When it comes to car accidents, most people picture the typical scenario where someone gets rear-ended, T-boned, or experience a head-on collision. And while those types of crashes are among the most common, hitting a car while changing lanes can also result in injuries and property damage. If you’ve recently been involved in such an accident, you may be wondering what to do next. What’s considered an improper lane change? How is fault determined? And, how can an attorney help?
What is a Merging or Changing Lanes Car Accident?
When a driver hits another car while changing lanes, it’s called a side-impact or side-swept accident. The causes of this type of accident are many — distracted driving (driving while texting or yelling at your kids in the back seat), failing to use the turn signal to let other drivers know you’re changing lanes, neglecting to look in the rearview mirrors, and not looking over the shoulder to check the blind spots.
Florida law specifically establishes that all drivers must travel within the boundaries of a single lane. When you’re going to switch lanes, you need to first make sure you can do so safely. Failing to do so is a noncriminal traffic violation, punishable by civil fines. If you were changing lanes so that you could either pass another driver or make a right or left turn, you are also bound by Florida Statute 316.155, which requires:
- Using a signal when turning or overtaking a vehicle
- Giving the signal continuously for at least 100 feet before turning
- No person may stop or suddenly decrease their speed without first giving a signal
Common Injuries in Changing Lanes Accidents
Injuries in these types of accidents depend on several factors — the speed at which both vehicles were traveling, whether external factors (such as weather or road conditions) made driving even more dangerous, and whether the injured party had pre-existing medical conditions that were worsened by the crash. The most serious injuries include:
- Spinal cord injuries
- Injuries to internal organs
It’s also important to take into account additional issues, such as mental anguish — including flashbacks and PTSD. Victims can also accrue financial losses due to high medical bills and having to take time off from work.
How is fault determined in improper, illegal, or unsafe lane change accidents?
Determining fault depends on many factors. Following a crash, several elements are necessary to reconstruct what happened. This includes witness testimony, your own testimony, and the other driver’s account of the events. Physicians who treat the injuries sustained can also provide their professional opinion about the circumstances that would cause your injuries — for example, traveling at an excessive speed, or being impacted from a specific angle. Typically, there are three possible culprits:
1. The Other Driver
There are many ways the other driver could have been negligent. These include texting or eating while behind the wheel, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, and/or not checking their blind spots before switching lanes.
All of the negligent acts that could result in the other driver causing an accident could also apply to you. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be doing what would be considered to be majorly irresponsible behavior. Something as relatively harmless as thinking about work or checking your GPS could result in inattention to the road.
3. A Third-Party
This could include a car manufacturer who created a defective car, a mechanic who failed to properly service your vehicle, a doctor who failed to warn about a medication’s impairing side effects, or the Department of Transportation for failing to paint lines on the road separating the lanes.
How can an attorney help?
An attorney knows what you don’t know — such as the questions to ask, whether of the other driver, doctors, and witnesses. They know how your words can get twisted and misinterpreted to lower the other driver’s liability, so a good lawyer can protect your rights by speaking directly with the other party’s insurance company instead of having to do it yourself. If you’re deposed or interrogated in court, a lawyer will know when to raise objections. They’ll also take into account future issues that may arise, such as the potential need for follow-up medical attention or diminished earning capacity due to permanent injuries. In short, having a good lawyer means that every decision you make during litigation is an informed one.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.