Who is at Fault in a Car Accident While Changing Lanes?

by Eric Chaffin | Last Updated: April 27, 2021

Just about every motorist has experienced the panic that comes when another driver makes a sudden, dangerous move into their lane. Brakes are slammed, horns are honked, and if luck is on your side, a serious accident is narrowly avoided.

Who is at fault in an accident while changing lanes? This raises several important questions that are best answered by a Pittsburgh car accident lawyer. They will look at some of the variables including blinker use, distraction, weather conditions, excess speed, and possible negligence– when determining the at-fault party.

Establishing liability in an auto accident is crucial when it comes to securing compensatory damages for medical bills, lost income, property damage, disability, and related losses.

These can be recovered through an insurance claim or by filing a personal injury suit. However, you must be able to prove that the other driver was negligent or reckless when making a lane change and that this action caused you to suffer harm.

Comparative negligence laws in PA

If the Pennsylvania court finds that you are partially responsible for the lane-changing accident, then your damages will be reduced accordingly by that percentage. For example, the total settlement is $80,000, but you were going over the speed limit, thus contributing to the crash. You are assigned 30 percent fault, so your final payout is $56,000.

Establishing liability in a lane change collision takes an in-depth investigation and a deep understanding of state law. You can optimize your chances of a successful recovery by working with us.

Our legal team is sensitive to the problems and stressors of car accident victims. We work rigorously to build the strongest case possible for you. Our Investigations may show, for example, that the other party was on their cell phone just seconds before they moved into your lane or driving under the influence.

Establishing who was at fault

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles, vehicles that are already in the lane– always have the right of way. In this way, it is the merging vehicle that is almost always at fault for the accident. This is because the driver who is changing lanes has a duty to ensure it is safe to do so.

Pennsylvania Code § 3334 spells out lane-changing rules more clearly:

  • “Upon a roadway, no person shall turn a vehicle or move from one traffic lane to another or enter the traffic stream from a parked position unless and until the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this section.”
  • “At speeds of less than 35 miles per hour, an appropriate signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning…The signal shall also be given prior to entry of the vehicle into the traffic stream from a parked position.”

What defines ‘reasonable safety’?

What circumstances are considered “reasonably safe” for making a lane change? First, drivers must have ample space to maneuver into the lane without risking an accident. Several car lengths are considered safe, if less, it could be deemed unreasonably dangerous. Drivers are also obliged to signal the lane change well in advance, so surrounding vehicles are aware of their intentions.

Your attorney will also look at other factors that can influence your claim:

  • Traffic rules where the crash occurred
  • Inclement weather that could’ve impaired visibility
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Evidence of road rage
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Unsafe or poor road conditions

Contact us today for a free consultation

An accident can have a lasting impact on the quality of your life. If you were involved in a lane-changing accident, you need sound legal guidance. We collaborate with industry experts to determine legal responsibility and have a proven record of winning personal injury claims.

We listen to your concerns, provide realistic counsel, and can help you get the money damages to which you are entitled. Discuss your options with a Pittsburgh personal injury attorney from our team. The initial consultation is free, and there are no fees unless a recovery is made in your case.