Despite being one of the most common maneuvers that drivers perform, many motorists fail to follow proper procedures when changing lanes on the highway or other roadways. Improper lane changes are a common reason for vehicle collisions across the country, and these kind of accidents often result in serious property damage and injury to the motorists and passengers involved. Most states have outlined proper lane changing procedures, and impose a duty on motorists to ensure that they safely change lanes, which includes the appropriate and timely use of turn signals.
As a foundational matter, most states require that when a road is divided into two or more lanes, vehicles should not use more than one lane. There are some exceptions for oversized loads and commercial vehicles, but most normal vehicles are restricted to a single lane of travel. In order to deviate from their lane, a driver should normally notify other drivers of the likely lane change by use of a signal. This allows other drivers to anticipate the movement of other automobiles, and allow space for the lane change in order to avoid collisions. Despite this requirement, many drivers fail to use their signals (at all or before a lane change is initiated), or make rapid and successive lane changes at high speeds. Some drivers misjudge the amount of space available in the lane they wish to enter, while others fail to check their mirror and blind spots. Regardless of the reason, determining who is at fault after an accident that results from a lane change can be crucial as the at-fault party is generally required to pay for the injured party’s damages, usually through an insurance claim.
Typically, the driver who enters a lane with moving traffic and hits another vehicle is found to be the at-fault party. This general rule applies to many scenarios, including highway driving, merging from an on or off-ramp, or pulling into traffic from a stopped or parked position. Proof that the driver who caused the collision didn’t use their turn signal during a lane change that results in an accident can form the basis for a negligence claim, which may make it easier for injured parties to recover compensation for their property and bodily damages. Those involved in a lane change accident should ensure that a police report is filled out in order to establish for the record (and potential insurance claims or litigation) the respective actions of all involved parties.
The overall determination of fault may be influenced by the actions of both drivers, as well as weather conditions and other variables. Due to the complexity and large amount of variables involved in a lane-changing accident, it is possible that both drivers contributed in some fashion to the collision. For this reason, it is important to follow all rules of the road in your jurisdiction, stay aware of the movement of other drivers, and be sure to document all relevant information if you are involved in an accident caused by a negligent lane change.
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Saladino & Schaaf, PLLC is a Personal Injury Law Firm with offices in Paducah, KY and Murray, KY. We serve clients throughout Kentucky and Illinois.
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