HOW IS FAULT DETERMINED IN A
SIDESWIPE ACCIDENT ?
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A sideswipe accident can happen in the blink of an eye. These types of car accidents can often lead to serious injuries and property damages. If you have been involved in a sideswipe accident in Florida or any other state, it is essential to understand how fault will be determined.
The fault for a sideswipe accident most often lies with the driver who did not adhere to traffic regulations. However, every case is unique and there are a number of factors that can play a role in how fault is assigned after a collision.
Car accident victims can still file a personal injury claim against the other driver in an accident, even if they were partially responsible for the crash. A car accident lawyer can help you following a sideswipe collision. An attorney can help you understand your rights and advise you on your best legal options moving forward.
Whether you decide to hire a personal injury attorney after a crash or not, understanding how sideswipe accident fault is determined will be critical if you plan to file a claim for bodily injuries and property damage.
WHAT IS A SIDESWIPE ACCIDENT?
A sideswipe accident occurs when two vehicles are heading in the same direction and one vehicle impacts the side of another vehicle. This type of accident most often happens when a driver switches lanes and fails to identify a car in the lane they are moving into before colliding.
Sideswipe accidents can end up being extremely dangerous, especially when they occur at high speeds. One or both of the drivers involved in a sideswipe collision are usually unaware of the incoming impact. The surprise of the impact may make the drivers lose control or overcompensate to maintain control. This can cause either vehicle to:
- Careen off the road or into other vehicles.
- Slam on the breaks, causing a rear-end collision.
- Cause a car to move into oncoming traffic, leading to a head-on collision.
Serious injuries or even wrongful death can result from a sideswipe accident. This is why it is important to determine how exactly the accident was caused, and how much fault if any, each party holds.
COMMON REASONS SIDESWIPE ACCIDENTS OCCUR
Sideswipe accidents are fairly common types of car accidents and can be caused by a wide range of different factors. However, these collisions are generally the result of one or both of the drivers involved not paying attention to their surroundings. Some of the most common reasons sideswipes occur on the road are:
- Drivers fail to check mirrors and blind spots to ensure they are clear to change lanes
- Drivers under the influence swerving in and out of lanes
- Drifting into other lanes while texting and driving or otherwise distracted
- Failure to put on a turn signal before switching lanes
- Two parallel vehicles making a lane change at the same time
- Speeding in between lanes on a busy road
- Road rage or reckless driving
- Driving in dangerous weather conditions (icy or rainy roads)
- Drivers failing to yield while attempting to merge onto a road
- Failing to see that the lane next to you is ending and not allowing cars to merge over
COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE IN FLORIDA
Florida uses pure comparative negligence to determine who is at fault after a car accident. What does comparative negligence mean? Comparative negligence means fault will be determined based on how the percentage of responsibility each driver holds for the accident.
For example, a court may determine that one driver held 60% liability for the crash, while the other driver had 40% liability. In this case, each driver could file a claim against the other party for their percentage of fault in the accident.
WHAT ABOUT PIP AND PDL INSURANCE?
In order to register with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor vehicles, drivers must provide proof of personal injury protection (PIP) policy and property damage liability (PDL) policies. These are insurance policies that all Florida drivers must carry.
Your PIP policy should cover any reasonable and necessary medical costs after an accident up to $10,000. This coverage protects you regardless of who was at fault for the collision. Your PIP policy is also supposed to cover up to 60% of lost wages if you are unable to return to work due to your injuries.
Florida drivers must also carry a minimum of $10,000 in PDL coverage. This policy helps protect you up to $10,000 for any damage to another person’s property caused by your vehicle.
WHY DOES DETERMINING FAULT MATTER IF I AM COVERED BY PIP INSURANCE?
Personal injury protection is a great policy to have if you have been injured in a sideswipe accident. However, these accidents can often lead to injuries and property damage that exceeds what is covered under a PIP and PDL policy. This is why it is crucial to be able to accurately determine the cause of an accident and who is responsible.
HOW IS FAULT DETERMINED IN A SIDESWIPE ACCIDENT?
It is usually more difficult to determine fault in a sideswipe accident than other types of car accidents, such as a T-bone accident. Where the vehicles end up after the accident and the location and extent of damage offer clues to investigators as to how the accident was caused. However, the physical evidence at the scene of a sideswipe accident does not often paint a clear picture of how the accident was caused.
The accounts from the drivers involved and witnesses will usually have the greatest impact on how fault is determined after a sideswipe collision. Relying on witness statements and driver statements can be tricky though. These statements do not always line up and can frequently contradict each other, especially when each party is trying to put the blame on the other.
THE ROLE OF NEGLIGENCE
Negligence will play a big factor in determining who was at fault for a car accident. Authorities will look to see if either party was negligent in their actions, leading to the crash.
The four key factors to look at when determining if a driver was responsible for an accident are:
- Duty of Care: The at-fault driver had a duty of care to the other vehicle or vehicles in the accident.
- Negligence: There was a breach of the responsible driver’s duty of care leading to the collision.
- Cause: The negligent or purposeful actions of the at-fault driver caused the accident.
- Damages: There was injury, financial loss, or other damage suffered by the victim.
The driver that initially changed lanes is usually considered to be at fault in a sideswipe accident. This is because drivers are expected to make sure that the lane they are merging into is clear of any other vehicles before moving over. Drivers who failed to ensure a clear path before changing lanes were negligent in the accident and can be held responsible.
Investigators will use the physical evidence from the scene along with driver and witness accounts to determine what ultimately caused the accident. Any driver that was found to have violated traffic regulations, resulting in the accident, will usually be held liable for the accident. If both parties disobeyed traffic laws, liability may be assigned based on the percentage of fault each party had.
THE DRIVERS ARE NOT ALWAYS AT FAULT
The drivers involved in a car accident are not always at fault for the accident. Some situations can arise that may cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle and hit another through no fault of their own.
Car accidents can be caused by a vehicle suffering a mechanical malfunction, such as the breaks failing or a tire blowing on the road. When mechanical failure is the cause of a sideswipe accident, victims can file injury claims against the vehicle manufacturer for damages suffered as a result of the crash.
Another situation that can lead to a sideswipe collision is a driver suffering a medical emergency while operating a vehicle. A driver could easily lose control of their vehicle and sideswipe another vehicle if they suffer a heart attack, seizure, stroke, or other medical emergencies on the road. Such an event would not be the fault of either driver because an unforeseen medical emergency caused the accident.
A FLORIDA CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEY CAN HELP
If you have been involved in a sideswipe accident or other type of car accident in Florida, it is in your best interest to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. Car accident lawyers can help clients understand their rights after an accident, advise them on how they should proceed, and help gather evidence to support their claim.
Even if you do not intend to hire an attorney, it is always a good idea to speak with one. Most car accident lawyers offer free case evaluations. An attorney will give you an honest assessment of whether or not you have a strong case to make a claim and what your legal options are moving forward.
Car accident victims that decide to hire professional legal representation are awarded larger settlement amounts on average than those that represent themselves. Car accident lawyers know the tricks insurance companies will use to get you to agree to a smaller settlement and how to avoid them. Your attorney can also handle negotiations on your behalf and represent you in any legal proceedings.