Who is at Fault For a Sideswipe Accident?
The driver who fails to maintain a single lane of travel is the party 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 who fails to do this is generally at fault. However, liability for the accident may be shared by other drivers if they do something to force the deviating vehicle out of its own lane of travel.
What is a Sideswipe Accident?
A sideswipe accident is a collision between two vehicles that are traveling in the same direction where the right side of one vehicle impacts with the left side of the other. These collisions typically 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 vehicle 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 these accidents and what to do when they happen.
What are Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions?
Sideswipe collisions may occur for many different reasons. However, most of them stem from simply not paying attention to your surroundings. Some of the most common causes of sideswipe collisions are:
- Drivers failing to check blind spots before changing lanes
- Drivers drifting into other lanes while distracted by electronic devices, radios, or other in the vehicle
- Intoxicated drivers weaving in and out of lanes
- Road rage, racing, or reckless driving
- Failure to signal a lane change
- Merging without checking the lane carefully
- Two drivers changing into the same lane
- Hydroplaning on wet or icy roads
What Should You Do After a Sideswipe Accident?
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 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 name, address. and phone number of any eyewitnesses. Eyewitness testimony is the best way to prove liability in a sideswipe 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.
Who Pays if Both Parties Cause the Sideswipe Collision?
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 state or a contributory negligence state and what their specific rules are. In a comparative negligence state like Texas, the jury weights the negligence of both parties. 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.
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