Understanding Fault for Lane Change Accidents

Understanding fault for lane change accidents

Many drivers change lanes without really thinking about it, but changing lanes while driving requires caution and a driver’s complete attention. An unsafe lane change may happen when a driver is distracted or doesn’t check their mirrors or use their turn signal before changing lanes. This could result in a serious car accident.

So, what happens when an accident occurs during a lane change? Who can be held liable for your injuries and damages?

In this post, we’ll take a look at West Virginia driving laws and aid you in understanding fault for lane change accidents.

West Virginia Driving Laws

Generally, a merging driver must yield to the right of way to anyone already in the lane they’re planning to move into, and they must wait for a safe opening in the flow of traffic. If a driver doesn’t use their turn signal or check their blind spots, it could lead to a collision.

While West Virginia doesn’t have any specific statutes or laws regarding lane changes while driving, WV Code 17C-7-9 states that a vehicle should drive entirely within a single lane and shouldn’t move from that lane until the driver has made sure it’s safe to do so.

Based on the information in that statute and general safe driving rules, most drivers who are merging into a new lane would be held at fault for an accident that happens. However, in some circumstances, that may not be the case.

Tort and Modified Comparative Fault

West Virginia is a tort state in that if another driver is found to be at fault, they are responsible for the damages and injuries their actions caused. However, we are also a modified comparative fault state, meaning that you may share fault for an accident you’re involved in, but as long as your percentage of fault is less than 50%, you can still file a claim for compensation.

In that vein, if two drivers are merging into a new lane at the same time and a collision occurs, then both drivers share fault for the accident and damages. Additionally, if a driver in the “new lane” acts in a reckless manner, exhibits road rage behavior such as speeding up or blocking the other car from entering the lane, or is distracted, then the driver within that new lane may be held at a higher percentage of fault. This is why it’s so important that you gather as many details as possible after your accident, such as a police report, witness statements, and photos.

Factors That Help To Determine Fault

Determining fault after a lane change accident can easily be a complex process. After your accident, investigators and insurance adjusters may ask the following of you and the other driver involved:

  • Were you speeding?
  • Did the lane-changing driver use their signal?
  • Did your vehicle experience a malfunction, such as brake failure or a broken turn signal?
  • Were you using a cell phone or otherwise distracted?
  • Did the lane-changing driver check their mirrors and blind spots?
  • What were the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident?

Questions like those above help to set the scene after the fact in order to determine who was at fault for the accident. Additionally, your lawyer or insurance adjuster may gather the police report (if there is one), witness statements, surveillance from nearby cameras, and any photos or notes taken of the scene of the accident.

The bottom line is that unsafe lane changes are a breach of traffic laws, and the driver breaking those laws should be held accountable for their actions. If you’ve suffered injuries due to an unsafe lane change that resulted in an accident, you may be able to bring legal action against the other driver for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and more.

A competent Charleston car accident attorney will understand how lane change crashes occur and how liability is typically determined in them. So, consider reaching out to us at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC to learn more about fault and whether you’re entitled to receive compensation for your losses.