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Who Is Liable for a Lane-Change Accident?

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Following a collision that causes injuries, the liability of the parties must be determined. Since Missouri is a fault state for car accidents, it’s important to figure out which party was at fault so that victims can pursue compensation for their losses. Determining fault in a lane-change accident can be challenging since these types of collisions often happen at higher speeds. Scroll down to learn how liability is determined in an accident that happens while a driver is changing lanes.

Missouri Law and a Lane-Change Accident

Missouri’s passing law is found at R.S.Mo. 304.016. Under this law, people who pass other vehicles are not supposed to merge back into the lane ahead of the passed vehicles until they have enough clearance to do so. Motorists are supposed to drive in the right lane unless they are passing. They are not supposed to pass on the right. When passing, drivers should use their turn signal to let the other driver know that they intend to merge back into the lane. They should not linger in the other driver’s blind spot while passing and should instead quickly get around them.

Who Is Liable for a Merging Accident?

In any type of lane-change accident, the at-fault party is the driver who owed a duty of care to the other motorist and failed to uphold that duty. In accidents that happen when a driver tries to merge into traffic, the drivers merging are most frequently at fault. For example, a driver attempting to merge onto I-44 from an entrance ramp must check their blind spots and mirrors and enter the traffic lane only when it’s safe. Failing to merge properly when entering a traffic lane can cause a serious accident.

Some examples of when a merging driver could be liable for an accident include the following:

  • Failing to check their mirrors before entering the traffic lane
  • Failing to check their blind spots before entering the traffic lane
  • Not matching their speed with the speed of other traffic when moving into the traffic lane
  • Not using a turn signal while merging

Fault and Sideswipe Accidents

Sideswipe collisions typically happen when two drivers are traveling at high speeds and have minimal time to react. In these types of collisions, one of the drivers will typically be mostly or totally liable. Determining liability for a sideswipe accident will require a careful analysis of the evidence to identify which driver caused the collision.

The following examples of actions taken before a sideswipe action might indicate the motorist’s fault:

  • Attempting to move into an adjacent lane without checking the side- and rear-view mirrors
  • Attempting to change lanes without checking a blind spot
  • Lane changes without turn signals
  • Trying to change lanes while traveling faster or slower than other traffic
  • Drifting into an adjacent lane while distracted by a cell phone or something else

Is the Motorist Who Changed Lanes Always the Liable Party?

The driver who changed lanes or attempted to do so is most often the at-fault party. However, the other motorist who didn’t change lanes could sometimes be partially to blame.

A driver who didn’t change lanes might be at fault when they engaged in one of the following actions:

  • Speeding up to keep the other motorist from entering the traffic lane
  • Slowing down to prevent a car from merging
  • Not adjusting their speed to let a merging car enter after being signaled
  • Brake-checking a driver who is entering the traffic lane

Evidence of Liability

The following types of evidence might be important for determining liability in a lane-change collision:

  • Statements from both drivers and eyewitnesses
  • Video footage of the accident
  • Police reports
  • Opinions and analyses by accident reconstruction experts
  • Photographs from the scene of the accident
  • Medical records

Talk to an Experienced Accident Lawyer

If you were injured in an accident when another driver moved into your lane, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave today to learn more about your potential rights and the legal remedies that might be available to you. Call 417-322-2222 (Springfield) or 417-624-4258 (Joplin) or send us a message online.

Files under: Personal Injury