A sideswipe collision set off a chain-reaction crash involving six vehicles in Kitsap County. According to a news report of the Tuesday afternoon accident that occurred on State Road 303, a vehicle was traveling southbound and had entered the turn lane when it sideswiped two vehicles and rear-ended another. The vehicle that got rear-ended was pushed into the intersection, where it was struck by a fourth vehicle. The driver who caused the accident then struck a fifth vehicle while attempting to make a left-hand turn at the intersection. Three people were injured, including the at-fault driver, and the intersection was shut down for about three hours after the accident.
Sideswipe collisions can range from minor, property damage only accidents to major crashes, depending on the circumstances. If you’ve been injured in this type of accident, an experienced car accident attorney at Boohoff Law can provide details on the process of obtaining compensation that can help cover expenses such as medical treatments, missed work, and pain and suffering.
What Is a Sideswipe Collision?
A sideswipe collision is an accident in which the left side of one vehicle makes contact with the right side of a vehicle traveling alongside it in the same direction. Sideswipes may also involve the two vehicles traveling in opposite directions on a roadway where there is no median to separate the directional travel lanes, or a driver may sideswipe a parked vehicle or other stationary object. According to the National Safety Council, around 27,000 injuries and 2,500 fatalities occur each year due to this type of accident. One aspect of sideswipes that make them particularly dangerous is that they generally take both drivers by surprise, creating a situation in which neither driver has time to react or take evasive measures to avoid the collision.
11 Causes of Sideswipe Accidents:
- Inattention. A driver fails to look before changing lanes.
- Bad timing. Two drivers attempt to enter the same lane of travel at the same time.
- Distractions. A driver is busy texting, eating or drinking, visiting with other passengers, or is otherwise distracted and drifts into another lane of travel. The owner of a Seattle-based body shop stated that there was a jump in the amount of work coming into his shop after the state’s distracted driving law went into effect, due to people holding their phones low as they texted while driving so that any nearby officers wouldn’t see them texting. The law went into effect in 2017, and prohibits drivers from holding their phones while driving, even if stopped in traffic. The law also prohibits eating or applying makeup while driving.
- Alcohol impairment. Alcohol impairs the skills that one needs for the safe operation of a motor vehicle, including the ability to maintain one’s own lane. A man was found guilty of murder in the deaths of a father and son. The man’s vehicle sideswiped the vehicle occupied by the father, son, and two of their family members. The force of the impact pushed the father and son’s vehicle into a center divider. The car then flipped over the center divider into oncoming traffic, and was struck by other cars. All four occupants died as a result. The convicted man had fled the scene but was later found by law enforcement. It was determined that his blood alcohol content was .19 four hours after the crash, which is more than twice the legal limit. It was estimated that his blood alcohol content was likely around .24 when the accident occurred.
- Blind spots. Commercial trucks, in particular, have significant blind spots on all four sides. If a car enters the truck’s blind spot in an adjacent lane, the truck driver may be unaware and may change lanes without realizing that it is unsafe to do so.
- Objects in the road. A driver may swerve to avoid hitting an animal or object and wind up sideswiping a vehicle in an adjacent lane instead. This is particularly true in accidents involving a wrong way driver. Another driver may attempt to avoid having a head-on collision with the wrong way driver by veering into an adjacent traffic lane and—if one happens to be there—into another vehicle, as well.
- Driver fatigue. Drowsiness has similar impacts to one’s driving skills as alcohol impairment, including an increased risk of drifting out of one’s lane of travel.
- Over-correcting after making a driving error, which could cause you to leave your lane of travel.
- Speeding, which reduces a driver’s ability to maintain control of his or her vehicle and also reduces the time he or she has to react appropriately and responsibly to hazards on the roadway. A lengthy police chase involved a suspect sideswiping multiple vehicles as he attempted to evade authorities. Officers first came in contact with the suspect as they were responding to a domestic violence incident at an apartment complex. The man had reportedly attempted to kidnap his girlfriend from her apartment. She was able to escape to a manager’s office and call for help. The man fled when officers arrived, driving erratically from the Eastside through parts of South Seattle. In addition to sideswiping two vehicles, the man also attempted to carjack another vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light before police closed in and arrested him.
- Attempting to complete a turn in a lane alongside another turn lane, when one driver either fails to complete the turn safely or is unsure of which traffic lane he or she is supposed to turn in to.
- Inclement weather. Icy or wet roads can cause vehicles to slide out of their lane of travel, increasing the potential for a sideswipe accident.
Who Is Liable for a Sideswipe Collision?
Washington traffic law states that a vehicle must remain in a single lane of travel until the driver has determined that he or she can safely change lanes. What this means is that, if the accident occurred because one driver changed lanes without looking, swerved into an adjacent lane, or drifted into one, he or she is liable for the accident that is caused. In cases where two vehicles attempted to move into the same lane of travel at the same time, liability for the accident may fall on both drivers.
When examining the facts of your case, to determine liability, your car accident attorney will look who was in the lane first, whether the driver properly signaled his or her intention to change lanes, and whether there were other factors such as alcohol impairment or fatigue that could indicate negligence and provide a basis for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
Injuries Associated With Sideswipe Accidents
The unknown factor makes sideswipes dangerous, as does the location on the vehicle in which the collision takes place. The sides of vehicles often lack the protective features of other parts of the car. While individuals are somewhat insulated from the energy of a frontal crash due to the engine and airbags, and from the energy of a rear crash by the trunk, there is little to insulate the side of the vehicle. Because of this, injuries are often severe for occupants sitting on the side of the car that was hit. Additionally, the impact experienced by a sideswipe may lead to a chain reaction situation in which the vehicle collides with other cars on the roadway, objects such as trees or fences beside the roadway, or may even roll over during the accident.
Injuries may also be more serious if there is a significant size mismatch in the vehicles involved. For example, a sideswipe accident involving a commercial truck and a small passenger car will likely result in severe injuries to the passenger car occupants due to the size discrepancy. That said, some of the common injuries associated with sideswipe accidents include:
- Whiplash, due to the violent back and forth motion of the head and neck due to the collision.
- Broken bones, particularly arms, legs, hands, and feet on the side of the vehicle that is struck.
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Lacerations and penetrating injuries caused by glass or metal from the side of the car.
How to Avoid a Sideswipe Accident
There is no way to control all of the factors that may lead to an accident. However, you can control your own driving behaviors to prevent dangerous sideswipe collisions by doing the following things:
- Change lanes safely and legally. Signal your intention to change lanes at least 100 feet—or at least five seconds—before doing so. Check your mirrors and scan the lane you’re wishing to enter over your shoulder to ensure that there is a sufficient gap in traffic in which to do so.
- Don’t drive while impaired by alcohol or while extremely tired. Cut down the distractions that draw your focus away from the task of driving.
- If you notice that a driver in an adjacent lane is likely going to change into your lane, you should slow down to allow the driver enough room to execute the lane change safely.
- Don’t linger in the blind spot of any vehicle, particularly a commercial truck. Remember that if you cannot see the image of the truck driver in his or her side mirror, chances are he or she cannot see you either.
- Attempt to build a cushion of space around your vehicle, positioning yourself so that no one is directly in front, behind, or alongside you. This allows you the space to execute a collision avoidance maneuver if necessary.
- Scan, scan, and scan some more. Be fully aware of the roadway around you and the vehicles that are also occupying the same area of that roadway. Surveillance is the key to avoiding sideswipes and other types of accidents.
- Maintain a safe speed to maintain your lane. Speeding makes it more difficult to maintain a lane and control of your vehicle.
- Remain visible to other drivers. For drivers of passenger cars, this means using your headlights at night and always using your turn signals to communicate your intentions. For motorcyclists or bicyclists—both of which can also be the victims of sideswipe accidents—your visibility to others can be improved through bright or reflective clothing, and accessory lights.
- Slow down on wet or icy road conditions to avoid sliding out of your lane of travel.
- Use caution when turning, particularly alongside other turn lanes and when turning alongside a commercial truck. Commercial trucks require extra space to complete the turn. Be mindful of that and slow down to allow the truck to complete its turn. Ensure that you’re turning into the proper travel lane.
- Use caution when driving past parked vehicles, including emergency vehicles rendering aid to other motorists on the side of the road. Many sideswipe accidents are caused due to a distracted driver failing to be aware of hazards not only in his or her own travel lane, but on the shoulder of the road or in parking lanes, as well.
Injured in a Sideswipe Accident? Steps You Should Take
If you were injured in a sideswipe accident, speak to an accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can advise you about filing a third-party insurance claim, whether you’re eligible to obtain compensation through a personal injury lawsuit, whether there are potentially other liable parties and insurance resources available, and can provide answers to all of your legal questions about your accident and injuries. Other things you can do following an injury accident include:
- Obtaining a copy of the police report, names of witnesses, copies of medical bills, auto repair bills, and other evidence that may be needed in your case.
- Avoid speaking to an insurance claims adjuster or signing any official statement or settlement offer without first talking to your attorney, as you may inadvertently agree to something or provide a statement that is not in your best legal interest.
- Avoid posting about the accident on social media, as your posts may be used against you.
The best thing you can do, after seeking medical care, is to call a car accident lawyer who can help you figure out whether you can recover compensation to pay for your injuries and other damages. Most offer a free consultation and case review, so you can call with nothing to lose.
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