How to Determine Fault in Lane-Changing Accidents

While fault in a lane-change accident often depends on the right-of-way, there are some exceptions. Right-of-way and driver behavior all play an important role in determining who is liable for a lane change crash. Since Missouri mandates that drivers use the right lane, this can add an extra layer of complexity to your car accident case.

Common Causes of Lane-Changing Accidents

Lane-changing accidents often occur when drivers fail to follow safe driving rules, including:

  • Failure to check their blind spot
  • Not signaling when changing lanes
  • Distracted driving, such as texting while driving
  • Speeding up or slowing down improperly
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Merging too fast
  • Lack of judgment identifying the proper space to change lanes

Who is Responsible for Lane-Change Crashes?

In most cases, the driver who changes lanes is responsible for a crash. As vehicles going straight have the right-of-way, drivers who change lanes must ensure they can do so safely. For instance, a driver who does not check their blind spot has failed to fulfill their duty of watching out for traffic in their blind spot and changing lanes safely.

However, the driver with the right-of-way can be liable if their actions prevented you from merging safely. As you switch lanes, the car behind you may suddenly speed up and rear-end you. In this case, the other driver would be at fault since the crash wouldn’t have occurred if they hadn’t sped up in the first place.

When Two Vehicles Change Lanes at Once

Determining fault in a crash can be challenging if both vehicles changed lanes at once. Missouri law requires drivers to drive in the rightmost lane unless they are overtaking another vehicle, in which case they have to use the left lane.

For instance, imagine you and the other driver merge into the center lane simultaneously, you from the left and him from the right. If you do not check your blind spot before merging, you can be held liable for the accident. However, if the other driver did not turn on their blinkers before merging, they will be held responsible since you may have been unable to see them.

A skilled auto accident attorney can use several pieces of evidence to determine fault for a lane change accident. This critical evidence can include the following:

  • Pictures of the accident and all vehicles involved
  • Surveillance camera footage
  • Witness statements
  • Police report stating who was liable for the accident
  • Breathalyzer test results proving the driver was under the influence of drugs and alcohol

Can Both Drivers Be at Fault?

The extent to which each driver contributed to the collision determines whether they are responsible for the accident. Missouri’s pure comparative fault clause awards compensation for injuries based on the amount of fault both parties hold in the accident.

The percentage of responsibility you bear in an accident may affect your compensation. For instance, if the auto insurance company determines you to be 30% responsible for the accident, they may offer coverage for 70% of your damages.

Changing Lanes Responsibly

Frequent and unpredictable lane-changing places everyone on the road at risk. Taking these steps to change lanes can reduce your risk of a lane-change collision:

  • Activate your blinker. This lets other drivers know that you’re changing lanes.
  • Ensure there’s plenty of space. The vehicles in the next lane must be more than one car-length apart.
  • Check your blind spot. Look over your shoulder and ensure the road is clear. If another vehicle is in your blind spot, let them pass or slow down.
  • Limit your lane changes. Zigzagging between lanes makes it difficult for other drivers to predict what you plan to do, even if you use your blinkers. Only change lanes when necessary.

Start Your Car Accident Claim with Cofman Townsley Today

If you or a loved one sustained severe injuries in a lane-changing accident, the auto accident attorneys at Cofman Townsley can assess your claim. We can build a strong case on your behalf and help you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact our law office to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.