Any car accident can leave you scrambling to figure out what to do next. Car accidents often come seemingly out of nowhere, when you think that you did not face a risk.
Sideswipe collisions, however, can prove particularly devastating. Many vehicles do not have the same protection on the sides that they do at the front and rear, which means that the passengers on the damaged side of the vehicle may suffer much more severe injuries. Furthermore, you can't avoid potential sideswipe accidents with negligent drivers.
How Do Sideswipe Collisions Occur?
Sideswipe collisions typically occur when one vehicle moves out of its lane of traffic into another, colliding with the side of another. Sideswipe collisions may result from challenges that emerge behind the wheel.
Distracted drivers can cause a sideswipe collision in the blink of an eye. While a distracted driver turns his attention to something else, from the radio or climate controls to a phone, the vehicle can drift out of its lane of traffic and into the next one.
Distracted drivers may not even realize that they have not kept their vehicles properly in line, especially if they have faced several seconds of distraction. A distracted driver might also lack the ability to react properly to a looming accident, including another vehicle that may have drifted slightly out of its lane or a wide load ahead.
Blind Spot Accidents
Some drivers may cause sideswipe collisions because they fail to check their blind spots before changing lanes of traffic. Many vehicles, especially larger vehicles, have blind spots large enough for drivers to miss the presence of another vehicle around them.
Big trucks, in particular, have extremely large blind spots that can prove very difficult to monitor, especially for distracted drivers. However, failure to closely look in blind spots before changing lanes can cause sideswipe collisions very quickly.
Merging onto highways and interstates often requires precise timing and carefully judging the distance necessary to move the vehicle into traffic without causing an accident. Unfortunately, some drivers do not have the skills needed to move safely into traffic, which may raise the odds of a merging accident: a sideswipe collision when the driver moves into traffic and strikes another vehicle instead.
Merging accidents can also prove more likely when the driver already in that lane of traffic fails to exercise proper precautions and allow those drivers adequate space to merge, or if the merging driver attempts to rush into traffic instead of selecting a safe window.
Failure to Signal Lane Changes
Sometimes, drivers may change lanes without signaling. In some cases, including relatively empty roads, the lack of a signal may not impede normal traffic. When a driver fails to signal a lane change in tight traffic, however, it could make it much more difficult for other drivers to allow adequate room for that driver.
Furthermore, failure to signal a lane change could increase the odds that another driver will change lanes into the same spot at the same time, which could cause a sideswipe collision.
Reckless drivers may engage in behaviors that can substantially increase the risk of a sideswipe collision. They may swerve in and out of traffic, often unpredictably, which can make it very difficult for other drivers to avoid them.
Some reckless drivers, especially aggressive drivers or those displaying signs of road rage, may attempt to push another driver off the road, including forcing the vehicle toward that driver to make him get out of the way. These aggressive drivers may even ram into another vehicle deliberately.
Drunk drivers create many hazards for other drivers. First and foremost, drunk drivers may struggle to control their vehicles safely, which may raise the risk that they will inadvertently cause a sideswipe collision.
Next, drunk drivers may have a hard time keeping to the rules of the road, which could cause them to engage in dangerous behaviors that ultimately result in sideswiping another vehicle.
Finally, drunk drivers often behave unpredictably on the road, which makes it more difficult for other drivers to determine what they might do next and avoid them.
Drowsy driving shares many symptoms with intoxication. Often, drowsy drivers struggle with tunnel vision and the inability to safely control the vehicle. As a result, drowsy drivers may end up inadvertently slipping out of their lanes, causing a sideswipe collision. Drowsy drivers may also cause a sideswipe collision because they fall asleep entirely behind the wheel, either in a short-term, momentary sleep, or a longer-term instance of sleeping behind the wheel.
Dangerous Weather Conditions
Dangerous weather can raise the risk of many types of auto accidents, including sideswipe collisions. In dangerous weather, a car may hydroplane or side. Since the driver cannot control it, the vehicle may end up sideswiping another vehicle, or a pedestrian, before the driver can pull it back under control.
In some cases, drivers may lose control of their vehicles because of mechanical damage. That damage could, in some cases, result in a sideswipe collision. Drivers may have a hard time safely navigating when the steering locks up on a vehicle, for example, or if the brakes suddenly go unresponsive. A sideswipe collision can result before the driver manages to bring the vehicle to a safe stop.
Who Bears Liability for a Sideswipe Collision?
Frequently, investigators can determine the driver that bears liability for a sideswipe collision by looking at which driver exited his lane of traffic. For example, if a distracted driver slides out of his lane and swipes a car in the lane beside him, that driver will likely bear liability for the sideswipe collision. Likewise, if a drunk driver swerves into another lane of traffic, causing a sideswipe collision, the drunk driver will likely bear liability for the accident.
Sometimes, it can prove difficult to establish which driver caused a sideswipe collision, especially in cases where two vehicles may have tried to merge into the same lane at the same time, or cases when you cannot see which driver exited their lane of traffic. Interviewing witnesses, checking out camera footage, including dash camera footage, and examining the damage to the vehicles may help determine which vehicle exited the assigned lane of traffic and, therefore, which driver may bear liability for the sideswipe collision.
In some cases, other entities may share liability for a sideswipe accident.
The Driver's Employer
Did you have an accident with a driver on the clock at the time of the incident? If so, that driver's employer may share liability for the accident if:
- The employer has unreasonable policies that led to the accident, including an insistence on meeting highly specific timing goals
- The employer forced an inebriated, ill, or drowsy driver to stay on the road
- The employer provides a dangerous vehicle that somehow contributes to the accident
The Vehicle Manufacturer
Sometimes, a sideswipe collision may occur because of a mechanical defect, including a blown tire or problems with the steering system. When mechanical failure caused by manufacturing error causes a dangerous collision, the vehicle's manufacturer may bear liability for the accident.
Any time you believe a mechanical error may have contributed to a sideswipe collision, talk to an attorney about your next steps, including how a full investigation of the vehicle can help establish who may bear liability for the incident.
Protecting Your Rights After a Sideswipe Collision
When another driver's negligence causes a sideswipe collision, you may have the right to compensation for damages to your vehicle and for any injuries you may sustain in the collision. However, you may need to act very carefully to protect your right to compensation.
Step One: Report the Accident
After any serious collision, always report the accident to the police as soon as possible. Do not, unless you must pursue immediate, emergency medical attention, leave the scene of the accident before speaking to the police.
Keep in mind that establishing liability after a sideswipe collision can prove particularly challenging. You may not want to move your vehicles, especially if the position of the vehicles clearly shows that the other driver drifted out of his lane of traffic.
Wait for the police to arrive, then offer a clear, accurate statement regarding what led to the accident, at least based on the conditions you observed before the accident. Do not make any judgments or assumptions about the other driver's behavior, but provide a clear assessment of the conditions you feel may have contributed to the accident.
While waiting, you may want to collect evidence at the scene of the accident. Snap photos of the location of the two vehicles, the damage to both vehicles, and the other vehicle's make and model. You may later use those photos as evidence in your car accident claim.
Step Two: Get Looked Over by a Doctor
You may need to have a doctor evaluate your physical condition after the accident, even if you do not think you sustained injuries. Do not avoid medical care. Frequently, patients with even serious injuries walk away from many types of car accidents, including sideswipe collisions, assuming they have not suffered any injuries. Unfortunately, further evaluation may show that the patient sustained serious injuries and does need medical treatment.
Failure to get medical treatment can worsen your injuries and make it harder to establish when your injuries took place. If you see a doctor shortly after your accident, you likely will not have problems establishing when the injuries occurred.
On the other hand, if you wait, the insurance company that covers the liable party may try to prove that your accident occurred at some other time and that, therefore, you do not deserve compensation from that insurance company for your injuries.
Step Three: Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
Any time you suffer injuries in a car accident, you need a lawyer on your side. Sideswipe collisions may prove particularly tricky because they can make it more difficult to establish which driver caused the accident, especially if you do not have photographic or video evidence of the other driver crossing the centerline. A car accident lawyer can help you piece together the evidence from your accident and work with you to establish how much compensation you really deserve.
Get in touch with a lawyer before your first communication with the insurance company. Insurance companies may take advantage of the difficulty establishing liability or your lack of experience regarding the compensation you really deserve for your injuries and issue a low settlement offer.
An attorney can help put together a better report regarding the damages you sustained and who caused your accident, then negotiate on your behalf to maximize the odds that you will recover the compensation you deserve. Furthermore, a car accident lawyer can deal with the insurance company for you, which may make it easier to manage many of the details associated with your car accident claim.
Do You Need a Lawyer Following a Sideswipe Collision?
If you have suffered injuries in a sideswipe collision, do not try to handle them alone. Instead, get in touch with a car accident attorney to ask any questions you might have, from information about your right to compensation to questions regarding how to prove liability for your accident and your injuries.