Car accidents happen for various reasons. For example, an inexperienced driver could react poorly to a traffic situation, someone may be driving distracted, or another driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Lane change accidents are a common type of auto accident on California roadways. They can result in injuries and property damage that causes financial and emotional burdens.
Most lane change accidents involve one or more of the following situations:
- Changing lanes at inappropriate speeds
- Changing lanes at inappropriate times, such as in an intersection
- Failing to use a turn signal while changing lanes
You may notice that these factors are all preventable. Therefore, safe driving practices and lane departure technology can help minimize the number of lane change accidents on California roadways. In the meantime, you should know what to do if you are involved in a lane change accident.
How Common Are Improper Lane Change Accidents in California?
Distracted and impaired driving are the leading causes of California car accidents. However, lane departures are identified as one of the 16 key focus areas in the most recent California Strategic Highway Safety Plan. The SHSP is a statewide initiative designed to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities.
How Do Lane Change Accidents Happen?
As with other types of accidents, distracted and reckless driving are responsible for many lane change accidents. In other cases, a car may simply be in a driver's blind spot. Because this type of accident is more common in trucks with large blind spots, they can result in severe injuries and damage to the vehicles involved.
Regardless of the underlying cause, lane change accidents typically follow one of these patterns:
- Changing lanes without checking for another vehicle or with a car in your blind spot
- Failing to signal before changing lanes
- Making an unsafe lane change and getting rear-ended by another car
- When two vehicles are turning simultaneously and one changes lanes
- Unintentionally drifting into another lane of traffic
- Making an illegal turn at an intersection
Who Is At Fault in a California Lane Change Accident?
California is an at-fault state, so whoever is deemed responsible for causing the accident will be accountable for the damages and medical costs. Therefore, fault must be assigned correctly after a lane change accident.
In most cases, the driver who hit the other car is responsible for an accident involving changing lanes. There can be extenuating circumstances, such as a driver who swerved to avoid another vehicle entering their lane, but that is the general rule. In this situation,t eh driver that changed lanes will almost always be held responsible.
When you file an accident report, the officers will document vehicle damage and take statements from drivers and witnesses about what happened. These, coupled with the insurance adjusters' inspection of the cars, are used to determine who struck who and if the accident was avoidable. If you were involved in a lane change accident, you would want to obtain copies of these documents for your records.
What Is the Proper Way To Change Lanes To Avoid an Accident?
Following driving rules can help you make safe lane changes. This includes never changing lanes while distracted or without checking for another vehicle. According to the California DMV Driver Handbook, you should always know where your blind spots are and what is in them. It also recommends checking your blind spot before making any lane changes.
Follow these steps to ensure safe lane changes when driving:
- Use mirrors to scan the adjoining lanes, then physically turn your head to check blind spots
- If it is safe, use your turn signal to alert other drivers of your intention to change lanes
- Change lanes quickly and carefully, matching the speed of traffic in the destination lane
- Maintain a safe and appropriate speed with adequate space between you and the car in front of you
What Should I Do After an Accident While Changing Lanes?
Being alert to your surroundings and other drivers' behaviors may help you avoid crashes. However, if you find yourself the victim of a lane change accident, you will want to take proactive steps.
Exchange Information With the Other Driver
The first thing to do if you are in an accident is to stop, check for injuries, and ensure everyone is safe. Then, whenever possible, move the vehicles to a safe place out of traffic if there are no serious injuries. Then, exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver.
Any interaction with other drivers should be handled carefully. Resist the urge to offer admissions of guilt or apologize for the accident, even if you think you may have been responsible. This could be problematic later in the claims process.
Report the Accident
The next step is to report the accident to the DMV using the Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR 1). This is required if an accident caused property damage over $1,000 or anyone was injured. Failure to report an accident can result in a license suspension.
Seek Medical Care for Injuries
Getting prompt medical attention for any injuries helps them heal faster. It also establishes that injuries resulted from the accident, which may be necessary for insurance purposes.
Common injuries from lane change accidents include:
File an Insurance Claim
You will need to contact the appropriate insurance company to file a claim. Because California is an at-fault state, this will be the insurance provider of the responsible driver. Provide copies of your filed report and any documentation from the accident scene. This might include:
- Witness statements and contact information
There are some cases where you will need to file a claim with your insurance company even if the other driver is at fault, such as if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver.
Speak With a Car Accident Attorney
Once the accident has been cleared, it's a good idea to consult an accident attorney about the next steps to take. For example, you may want to fight an at-fault determination or seek compensation for damages not covered by insurance. The best way to explore your options is to request a free case evaluation.
When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Settling a claim after a lane change accident can be handled independently, but certain situations are best left to legal professionals. After all, insurance companies will have attorneys fighting for them during the process; it's only fair that you have the same support.
If you are experiencing any of the following situations, contact the attorneys at Johnson Attorneys Group for a free consultation:
- You are wrongfully declared at fault and want to fight the determination
- You suffered injuries in the accident and want to seek compensation
- Another driver sues you for a lane change accident
Let Our Attorneys Fight for You
You do not have to pursue legal action on your own after a lane change accident; we can help. At Johnson Attorneys Group, our accident lawyers are ready to fight for the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys are available around the clock, so you are never left feeling alone.
Contact your local office for a free case review. Then, allow us to handle the legal side of recovering from an accident so you can work on healing physically and emotionally.