Generally, the driver who veered from his or her lane is at fault for a sideswipe car accident. However, if another driver forces you out of your lane, that driver may also be at fault. If the at-fault drivers fled the scene of the crash, your insurance company can cover the accident.
What is a sideswipe collision?
A sideswipe accident is a type of motor vehicle accident. Rarely, they are near-miss head-on collisions with a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. However, they typically happen when 2 cars are traveling in the same direction and collide with each other from the side. These sideswipe accidents usually happen because one vehicle veered out of its lane and into the other vehicle.
These accidents are deceptively severe. While the force of the collision is small, the direction it comes from and the context of the collision make it very dangerous.
Because the vehicles in sideswipe accidents generally travel in the same direction, nearly all of them happen on multi-lane highways. People drive very fast on these highways, making most sideswipe collisions high-speed accidents. High-speed accidents tend to cause more damage and much worse injuries than low-speed crashes.
Because the force in a sideswipe crash comes from the side, it is very difficult for drivers to keep their vehicles under control after the collision. They are likely to:
- veer into other lanes,
- spin out,
- cross the rest of the multi-lane highway,
- crash into the highway’s barriers, guardrails, or off the side of the road, and/or
- flip over, turning into a rollover accident.
This can lead to other drivers on the highway becoming involved in the accident. When all of this happens at a high speed, the results can be devastating.
What are some common injuries from these accidents?
It is not uncommon for sideswipe accidents to cause serious injuries, like:
- traumatic brain injuries (TBIs),
- spinal cord injuries,
- neck injuries,
- head injuries, and
- severe internal injuries.
Some of these can be fatal.
Even if this type of accident was not severe, victims can still suffer:
- broken bones,
- nerve damage,
- severe lacerations,
- road rash,
- whiplash, and
- serious scrapes and bruises.
Victims are also very likely to suffer vehicle damage from the collision, generally on the side of their vehicle.
When you were not at fault for these injuries and setbacks, you deserve financial compensation for them. This can take the form of compensation for your property damage, medical expenses, and your pain and suffering.
A personal injury attorney can help you recover that compensation. By getting the legal advice of a personal injury lawyer from a reputable law firm, you can file an injury claim and recover what you deserve.
What are some common causes of sideswipe accidents?
Just a few of the most common causes of sideswipe accidents are:
- driver negligence,
- a distracted driver,
- driver fatigue,
- drunk driving,
- the driver trying to avoid a road hazard,
- road rage,
- multiple drivers merging into the same lane, or
- an unsafe lane change or merge, usually when the merging driver fails to check their blind spots or fails to signal before turning into the new lane.
Depending on the cause of the accident, different drivers may be at fault.
What if I was partially to blame for the crash?
If you were partially to blame for the crash, the compensation you can recover can be reduced. In some cases, you may be barred from recovering any compensation. It will depend on the state where the accident occurred.
For example: Mary is driving in the right lane of a 3-lane highway. Ben is driving in the left lane. They both merge into the middle lane, sideswiping each other while changing lanes.
State personal injury laws have developed 3 different ways of handling these shared fault accidents. All of them require the jury in the personal injury trial to assign a percentage of fault to each driver:
- pure comparative negligence, which reduces your compensation by your percentage of fault,
- modified comparative negligence, which reduces your compensation by your percentage of fault while also barring any recovery if you were more than half at fault, and
- contributory negligence, which bars any recovery if you were at fault at all.
For example: In her sideswipe crash with Ben, Mary suffers $200,000 in legal damages. She sues Ben. The jury finds that, while both Ben and Mary failed to look for other vehicles merging into the center lane, Ben signaled that he was merging while Mary did not. They assign 60 percent of the fault for the crash to Mary. In states that use contributory negligence, Mary would recover nothing because she was at least 1 percent at fault. In states using modified comparative negligence, she would recover nothing because she was more than half at fault. However, in states that use pure comparative negligence rules, Mary would recover 40 percent of her damages, or $80,000.
While very few car accident cases go to trial, these shared fault rules heavily influence settlement negotiations.
What should I do after a sideswipe car accident?
There are several things that you should do after a sideswipe accident to avoid criminal charges and lay the groundwork for a personal injury claim:
- do not leave the scene of the accident, as doing so can lead to criminal charges for a hit-and-run,
- call the police,
- take photos of the scene of the accident and the damage to your vehicle,
- get the contact information and phone number of the other driver and any eyewitnesses to the crash,
- seek medical attention, even if you do not think that you were hurt badly, and
- call a personal injury attorney.
How can a car accident lawyer help me?
A sideswipe accident lawyer can help accident victims by maximizing their settlement and helping them make informed legal decisions. If necessary, an attorney can file a personal injury lawsuit on the victim’s behalf.
After a sideswipe accident, you will have to file an insurance claim. Typically, this is filed against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. However, it can be filed against your own auto insurance company if:
- the other driver fled the scene and you have to rely on your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, or
- you live in a state that uses no-fault insurance rules, like New York, which require personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.
The insurance company will send an adjuster to investigate your claim. An initial settlement offer will likely be made. This offer is generally well below what you deserve. However, it can still be enticing, as your medical bills will have started to accumulate.
Your car accident attorney can give you a good idea of what your case is really worth, usually by using a car accident settlement formula. They can also negotiate a better settlement offer with the insurance company.
If no fair settlement offer is made and the applicable statute of limitations is approaching, your lawyer can file a personal injury lawsuit for you. This can spur settlement negotiations. Your lawyer will conduct an independent investigation of the sideswipe accident. The evidence gathered will further inform settlement talks.
If no settlement is reached, your case will go to trial. Your lawyer will present the evidence that best supports your claim for compensation. After hearing evidence from both sides, the jury will issue a verdict. This verdict resolves the case and states what compensation you are to receive.
If mistakes were made during the trial that negatively affected the outcome, your lawyer can file an appeal.
If the sideswipe accident was a fatal one, the personal injury lawyer would represent the victim’s loved ones in a wrongful death lawsuit.
 See, for example, Coutlakis v. CSX Transportation, Inc., 796 S.E.2d 556 (2017) (Virginia).