While the person who was switching lanes is generally viewed as the driver who is at fault, there are a few exceptions. If there was a legitimate concern about hitting an object or avoiding a hazardous situation, such as a piece of construction material in the middle of the road or a broken-down vehicle, then the party responsible for creating that hazard is liable for the lane-change accident.
Who is at fault in a lane-change accident?
Sideswipe accidents are a particularly dangerous type of lane-change accident and occur frequently when merging on and off the highway. When the two sides of the cars come together, the impact will not only cause them to change direction, but the now-panicking drivers will most likely overcompensate for temporarily losing control of their car during the swipe. It produces a domino effect. This overcompensation can then lead to hitting other vehicles, guard rails, street signs, pedestrians, and other objects.
Never change lanes in a roundabout. It is very important to pay attention to where you are going, to avoid being in the wrong lane in a roundabout. Tunnels and bridges, too, are often places where you should refrain from changing lanes. A sign will be posted before entering, warning you to stay in your lane. If you change lanes where it is forbidden, then you may be at fault for causing the lane-change accident.
Some road hazards drivers may try to avoid that result in a lane-change accident include:
- Large potholes
- Animals crossing the road
- Construction sites with debris or obstructions in the road
- Items that have fallen out of a truck or another vehicle onto the road
- Accidents ahead
- Another driver who appears to be driving recklessly
- Any other object suddenly being ejected onto the road that all nearby drivers are attempting to avoid
- Liquid on the road, such as puddles or oil
Lane Changes For Emergency Vehicles
When a police car, fire truck or engine, ambulance or any other emergency vehicle is approaching, then you must pull over to the right, or as far to the right side of the road as possible to let them pass. If you are in an intersection, you may continue through to clear the intersection before moving over. Remain there and do not move immediately after the first vehicle passes — many times multiple vehicles respond to emergencies, so anticipate that more could follow.
Throughout the state, we have a “Move Over Law,” which means that you must carefully move two lanes away from a stopped emergency vehicle. If you cannot, then you must slow down.
Can the At-Fault Driver Sue?
It’s best to speak to an car accident attorney about the pure comparative negligence laws that affect drivers in St. Louis. However, a general way to look at them is that in Missouri, both drivers may share a percentage of the liability for the accident. For instance, if you’ve been in an accident and it’s determined that your speed was 20 percent responsible for the collision, you can only collect up to 80 percent of your damages. If you and another driver both are found to have broken a traffic law that caused the accident, then you will both be liable for what percentage of responsibility you have for it.
How to Safely Change Lanes
When you want to switch to another lane, turn on your signal, and then check your mirrors and your blind spots. If there are no cars in the way, and if it looks safe, then change lanes. Remember to turn off your blinker so you don’t confuse other drivers.