| Read Time: 7 minutes | Car Accident

Sideswipe collisions pose a serious risk to drivers and passengers alike, particularly on highways and interstates with a great deal of merging traffic, like I-10 or I-17.

Often, motorists fail to properly predict the actions of others around them, making it very difficult to merge or change lanes safely. Unfortunately, inaccurately judging the movement of other drivers can substantially raise the risk of a sideswipe collision. Learn more about common causes of sideswipe collisions and the key factors Phoenix car accident lawyers look at to help determine liability.

What is a sideswipe collision?

A sideswipe collision occurs when one vehicle swipes another’s side. Unlike T-bone collisions, when one vehicle hits the other directly in the side, sideswipe collisions usually involve “swiping” damage down the side of one vehicle. They can cause minor damage or, in many cases, severe injuries.

How Do Sideswipe Collisions Occur?

Sideswipe collisions can occur due to a variety of challenges on the road.

#1. Merging Incidents

While merging, drivers must pay particular attention to the patterns of other vehicles around them. A sideswipe accident can quickly occur because a driver fails to properly gauge the progression of traffic near him while merging. He may cause a sideswipe collision because he fails to allow adequate room to get over or tries to push into traffic despite not having room. During rush hour, I-10 and I-17 may grow particularly busy, increasing the risk that a driver will inadvertently cause a sideswipe collision.

#2. Changing Lanes

Changing lanes, like merging, requires the driver to pay careful attention to everything that takes place, including the pace of the vehicles around him. Preceding the lane change, a driver may need to pay particular attention to smaller vehicles and motorcycles since, in some cases, they may disappear into the driver’s blind spot. The driver should also clearly signal his intentions before the lane change so that another vehicle does not run up on top of him.

Furthermore, during the lane change, the driver may need to carefully watch the movements of all vehicles around him, including vehicles in surrounding lanes.

#3. Distracted Driving

Driving while distracted can endanger the distracted driver and anyone who shares the road with him. Often, distracted drivers cannot adequately track the changes in the road around them. They may drift into another lane or oncoming traffic, depending on the curve of the road or the direction the vehicle drifts.

Looking down to check a text message can take the driver’s eyes off the road for valuable seconds. Unfortunately, during those seconds, several things can change. Another vehicle might appear in an oncoming traffic lane that the driver did not see before. The road might curve more than anticipated. A vehicle in a parallel traffic lane might drift closer to the line than anticipated. All of those challenges could quickly cause a sideswipe collision that a distracted driver may have difficulty avoiding.

#4. Drowsy Driving

Driver fatigue can result from inadequate sleep, a long day, or a long time on the road. Sometimes, driver fatigue can creep up unexpectedly, especially if the driver has spent a long time driving. Fatigued drivers may suffer from some of the same challenges suffered by drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol, including tunnel vision and difficulty safely controlling a vehicle.

In extreme cases, fatigued drivers can even fall asleep behind the wheel. Microsleep of just a few seconds leave the vehicle out of control during the transition. A sleeping driver cannot keep his vehicle safely in its traffic lane, so they may quickly drift into another lane, causing a sideswipe collision.

#5. Speeding

At high rates of speed, many drivers have a harder time keeping their vehicles precisely in the assigned traffic lane. Often, a speeding driver may have difficulty ensuring that the vehicle remains directly between the road’s lines. The vehicle may slip over the line in sharp curves or on dangerous terrain.

Unfortunately, speeding can also add a great deal of force to a sideswipe collision, especially with a vehicle in another traffic lane.

#6. Drunk Driving

Driving while intoxicated may significantly increase the risk of accidents, including sideswipe collisions. A drunk driver may have difficulty using the motor skills necessary to keep the vehicle in its assigned traffic lane.

Drunk drivers may also be less likely to note the other vehicles around them, which may raise the odds of a collision. Furthermore, drunk drivers may engage in risky behaviors that a sober driver would not consider, including swerving through traffic, speeding, or coming too close to the edge of the lane. Some drunk drivers may even attempt those deadly behaviors simply for the thrills.

#7. Aggressive Driving

Aggressive drivers may have a very heavy risk of causing a dangerous sideswipe collision. Aggressive drivers often swerve in and out of traffic. Sometimes, they may try to block or cut off another vehicle deliberately. In other cases, the aggressive driver may try to get around another vehicle too swiftly, leading to a sideswipe collision.

An aggressive driver may fail to consider the actions of other drivers on the road with him. As a result, he may end up suffering severe injuries due to a sideswipe collision.

#8. Large Blind Spots

Most passenger vehicles have at least a small blind spot: an area where the driver cannot see what happens around the vehicle. Larger vehicles, despite changes in design intended to help with those blind spots, often have much larger blind spots. Big trucks, in particular, have large blind spots on all four sides of the vehicle.

In some cases, those blind spots may prove large enough for a smaller vehicle to completely disappear into them. The driver of the vehicle may never even notice the presence of another vehicle before changing lanes or merging into traffic, leading to a dangerous sideswipe collision.

#9. Road Rage

When drivers give in to road rage, it can pose a substantial danger for everyone around them. Raging drivers may engage in some of the same risky behaviors as aggressive drivers. In some cases, however, raging drivers may take things a step further: they may deliberately ram into another vehicle, often to show a display of temper or force that vehicle off the road. A deliberate sideswipe collision can cause severe damage, particularly if the raging driver continues to force the other vehicle into another lane or an obstacle.

A raging driver may face criminal consequences and civil liability for an accident. You may need to provide a statement to the police regarding the driver’s rage and dangerous behavior.

Who is at Fault in a Side Swipe?

After a sideswipe collision, evidence from the scene of the accident may prove very useful in determining fault. Most of the time, the driver that crosses out of his lane and swipes the other vehicle will bear liability for the incident. In some cases, both drivers may share liability: for example, two distracted drivers who happened to swerve toward one another at just the wrong moment.

Unfortunately, the liable driver in a sideswipe collision may choose not to simply accept fault for the accident. Working with an auto accident lawyer can make it easier to establish that the other driver caused the accident and that, as a result, you deserve compensation for the damage to your vehicle and any injuries you may have sustained in the accident.

Your lawyer and the other party’s insurance company will look at several key factors to help determine liability.

Photos From the Accident Scene

Photos of the accident scene can prove incredibly valuable in determining liability for a sideswipe collision. After the accident, you may note that one vehicle sits over the line dividing the lane, which might indicate that the driver of that vehicle committed the error that led to the accident.

Photos of the accident scene can also give investigators a better idea of where and why the accident likely occurred. For example, if the accident occurred at an on-ramp for the interstate, the merging driver may prove more likely to bear liability for the incident since the merging driver probably changed lanes improperly. Investigators might also note the direction the road slopes or curves and what accidents have occurred in that area to give them a better idea of what contributed to your incident.

Your Statement Regarding the Accident

Both drivers involved in the accident will generally make a statement about the accident, including what they feel led to it and what they may have observed at the time of the accident. Working with a lawyer can help you provide the best, most accurate information possible about the accident.  You should not make any statements prior to speaking with your lawyer.

In general, you should record your statement about the accident as soon as possible. The longer you wait to record your statement, the harder it may prove to remember the details related to the accident. The mind has many protective mechanisms when it comes to traumatic events, and it may quickly start erasing the events that led to your accident.

Witness Accounts

Witnesses who observed the accident, stopped, and provided you with their contact information can provide a great deal of support as you try to file your accident claim. Often, witnesses will have a better idea of exactly what led to the accident than you will since they may have seen both vehicles more clearly than either driver.

Witness accounts can also help clear up any discrepancies between your statement and the statement made by the other driver. Sometimes, the other driver may try to deny liability for the accident, even when you know that he caused the accident. A witness may help clear up exactly what led to the accident and make it easier for you to claim compensation.

Expert Evaluation and Testimony

Sometimes, after an accident, your lawyer will bring in an expert witness to look at what led to the incident. Experts can help examine the damage to the two vehicles, look at the location of the accident, and, in many cases, provide a clear recreation of how the accident likely occurred.

An expert witness can often put together a highly effective case regarding your sideswipe collision.

An expert can also prove essential if, for any reason, your claim ends up in the courtroom. Expert witnesses offer highly credible testimony as they help you pull together your accident claim.

Video Footage

Video footage of an accident can make it much easier to determine who caused a sideswipe collision. While most accidents do not involve that vital video footage, a lawyer may access it from several locations, including:

  • Traffic camera footage
  • Dashcam footage
  • Footage from nearby security cameras

By working with a lawyer, you can often access that footage more easily, giving you a better idea of what led to your sideswipe collision and more effective evidence for your claim. Keep in mind that many people delete security footage regularly, so you may need to have your lawyer go after that footage as soon after the incident as possible.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney for Help With Your Sideswipe Collision Claim

If you suffered injuries in a sideswipe collision, working with an attorney can give you the support you need to move forward with your claim more effectively. An attorney can help review your injuries and financial losses to help you understand what compensation you may deserve and provide vital insights and support as you build your claim.

Contact a car accident lawyer as soon after the accident as possible to get the support you need.

Author Photo

Jason Hutzler

Jason Hutzler is the founding partner of Phoenix personal injury law firm Hutzler Law, and represents individuals throughout Arizona. His practice is primarily dedicated to personal injury and car accident claims, leveraging his deep expertise as a former insurance adjustor to navigate the complexities of insurance negotiations.

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