A sideswipe car accident is an all too common occurrence on our roads. It happens when one vehicle strikes another from the side, often because one car has moved out of the lane when it wasn’t safe to do so.
You might not think that a sideswipe accident is much to worry about. A sideswipe often results in little more than a few scratches or dents — nothing that a car insurance claim can’t fix. But a high-speed collision on a highway can cause severe injuries and even be fatal. Data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety shows that 2.7% of all fatal crashes in 2019 were caused by sideswiping.
If you’re in a sideswipe accident, you might be entitled to compensation. However, a successful personal injury claim relies on evidence that another party was liable.
So who is at fault in a sideswipe accident? We look at how sideswipe accidents typically occur and the determining factors that affect liability.
How Does a Sideswipe Accident Occur?
A sideswipe collision can happen in several ways:
- Two cars are traveling side by side in the same direction and one makes an improper turn, such as a right turn into a left lane.
- Two cars are traveling side by side in the same direction and one car goes outside of its lane and makes contact with the side of the other vehicle.
- Two cars are moving in opposite directions and one drifts over the center line and makes contact with the vehicle in the oncoming lane.
How Dangerous Are Sideswipe Accidents?
While there’s no denying that head-on or rear-end collisions can be devastating, vehicles are built to absorb some of the impact and reduce damage.
Sideswipe accidents can be dangerous precisely because the side of a vehicle offers little protection to passengers and drivers. If you own an older car, the fallout can be particularly horrific, as it may lack side-impact airbags and reinforced steel beams designed to absorb contact.
Who Is at Fault in a Sideswipe Car Accident?
Determining who’s at fault in a sideswipe accident can be murky because in some cases, it’s hard to show which car departed its lane and struck the other. These accidents are more complex compared to another side-impact accident like a T-bone, where the driver who crashed into the side of the other car is nearly always liable.
South Carolina fault rules state that the driver who caused the crash should be held responsible for paying the necessary damages. In some cases, one driver will be fully responsible for the crash. In others, the fault may be split if both parties are found negligent to some degree, or neither driver may be at fault. For example, if a driver sideswiped your vehicle because their brakes failed, the car manufacturer could be held liable.
Determining Fault in a Sideswipe Accident
Several elements help determine who is at fault for a sideswipe car accident.
Driver error is the leading cause of all car accidents — including sideswipe accidents. Often, a driver’s reckless behavior leads to these preventable accidents happening.
Common examples of recklessness include:
- Driving while tired or intoxicated
- Failing to check their blind spots when changing lanes
- Failing to signal when turning
- Driving while distracted, such as texting, changing the radio station, or talking on the phone
- Road rage or aggressiveness, which can lead to a driver hastily — or purposely — turning in.
If the other driver was intoxicated or driving aggressively during the contact, and you have evidence — such as a police crash report or eyewitness testimony — to prove it, you stand a good chance at proving they were liable.
What to Do after a Sideswipe Accident
Finding out what led to your sideswipe accident is essential, as this is key to proving who is at fault. You’ll also need evidence to back up your claim. After all, not all drivers are honest, and the person who sideswiped you may not want to admit fault, even if it’s clear they were in the wrong.
Call the police as soon as you have gathered yourself following the collision. Once present, an investigating officer will create a crash report documenting what happened and any contributing factors — such as if the other driver acted recklessly.
It’s also valuable to gather evidence at the scene. This can make a major difference in validating your claim to the necessary authorities. Take photos to capture the damage to the vehicles. These pictures can tell the direction of impact, proving who moved unsafely into whose lane during the collision. Your photos could also reveal indicators that allow an accident reconstruction expert to conclude who was at fault. Once you’ve obtained picture and video evidence, get any eyewitnesses’ names, addresses, and phone numbers.
Even if you physically feel fine, it’s vital to see a doctor as soon as possible after your sideswipe accident. Not only is it crucial to make sure you don’t have a concussion or any other health concerns, but your medical records will also prove your injuries should you want to pursue a compensation claim. If you’re worried about seeking medical attention because you can’t afford medical bills, speak to a car accident lawyer — they may be able to postpone payment until after your claim is resolved.
The final step is to get in touch with a personal injury lawyer. An attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claim, speak to witnesses, and negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company to secure a fair settlement, leaving you to focus on your recovery.
A sideswipe accident can be messy and stressful, but you don’t have to endure it alone. Our car accident lawyers in South Carolina can help you get the compensation you deserve so that you can move forward.
If you’ve been involved in a sideswipe car accident and need help proving fault, The Clardy Law Firm is here for you.