Who is at Fault For a Sideswipe Accident?

What is a Sideswipe Accident?

side swipe automobile 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 over compensate 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.

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

How to React When a Sideswipe Collision Occurs

Anytime you are involved in a sideswipe collision, the actions you take next can either prevent or lead to serious injury. First, try to remain calm and regain control of the vehicle. Do not suddenly jerk the wheel right or left. Suddenly changing lanes the opposite way can result in your vehicle striking another and causing a chain reaction. Slow your vehicle down gradually and try to pull off the road to a safe place so you are not hit by other traffic. When it is safe to do so, call 911 and request medical assistance if needed and

Who is Liable for a Sideswipe Accident?

Regardless of what state you are in, one of the most basic rules of the road is the duty to maintain a single lane of travel and to not move from that lane unless it is safe to do so. In Texas, this is found in the Transportation Code Section 545.060. Thus, the party that is liable or “at fault” for a sideswipe collision is the party that left their lane. If both parties were changing into a lane and sideswiped each other, then liability rests with both parties for causing the collision.

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 find 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.

What Should You Do After a Sideswipe Accident?

Unfortunately, not all drivers are honest people. Sometimes the person who swerves into another’s lane refuses to admit fault.  Other times, they may admit fault at the scene and then change their story.  So here are six steps you should take to protect yourself after a sideswipe accident:

  1. 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 is going to be honest or not before the scene is cleared and evidence is gone.
  2. Second, get photos of the damage to the vehicles. Sometimes you can tell the direction of the impact from photos. This may help you prove who changed into whose lane causing the sideswipe collision.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Lastly, contact a car accident 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 get additional evidence by visiting the scene and/or vehicles.

Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C.

Our car accident attorneys offer a free consultation regarding your case. If we take the case, we do not charge you any fees unless we win. What are you waiting for? Call and get a free evaluation now: 1-800-298-0111.


Paul Cannon

Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.