Sideswipe, “side-swipe,” or “side-to-side” accidents occur when two vehicles travel in the same direction on a multiple-lane road, and the driver of one of the vehicles makes a lane change without seeing the other vehicle that is already traveling in that lane.
In many cases, damage to the negligent driver’s vehicle occurs to the side doors and quarter panels. For this reason sideswipes are commonly known as “blind spot” accidents.
Sideswipe accidents also occur when a driver oversteers or takes action to avoid more serious head-on or side-impact accidents.
The damages from a sideswipe accident might be small, but a sideswipe can also cause a chain-reaction collision that results in serious property damages and bodily injuries to multiple vehicles and their occupants.
While the vehicles involved in a sideswipe accident may only be in contact for a fraction of a second, when the vehicles are traveling down a road at high speed (even within legal speed limits) even a slight impact may initiate a complex interaction of forces. The impacted car can be knocked off the road into a stationary object such as a utility pole, tree, traffic bollard, or even into another moving vehicle.
Common causes of sideswipe collisions
In many cases, a driver making an improper lane change causes a sideswipe accident. In other words, a sideswipe accident occurs when one driver tries to change lanes while another driver is already in the lane and in the way.
Nevada traffic laws expressly require all drivers to take the following steps before moving from one lane of traffic to another:
- Check oncoming traffic using both rear and side-view mirrors;
- Signal traffic–i.e., turn on your blinkers before changing lanes–at least 10 car lengths (100 feet) when traveling on city streets or 30 car lengths (300 feet) on highways or freeways;
- Check any blind spots by looking over the shoulder; and
- Never change lanes while in an intersection.
A driver who causes a sideswipe accident by failing to follow these common sense rules of the road can be held liable for any losses sustained by other drivers or passengers.
In some cases, a driver causes one accident in order to avoid another. Imagine that a driver is forced to take sudden action to avoid a head-on collision with another car.
In this example, the driver is able to avoid the much worse head-on collision but nevertheless still causes a sideswipe collision with the same car or another vehicle (such as a vehicle to the right of the driver) because of jerking the wheel or otherwise oversteering.
Liability for a sideswipe accident
While a “sideswipe” may not sound as serious as a head-on collision or a side-impact collision, a sideswipe collision can still do significant damage to the vehicles involved and their occupants.
Any case that results in bodily injury should be taken seriously.
In most cases, sideswipe accidents are the result of simple carelessness, for example a driver not checking his or her mirrors before making a lane change.
However, an investigation may be necessary if there are no clear contributing factors or if the facts are in dispute.
You cannot assume that a judge or jury will accept your version of events that the other driver was at-fault. Any evidence that can help establish a negligent driver’s liability can prove critical in recovering the full amount of damages for the victims of a sideswipe accident.
Many defendants — and all insurance companies — will have their own attorneys making their cases. You should have your own attorney to fight for you in representing your interests.
An attorney with resources can conduct examine all of the possibilities to discover the cause.
Injuries from sideswipe collisions
In most cases, the property damage sustained in a sideswipe accident is not as severe as that sustained in other types of car accidents.
Nevertheless, the impact can still cause severe bodily injuries because the jerking mechanism of the impact is unexpected. The shoulders and neck may be especially vulnerable to injury from a sideswipe.
Insurance companies are particularly resistant to paying claims based on injuries sustained in sideswipe accidents. They can argue that the impact forces from a sideswipe are not as severe as those from for example T-bone or head-on collisions and could not have cause the injuries for which a claim is being made.
In these cases, a biomechanical expert can investigate, research, and analyze the circumstances of the accident to causally link the accident to the injuries.
Your accident attorney should understand the physics involved in a sideswipe accident to understand the arguments made by the insurance company and to make successful counter-arguments.