How to Determine Who is At Fault in A Car Accident Changing Lanes

Determining who is at fault for a lane changing car accident can be a particularly complex and time-consuming process. One driver may be completely to blame or both drivers may share fault. In most cases, the driver who was switching lanes or merging is found at fault for a collision. However, it is rare for a driver who causes a crash to admit they were responsible. As a result, determining and proving who is to blame will often require an investigation and evidence.

The Police Report

A police report carries a lot of weight in an insurance adjuster’s decision on fault. The report does not always have the final say, but the officer’s opinion is unbiased evidence, giving it credibility. In their report, the officer will note various details, including:

  • The final positioning of the cars
  • The location and extent of damage to the vehicles
  • Whether the airbags deployed
  • Any skid marks on the road from attempts to brake
  • Statements from the drivers
  • Interviews with witnesses to the accident
  • Whether either driver appeared to be intoxicated or was issued a citation
  • Whether either car was malfunctioning
  • Video they viewed of the accident

When a party is cited for a traffic violation or charged with a crime (e.g., failing to signal or driving while intoxicated), it may be considered significant evidence of fault, which the responsible party will have difficulty challenging.

Looking for Evidence of Negligence

When investigating your accident, your attorney and the insurance adjuster will look for evidence of negligence. When an accident occurs while changing lanes, examples of potential evidence of a party’s fault include:

  • The location of the damage to the vehicles involved.
  • Failed to check blind spots before making a lane change.
  • Eyewitness testimony can be critical. They may have seen and will be able to confirm that the driver:
    • Failed to signal before changing lanes.
    • Failed to check blind spots before making a lane change.
    • Was recklessly weaving in and out of traffic or swerving between lanes.
  • Video surveillance footage of the accident.
  • Cell phone records of the at-fault driver, if they were texting or talking on the phone at the time of the accident.
  • Food wrappers or receipts that show the driver may have been distracted by eating when they changed lanes.

An attorney also has the resources to hire experts to prove fault if necessary. For example, an accident reconstruction expert who can establish how the accident occurred and who caused it based on the available evidence.

Shared Fault

Some lane change accidents happen because both drivers were negligent. For example, if both drivers were changing lanes at the same time and failed to check their side mirrors or failed to use signals. In these cases, both drivers may share legal liability for the collision. In the state of Virginia, the courts will bar a driver from recovering compensation if they are partially to blame for a car accident. This rule, known as contributory negligence, victims must be completely blameless in order to pursue a successful claim. Even if you are found only 1% at fault, you cannot sue the at-fault driver. This law is harsh, but it is always best to consult an attorney, because they still may be able to help you recover compensation depending on the circumstances of your case.