Sideswipe Accidents: Who is At Fault?

When it comes to car accidents, the question of fault is not always cut and dried. But if you've been injured in an accident, the question of fault can determine what percentage of your bills will be paid out by the insurance companies. Even a moderate injury can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering, so the determination of fault can have serious consequences.

Sideswipe Accidents: Who is At Fault?

What Is a Sideswipe Accident?

Police officers and insurance companies categorize car accidents based on the angle of contact. A sideswipe accident is any accident where the side or corner of one vehicle impacts the side of another. Other types of vehicle accidents include rear-end collisions, head-on collisions, t-bone or intersection accidents, cars vs. fixed objects, rollovers, etc. In most cases, sideswipe accidents result from improper lane changes, but it's not always easy to determine fault or liability when it comes to sideswipe accidents.

How Do Sideswipe Collisions Occur?

There are many different ways that a sideswipe impact can occur. Here are some of the most common ones:

Failing to Check Blind Spot

Most drivers learn about the blind spots in cars when they're studying for their first driving test. Unfortunately, many drivers forget those early lessons. Most cars have a blindspot to the rear-right and rear-left of the driver. These are areas that the rearview and side-view mirrors don't cover. In order to be safe, the driver must glance over their shoulder to see if they are clear to make a lane change. Some recent cars have sensors that will warn the driver if they begin to move into an obstructed lane, but most don't. Failing to check a blind spot can lead to a sideswipe collision.


In the state of Florida, when two lanes merge into one, the driver who is merging into the lane must yield the right of way. Frequently, the merging driver mistimes their move and sideswipes a car that's already in the lane of travel.

Distracted Driving

When drivers aren't paying attention to the roadway, they tend to drift into the next lane. If there is another vehicle already there, it results in a sideswipe collision.

Evasive Action

To avoid another collision, a driver may take evasive action and cut into the next lane. If there is a car there, it can result in an angle collision.

Aggressive Driving

Not all collisions are accidents, and sideswipe collisions are common in road-rage incidents. If a driver uses their car to intentionally strike another vehicle, they may be liable for the crash and face criminal charges.

Who Is at Fault When Changing Lanes?

Florida State Statute 316.085(2) states that before a driver can change “from a direct course,” they must ensure that they are not being approached or overtaken, that there is no vehicle alongside them, and that they can make the change in absolute safety. While it might seem clear that one vehicle is always at fault, there are cases when two vehicles try to change into each other's lane at the same time. There are also times when neither driver involved in a side impact will admit to changing lanes.

In order to assign fault, the investigating officer often has to try to determine the exact point of impact on the roadway. This is often difficult since the drivers may move their cars after the accident, and the debris can be scattered by the impact or by other cars.

Who Is at Fault When Merging?

A lane merger can occur when entering a highway from a ramp, entering an exit ramp, or when two lanes are converging anywhere. For all intents and purposes, merging is similar to switching from one lane to another. The car entering the remaining lane must yield the right of way. This can be a little confusing, particularly in situations where it's not clear whether one of the lanes is ending.

How Comparative Negligence Works in Florida

Florida is a comparative fault state, meaning that your damage claim diminishes proportionately with your liability. For instance, if you are 30% at fault for an accident, you can collect 70% of your damages. This is often the case in sideswipe accidents. For instance, if driver one changes lanes because they believe they're clear, but driver two reaches their location because they're driving over the speed limit, both parties may be partially at fault.

What You Should Do if Another Driver Sideswipes You

Sideswipe accidents can be particularly difficult when it comes to determining liability. That's why it's essential that you not only ensure your safety but also preserve the evidence to the best of your ability.

  • Call 911 – Provide the dispatcher with your location, vehicle description, injuries, and any other information that they ask for.
  • Determine whether you can safely exit your vehicle.
  • Avoid moving your car if possible. If necessary, and you can do so safely, take pictures of the location of the vehicles before you move your car. The final resting position of the vehicles may be critical to your case.
  • Take photos of the accident, geographic indicators, property damage, and injuries.
  • Ask witnesses to remain until the police arrive. If they can't, take down their contact information.
  • Allow EMTs to examine you for injuries. If necessary, allow them to transport you to the emergency room.
  • Contact an auto accident lawyer in Florida before discussing your case with your insurance company.

Personal injury lawyers in Florida work on a contingency basis. That means they only collect their fees if they win their case via settlement or by resolving your case in court. You will not have to pay out of pocket for professional legal advice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sideswipe Accidents

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about sideswipe car accidents at Weinstein Legal. If you've been hurt in an accident in Broward or Palm Beach — even if you're partially at fault — contact Weinstein Legal to discuss your case.

Who is Liable For a Sideswipe Wreck in Florida?

In most cases, the person changing lanes is liable. If both cars were simultaneously changing lanes, the insurance companies might have to determine who is primarily at fault. This is why it's important to preserve as much evidence as possible in the moments after the accident.

Why Do I Need an Attorney to Make an Insurance Claim?

If you go directly to an insurance company, they will move quickly to settle your claim. That's because they would rather not have to negotiate with a personal injury law firm in Florida. The adjuster will offer to cut you a check for your property damage, your medical bills, and even a little extra for your pain and suffering. But they'll also require you to sign a release, which will prevent you from pursuing further damages. If your injuries are more substantial than you anticipated, your money will run out.

Should I Go to the Doctor If My Injuries Are Minor?

If you believe you have any injuries, you should go for a medical exam. Oftentimes, injuries seem minor in the hours and days after an accident but develop into more serious conditions. By going to a doctor, you can establish a baseline should your condition become more critical.

Can I Collect Damages if I'm Partially At Fault?

Yes. Florida uses the comparative negligence principle, which means that you can still collect a portion of your damages, even if you were partially responsible for the accident.

How Can I Afford an Attorney?

Plaintiffs in personal injury cases don't pay legal fees up front. Personal injury lawyers collect their fees at the end of the case as a percentage of the recovery only if they're successful.

Car Accident Lawyers of Florida

For years, Attorney Justin Weinstein of Weinstein Legal has been helping accident victims seek justice. Mr. Weinstein will review your case on a contingency basis, and if he believes that it's viable, he will pursue damages on your behalf. You can work on your physical recovery while Weinstein Legal fights for your rights. Call today for a free consultation.

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