Sideswiped Car Accident Collision: Who Is at Fault?

Sideswiped accidents are also known as “blind spot” accidents. It often occurs when two cars drive next to each other, and one starts moving into the other’s lane. If the driver does not calculate the transition correctly, it can result in a collision and severe physical injuries.

Collisions between motor vehicles accounted for 72.4 percent of all crashes and 41.3 percent of car-related fatalities (17,500) in 2020. Sideswipe collisions accounted for 19.9 percent of crashes and 8.6 percent (1,500) deaths. 

Victims and their families can recover damages through a personal injury claim if a sideswipe collision results in serious injury or death. However, sideswipe crashes are easier to prove if you know how to build a solid case.

Photos of the accident scene usually paint only part of the picture of who is at fault. The best approach is for victims to seek legal advice from an experienced car accident attorney. Law firms typically offer free consultations to assess a case before taking it on. 

Key Takeaways
  • Sideswipe collisions mainly occur when two vehicles drive next to each other, and one car starts moving into the other car’s lane.
  • Distracted drivers commonly cause sideswipe accidents.
  • Most often, the driver who fails to maintain a single travel lane is at fault for a sideswipe accident.

What is a sideswipe car accident?

A sideswipe accident is often a collision between two cars parallel to another. However, there are instances wherein only one vehicle is involved. A car can crash into inanimate objects such as a guard rail or a vehicle parked on the roadside.

This collision happens when one vehicle’s right side impacts the other’s left side. The initial impact of sideswipe collisions can quickly escalate to a rollover accident. It can cause the drivers to lose control or overcompensate while trying to maintain control.

Causes of sideswipe car accidents

Driver error causes more than 90 percent of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Sideswipe collisions happen for various reasons, but distracted driving is the most common cause of sideswipe hits and runs.

Common distractions include eating, fiddling with navigation systems or radios, and using mobile phones. As a result, the driver is not paying attention to the road or takes their hands off the wheel. Losing focus for even a few seconds can cause drivers to drift out of their lane, resulting in an accident.

Other common causes of sideswipe auto accidents include the following:

  • Unsafe lane changes: One example is when the driver fails to check their blind spots before changing lanes. Sometimes, drivers make sudden lane changes without using the turn signal. There are also times when drivers merge without checking or two drivers simultaneously change into the same lane.
  • Driver fatigue: Drivers react more slowly to changing road conditions, other motorists, or pedestrians when drowsy. If drivers nod off at the wheel, they can veer into another car next to them. Driving without sleep for more than 20 hours has the same effect as having the maximum legal limit of blood-alcohol concentration.
  • Road rage: Drivers in the grip of road rage often resort to reckless behavior. They may change lanes aggressively, even when unsafe, and endanger others. Some drive at high speeds, pass illegally, or run another driver off the road.
  • Intoxication: Like fatigue, alcohol and drugs slow the driver’s response times and impair judgment. Intoxication can affect a person’s ability to judge distances, concentration, vision, and other crucial driving skills. 

The dangers of sideswipe collisions

Sideswipe accidents often occur on interstates and expressways where cars travel at higher speeds. Moreover, a driver tends to swerve out of the way when they realize another vehicle might hit them. Swerving can easily cause collisions to escalate into multi-vehicle crashes. 

In addition, collisions can also lead to the driver losing control of their car. When this happens, the victim’s vehicle can cause head-on or rear-end collisions, resulting in serious injuries or death. In other cases, the car can strike a cement barrier or a guardrail, leading to a rollover.

Who is liable for a sideswiped car accident?

The driver who failed to maintain their lane is usually the party legally at fault in a sideswiped collision. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, two cars trying to enter a lane simultaneously may be equally at fault.

You must determine which driver acted recklessly in the crash when identifying who is at fault. There are four things that you must prove to show negligence:

  • The other driver was responsible for keeping their lane and moving over only when the next lane was clear.
  • The other driver’s actions resulted in a sideswipe collision.
  • The other driver ignored their responsibility to follow traffic laws and drive safely.
  • You suffered injuries, financial harm, and other damages.

In some cases, parties other than the drivers can be at fault and face legal liability for the accident. It includes the following:

  • Employers of drivers who caused the sideswipe accident while driving a work vehicle
  • Car manufacturers for a vehicle’s defect or malfunction that caused the collision
  • Local and state government contractors and agencies managing road design and maintenance when dangerous road conditions lead to an accident

Can the driver that stays in their lane be at fault?

Sometimes, the driver who did not change lanes during the accident can be partially or entirely at fault. It is mainly when the motorist fails in their duty to drive responsibly. Drivers must pay attention to their surroundings and quickly adapt to changing road conditions. The driver who stayed in their lane may be legally liable for a sideswipe collision accident when they fail to do these things.

The most common ways a driver who did not change lanes be liable for an accident include the following:

  • Distracted driving
  • Slowing down when they see a car changing lanes behind them
  • Speeding when another vehicle is merging lanes with them
  • Deliberately refusing to let other cars enter their lane

No-fault insurance law

In the United States, 12 states implement no-fault auto insurance. Establishing liability for a sideswiped car accident is not necessary in these states to receive compensation for injuries. 

No-fault states typically require motorists to file a claim with their insurance companies after an accident. This applies regardless of who was at fault for the incident. That is why state law requires motorists to have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in their auto insurance policies. 

In addition, no-fault states limit drivers’ right to sue for accident injuries. They can only file a lawsuit if the court considers their injuries severe. It is only in these cases that establishing fault becomes necessary.

Different Forms of Sideswiped Collisions

Sideswipes can only result in grazing or glancing impact when a driver immediately corrects a lane change error. Depending on the size of the vehicles involved, sideswiped car crashes can lead to severe damage and long-term injuries. It is especially true if one of the drivers is driving a convertible or a car with no doors.

Different situations can increase the risk of serious injuries during a sideswipe car accident.

Mismatched vehicle sizes

A study from the University of Washington suggested the mismatch resulted in increased fatalities. The height, stiffness, and weight gap between light truck vehicles and passenger vehicles can be deadly for small vehicle occupants.

Large vehicles typically have reinforced metal sides, which gives them more protection in a collision. Smaller cars do not have that advantage. 

Suppose a large vehicle, like a large truck or an SUV, sideswipes a small car. In that case, the passengers of the small car may sustain serious injuries. Moreover, vehicle mismatch in a collision often results in significant damage to the smaller vehicle.

Vehicle slides under a tractor-trailer side underride

An underride is a type of car crash in which a smaller vehicle slides under the trailer of a larger vehicle. In sideswipe cases, a car can slide under a tractor-trailer when it hits the side of a tractor-trailer. When this occurs, it allows a portion of the vehicle to slide under the trailer.

Small cars lower than the bottom edge of a trailer are more likely to get into this situation. Underrides often lead to upper vehicle damage and passenger compartment intrusion.

Full-side engagement

Full-side engagement is when the entire side of one vehicle comes into contact with the whole side of the other vehicle. It typically occurs when an oncoming car tries to avoid a front-end car accident. Sometimes, it can cause the vehicles to lose control and spin out or roll over.

Full-side engagement can result in direct trauma to drivers and passengers. Side-impact crashes represent 23 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities in the country. This type of sideswiped car accident can also result in significant damage to both vehicles. 

What should I do after a sideswipe crash?

Many sideswipe car collisions result in minor property damage. Still, that does not mean drivers should overlook the possibility of injuries. It would be best if you stayed vigilant to protect your health and rights under the law. 

The following are some few things a driver should do after a sideswipe crash:

1. Call the police

Call the authorities to make an official report. Even if the vehicles involved sustained only minor damage, police reports are crucial when filing an insurance or personal injury claim. The police report documents details of the collision and may help determine fault for the accident. 

Generally, police reports include an officer’s opinion of fault. While their opinion is not binding, drivers can use this to help prove liability during the trial.

2. Gather evidence

Take photos of the incident as soon as possible. In some cases, you can tell the direction of the impact through photographic evidence. It can help prove who changed lanes recklessly, causing the collision.

Obtain photographs of vehicle damage, the scene of the accident, and paperwork that the parties have exchanged. It includes identification cards, driver’s licenses, vehicle registrations, car insurance, etc.

3. Seek eyewitnesses

Look for witnesses and document their accounts of the accident. Witness statements can carry significant weight in proving liability in a sideswipe collision case. Ensure you collect their contact information to relay these to your personal injury lawyer. You should ask their permission to record their testimonies on video or audio.

4. Receive medical care

Get checked by medical professionals even if you don’t see surface injuries. Let your doctor know that you were in a sideswipe crash so that they can conduct a thorough examination.

Medical bills and documents help validate your injuries when filing a personal injury claim. In addition, the amount of damages you can recover heavily depends on the nature of your injuries, treatment, and recovery.

5. Contact a car accident lawyer

A lawyer specializing in car accidents can offer specific advice in building your case. They can ensure that you receive the appropriate medical care and can file paperwork on your behalf. Most importantly, their expertise can guarantee that you receive fair compensation for your car accident injuries.

In any case, do not accept any settlement offer from insurance companies without consulting a personal injury attorney.

Did you know?

Some cars have a lane departure warning system, which helps drivers avoid collisions due to drifting or swerving. The system detects lane markers and alerts drivers when a tire touches a lane marker. Usually, the warning is a flashing indicator or beeping sound from the corresponding side. In some cars, the steering wheel or driver’s seat vibrates gently.

Connect With an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Sideswiped car accidents can result in severe physical injuries. They typicall occur due to distracted driving, unsafe lane changes, driver fatigue, road rage, and intoxication.

Suppose you or a loved one sustained serious injury or death in a sideswipe accident. Sue for compensation from the at-fault parties. Find an experienced car accident lawyer who can assist you in recovering damages through a personal injury claim.

You can do the filing yourself, but that is not advisable. You need competent legal help in assessing and building your case. Many law firms offer free consultations, so don’t hesitate to reach out by visiting The Personal Injury Center.

Are you a victim of a sideswiped car accident collision? Find a car accident lawyer for your case at The Personal Injury Center. 

FAQs on Sideswiped Car Accident Collisions

Sideswipe car crashes can cause numerous injuries. The type and severity depend on the size of the vehicle and the speed at which they were traveling. Examples of injuries from a sideswipe accident include:

  • Head and neck injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Hip damage
  • Knee injuries
  • Cuts and bruises

Victims of sideswiped car collisions can recover compensation for their injuries and expenses. It includes lost income, medical expenses, and rehabilitation costs. In addition, the court can award damages for the pain and suffering associated with your injury. In some cases, you can also claim reimbursement for property damage caused by the accident.

Immediately contact law enforcement so they can draw up a report on your accident. You can also talk to eyewitnesses to verify your statements or identify the vehicle liable for your accident. If you find the other party, you can file a claim from the driver’s insurance company with your lawyer.

If you cannot identify the driver, you can file a claim with your insurance company. Collision coverage, personal injury protection, and uninsured motorist policies could help you recover compensation for your injuries.