A sideswipe accident occurs when the side of one vehicle glances off another vehicle or a stationary object like a street sign or light post. As in most situations, fault depends on the specific facts surrounding the accident.
What Exactly is Fault?
Sideswipe accidents are often referred to as “blind spot” accidents. However, by their very nature, sideswipe accidents can present real challenges regarding who is fault for the accident. The person or entity legally at fault is the party determined to be negligent and therefore responsible for the damages resulting from the accident. Following an automobile accident, the party who is at fault typically must cover car repair expenses and pay for medical bills as well as lost earning capacity. While this is determined on a case-by-case scenario, the reality is it is harder to determine fault in a sideswipe accident than in some other types of car accidents.
What is a Side-Impact Accident?
There are two types of side-impact auto accidents. In a T-bone accident, two vehicles form a “T” shape, with one driver crashing directly into the left or right side of the other vehicle. These typically occur in the middle of intersections after one driver has ran a red light or stop sign. Liability can be clearly demonstrated based on which driver had the green light or right of way.
Sideswipe accidents are much more complex. In these situations, one car hits or “swipes” another car. These types of accidents most often result from unsafe lane changes or when two drivers attempt to navigate into the open adjacent lane at the same time. Additionally, many sideswipe car accidents happen when a driver overreacts to a road hazard or an impending collision with another vehicle. By taking action to avoid a crash, the driver may actually cause his vehicle to strike the side of a different, adjacent vehicle.
Who is at Fault in a Side-Swipe Accident?
In some cases, one driver can be attributed 100 percent liability following a sideswipe accident, making that driver responsible for all damages. However, if both drivers are found to be equally responsible, fault might be split evenly at 50/50. Alternatively, it may be determined that one driver was 20 percent at fault for an accident, making that driver 20 percent responsible for the damages that results. In some rare cases, it may be possible to attribute fault to an outside entity. For example, if another driver swiped a car due to brake failure, it is possible the car’s manufacturer or auto shop may be held accountable for the accident.
What Factors Might Influence a Fault Determination?
When evaluating liability, police officers and, subsequently, insurance companies, determine whether there were any clear violations of traffic law. The most common violations include:
- Not using a turn signal when appropriate
- Crossing a solid line
- Changing lanes without checking blind spots
- Not leaving enough space between vehicles to enter a lane
- Driving under the influence of alcohol
Even when one driver did not engage in any of the above-violations, he or she may still be considered negligent if he or she was driving while distracted. In these situations, insurance companies will want to know whether the driver was texting, making a call, putting on make-up, changing the radio station, or turning to look in the backseat.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.
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