As soon as the dust and tail lights have settled, and we make sure everyone is okay, we want to know whose fault a car accident was. Did someone not use their blinker? Did you check your blind spot? Was the other driver speeding?
Multilane roads and highways normally have higher speed limits, meaning we’re around more cars and switching lanes at a much faster pace. And many different elements can come into play when trying to decipher who is at fault for a lane-changing accident. Here are a few.
Fault for any kind of car accident can either be tied to a driver’s negligence or a violation of motor vehicle statutes. A negligence claim following a lane-changing accident would include four primary elements:
Duty: Did the other driver owe you a duty of care to drive responsibly?
Breach: Did the other driver fail to meet this duty, by changing lanes too abruptly or without looking?
Causation: Were you injured as the result of the other driver’s lane change, and were your injuries the fault of the car accident, and not something some other cause?
Damages: Can you document your injuries, through medical records, medical expenses, or evidence of emotional distress?
When establishing liability, you could also point to the other driver’s illegal driving as proof they were at fault. Most state have laws governing lane changes, most that require that drivers only change lanes when it is safe and “give an appropriate signal continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before changing lanes.” Even if the other driver was not charged with a crime in the accident, you may still be able to use evidence of a violation in a civil case.
Proving Liability in Lane-Changing Accidents
Even if it is obvious to you who caused the accident, proving car accident liability in court can still be tricky. You may need to obtain photos of the scene, eyewitness accounts, or police reports in order to prove another driver changed lanes negligently or illegally. And, depending on where the accident took place, you may need to prove that you had no part in contributing to the accident, say by speeding or swerving yourself.
So if you’re thinking about a lawsuit after a lane-changing accident, talk to an experienced attorney first.