Direction

Sideswipe accidents between two vehicles traveling int he opposite direction are less common but can occur when one or both drivers:

  • Take a curve at an unsafe speed and drift into the oncoming lane,
  • Attempts to pass another slower-moving vehicle when it is not safe to do so,
  • Drifts across the center line while distracted by electronic devices, radios, or others in the vehicle,
  • Drifts across the center line while drowsy driving or simply falling asleep at the wheel,
  • Swerves across the divider line due to impaired driving from the use of alcohol, drugs, or medications,
  • Loses control due to road rage, racing, or reckless driving,
  • Hydroplanes on a wet or icy road,
  • Experiences a tire blowout or other emergency situation.

What Should You Do When  You are Side Swiped?

Here are six steps you should take to protect yourself after a sideswipe accident:

  • First and foremost, NEVER agree to NOT call the police. Call the police and have a report made no matter what the driver who hit you says they are going to do. This way you find out exactly whether the other driver will be honest or not before the scene is cleared and the evidence is gone.
  • Second, get photos of the damage to the vehicles. Sometimes you can tell the direction of the impact by looking at photos. This may help you prove who changed into whose lane causing the sideswipe collision.
  • Third, take photos of the scene. Sometimes the location of any debris or damage to the roadway known as ‘yaw marks’ can help an accident reconstructionist to determine who was at fault.
  • Fourth, get the names, and addresses. and phone numbers of any eyewitnesses. Eyewitness testimony is the best way to prove liability in a sideswipe car accident case. Do not rely on the police officer to get this information if you are physically able to do so. They do not always get this.
  • Fifth, seek medical care for your injuries. If you are seriously injured, have someone else do the above four things for you if possible while you get the care you need.
  • Lastly, contact a lawyer immediately if you have injuries. Time is often of the essence in these cases. A lawyer may be able to get a statement from the other driver admitting fault before he changes his story if this is a concern or gets additional evidence by visiting the scene and/or vehicles.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Sideswipe Car Accidents

Who is at Fault in a Sideswipe Car Accident?

In most cases, the driver who leaves his lane of travel when it is unsafe to do so is the driver who is at fault for a side swipe car accident. If two vehicles are both changing from outside lines into a center lane at the same time, liability for the side swipe accident may fall on both drivers. In this instance, they would have to look to their own insurance companies to fix their own vehicles.

How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault for a Sideswipe Car Wreck?

Every insurance company has its own standards, however, the key to determining liability in a side swipe car accident usually lies in determining who veered out of their lane of travel. Texas law is clear that all drivers have a duty to maintain their lane and not switch unless it is safe to do so. So if your car crosses the lane line and hits another car, you are likely to be determined at fault.

Who Pays if Both Parties Try to Change Lanes and Cause the Sideswipe Car Accident?

Who pays when both parties are partially at fault often depends upon what state you live in. If you are in a no-fault state, your own insurance company pays for damages to your vehicle and your person. If you are in an at-fault state, it depends upon whether you are in a comparative negligence vs contributory negligence state and what their specific rules are. In a comparative negligence state like Texas, the jury weighs the negligence of both parties to a sideswipe collision. If a jury finds that you are 50% or less at fault, you may recover that percentage of your damages. If you are 51% or more, you cannot recover anything. Other states allow recovery at different percentages. If you are in a contributory negligence state, you may well be completely barred from recovery by any percentage of liability being assessed to you.

How Do You Prove Someone Sideswiped You?

If someone sideswiped you and refuses to admit they were at fault for attempting to change lanes, the evidence you can look to to prove your case includes:

  • Eyewitness testimony,
  • Physical evidence at the scene such as yaw marks on the road which are sometimes left at the point of a substantial impact or skid marks indicating the locations and directions of the vehicles just prior to impact, and;
  • Video evidence from surrounding businesses or cameras.

If none of this evidence is present, you may be facing a swearing match situation which can be nearly impossible to overcome.

What Damage Indicates a Sideswipe Car Accident?

Sideswipe impacts typically leave horizontal scratches/streaks in the paint, sheet metal crumpling inward on the side panels and doors, and  broken side mirrors, reflectors and lights. The damage appearance often indicates that the vehicles were moving in the same direction and brushed along side each other.

Does Paint Transfer Evidence Prove Who is at Fault in a Sideswipe Accident?

Paint transfer evidence can help you identify a hit-and-run vehicle and prove that an impact occurred. It cannot, however, establish who is at fault in a sideswipe accident because it does not demonstrate what lane any vehicle was in at the time of impact.

What Happens When You Are Side Swiped?

When you are sideswiped at a relatively low speed, the damage don is typically minor superficial damage that does not affect the integrity of the vehicle. When you are sideswiped at higher speeds,  it cause substantial crumpling damage, broken windows, and side-impact airbag deployment. This impact may also cause the driver to lose control and collide with other vehicles or stationary objects. Secondary impacts that occur after a side swipe car accident can have catastrophic consequences.

How Common Are Sideswipe Accidents?

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, there were 831,005 sideswipe accidents in the United States in 2021.

 Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. if You Were Injured in the Side Swiped Car

Our car accident attorneys offer a free consultation regarding your sideswipe collision. Learn more about our car accident legal services. If we take the case, we do not charge you any fees or expenses unless we win. What are you waiting for? Call and get a free evaluation now: (713) 932-0777.




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