Who Is it at Fault for a Lane-Change Collision?

by Staff | January 16th, 2024

Determining liability is not always straightforward in a lane-change collision. You’ll need to know which California laws apply to unsafe lane changes. You must also understand what factors are at play when establishing liability for a collision during a lane change.

One of our experienced California car accident lawyers at Berg Injury Lawyers can help you determine fault in your case after a serious lane-change car accident so you can receive a fair settlement for your losses.

What are California’s Laws for Unsafe Lane Changes?

California vehicle law prohibits drivers from making unsafe lane changes. According to this law, drivers can move left to right or turn from the main roadway when it’s safe to do so and after signaling their intentions to other cars. Drivers are required to signal at least 100 feet before turning left or right.

No driver can suddenly stop or reduce the speed of their vehicle without first giving a signal. If a driver cannot use the turn signals in their vehicle, they should use the appropriate hand signals to indicate when they are changing lanes left or right or when they are stopping or decelerating the speed of their vehicle.

What Causes a Lane-Change Collision?

A collision might occur if a driver underestimates the space between two vehicles. If the driver fails to merge properly on a roadway after stopping or yielding, they can collide with another vehicle.

A lane-change collision can also be caused by:

  • Merging too slowly onto a lane compared to ongoing traffic
  • Speeding up to make a lane change
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Crossing multiple lanes at once
  • Bypassing other traffic to change lanes
  • Not checking side mirrors before merging
  • Changing lanes without checking blind spots
  • Low visibility from weather conditions like fog or heavy rain

Other situations can hold a driver liable for a lane-change collision. According to the Insurance Information Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these factors play a role in fatal collisions:

  • Driving over the posted speed limits
  • Alcohol or drugs
  • Refusal to yield right of way
  • Inability to stay in the proper lane
  • Reckless driving
  • Distracted driving

How Are Drivers Found to Be at-Fault for Lane-Change Collisions?

In a lane-change collision, the court will examine various evidence to determine who is at fault. This can be determined in multiple ways, including:

  • Witness testimony
  • Dashcam video footage
  • Black box or electronic data recording of the car’s speed and brakes at the time of the accident
  • Data of text messages or calls made by the driver while driving
  • Pictures of the damage to vehicles and the scene of the accident
  • Police report that includes all the details of the accident, including the road and weather conditions
  • Test results for alcohol, drugs, or blood
  • Traffic camera footage

What About California’s Negligence Laws?

Liability issues often complicate lane-change accidents. Even though the other driver may share some blame for the accident, the court may also examine your role in the accident based on evidence. You might be held liable if the other car changed lanes in front of you while you were texting.

This type of situation falls under the comparative negligence rule in California. If the court finds you were partially at fault for the accident, your share of fault will reduce the settlement amount. Furthermore, if a driver violates a statute, they are presumed to be “negligent per se” under California law. If a driver makes an unsafe lane change, they are negligent per se since the act violates a California vehicle law.

Contact the Accident Attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers

Talk with an experienced car accident attorney who can help you get answers to your questions about fault and damages after a collision caused by changing lanes. A car accident lawyer at Berg Injury Lawyers can investigate the facts of your case and work to protect your rights while helping you increase your chances for financial compensation.

Contact our legal team at Berg Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We can evaluate your case and let you know the best course of action in the future to ensure that you get the best outcome possible.

Originally published November 15, 2021.