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Who Is at Fault for a Sideswipe Car Accident?

Side Swipe Accident

A momentary lapse of focus or a mistaken maneuver while driving can cause a serious sideswipe car accident, and these collisions can happen so fast that people are left wondering which person was at fault. Sideswipes are collisions that involve two vehicles going in the same direction; the left side of one car hits the right side of the other. The most common scenario for a sideswipe is when one vehicle leaves its lane and hits the other, either because a driver is not paying attention or because they make an unsafe lane change. Sideswipes can also happen at merges, or when a driver is under the influence or fatigued. Other instances include two drivers trying to merge into the same lane at one time, skidding on slippery roads, and not checking blind spots. Parked cars can be sideswiped as well.

What Is an Unsafe Lane Change?

In the majority of sideswipe accidents, the driver who made an unsafe lane change is liable for the sideswipe accident. Proving which driver did this is where the challenge arises. Drivers are supposed to ensure that it is safe to leave their lanes before moving, by checking their mirrors and looking out the windows. If someone neglects to check their blind spot, they could move into the path of an oncoming vehicle. It is also essential to use turn signals to alert others, but people forget to do that as well. 

There are more components to unsafe lane changes that should be mentioned here. Oftentimes drivers weave in and out of traffic when there is not enough room for them to change lanes. This can cause sideswipes and other types of collisions, especially when it is done at high speeds. If a driver does not have their headlights on at night and is speeding, lane changes can become reckless. 

All this seems to put the responsibility on the driver leaving the lane, but there are cases in which they share this culpability with the driver who was hit. All motorists have the obligation to pay attention to what other vehicles are doing, and to maintain safe speeds. Therefore, if Driver A notices that Driver B is speeding up to pass them on the left and Driver A speeds up to prevent this, Driver A could be at fault for a resulting accident. Driver A might also be at fault if they slow down as Driver B is changing lanes or purposely refuses to let Driver B make the move. Both drivers could also be texting, checking a GPS, or be otherwise distracted.

Sideswipe Damage and Personal Injuries

The severity of the car damage depends on how fast both cars were going and the type of vehicle. In many cases, the driver or passenger-side doors get dented, and the quarter panels can also get dented and scraped. If the sideswipe escalates into another type of collision, such as a head-on crash, the damage could be much worse. 

The damage caused by a sideswipe collision depends on several factors, such as the size of the vehicles and the speed at which they were traveling. Generally, sideswipe damage includes dented driver- or passenger-side doors, scraped quarter panels, and lost or damaged sideview mirrors. Of course, if the sideswipe led to a head-on collision or another type of accident, the damage would be much more significant.

People involved in sideswipe accidents can experience significant personal injury and even more so if a small vehicle is hit hard by something as large as a commercial truck. Some of the more common injuries seen in sideswipe accidents include broken legs, feet, arms, and hands on the side where the car was struck; there might also be penetrating injuries, lacerations, whiplash, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.

How Can I Determine Liability in a Sideswipe Accident?

Even if it is obvious that the driver who left their lane caused the sideswipe collision, it is often challenging to prove which motorist it was. This type of collision may require various types of evidence to prove which party caused the accident, if both sides claim that the other driver is at fault. An accident report can provide some insight to this, so it is best to call 911 after the accident. Investigators will also look at skid marks and any photos or videos taken at the crash scene. If the accident happened close to a business or home, these sources may be able to provide additional information in this respect. Other forms of evidence include eyewitness statements, cell phone data records, vehicle black box data, and statements given from other drivers and passengers.

When a sideswipe accident happens at a merge point, it is likely that a driver failed to give another one the right of way. This is seen frequently at merges, when a driver entering the roadway speeds up instead of yielding to other vehicles. This can be extremely dangerous when it is done at high speeds, on slippery roads, or when there is a lot of traffic.

If two drivers decide to switch lanes at the same time, they can also crash right into each other in a sideswipe; this is more likely to happen if there are three or more lanes going in the same direction on a highway. You might see drivers from the left and right lanes both attempting to move into the center one. Since both are obligated to make sure that the middle lane is clear before proceeding, they could share the liability for the accident.

What Should I Do after a Sideswipe Accident?

The first priority after any type of motor vehicle accident is to seek medical help. Call 911 immediately, even if there are no apparent injuries; in the aftermath of a collision, it is not always easy to know if people are actually hurt. The dispatcher will be able to advise you about whether the vehicle should be moved; you may be instructed to exit the vehicle and to wait in a safe location until help arrives.

Try to take a photo of the other driver’s license plate as soon as possible, because they might decide to flee the scene if their vehicle is drivable. You do not have to speak to other person; it may be better to wait for law enforcement to get there if you feel uncomfortable or angry. They can assist with getting everyone’s contact information, driver’s licenses, and insurance cards. Also use this time to take as many photos you can of the vehicles, skid marks, and the rest of the accident scene. 

If you do end up going to the hospital, take care to keep accurate records of all the medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses related to your injuries, and do the same with your auto repair bills. Should you not want to ride in an ambulance to an emergency room after the accident, stop at a local urgent care center or contact your doctor to make a same- or next-day appointment. The sooner you do this, the better. You will also need to contact your auto insurance company to inform them about the accident. Give them a simple explanation without elaborating on the details and answer their questions clearly and concisely. Saying the wrong thing when you are feeling emotional after a car accident could come back to haunt you later.

Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Help Clients Determine Liability in Sideswipe Collisions

A serious sideswipe car accident can leave you with complicated injuries and costly auto repair bills. If you are seeking skilled legal guidance following any type of automobile collision, reach out to the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Our experienced legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and hold the negligent party accountable. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.