Who is at Fault? Side-Swipe

As always when asking a fault question in Sacramento or Elk Grove CA the answer is “it depends.” I witnessed a side-swipe collision once and it made me think about how difficult it is to prove who is at fault when such a crash occurs. Without independent witnesses, it really becomes a “he said she said” situation.

We were approaching an intersection and a GMC moved to the left to get into a left turn lane. This person was about four car lengths ahead of me. But I guess she changed her mind because then she drifted back into the left most through lane. A Ford Taurus that was already there laid on the horn to warn the GMC. The GMC noticed and moved back completely into the left turn lane. Well, I don’t know what the GMC was thinking, but not a moment later, the GMC barrels over into the through lane and side swipes the Ford.

It was crazy. I don’t know if the GMC thought the Ford was slowing and was going to let her in or if she thought she was going faster than the Ford and had passed her completely. It was strange. I would never move my vehicle into another lane unless I was SURE I had enough room, behind me and in front of me. Because after striking the Ford, the GMC hit the rear of yet another vehicle.

So who’s fault is it? It seems pretty obvious that it’s the GMC’s fault, but an argument could be made that the Ford knew the GMC wanted over and should have made room. What level of responsibility do the vehicles around a lane changing vehicle have?

The answer is none. There is no vehicle code that creates an obligation to yield the right of way to vehicles changing lanes. If you have the right of way, it is yours. If they have the right of way, it is theirs. We certainly hope that people take turns and respond kindly in situations like this, but there is no legal violation if they don’t. The only time you have to take turns is when you see the traffic control sign that says “Take Turns”.

The proper thing for the GMC to have done is to just turn left and try to u-turn or make her way back to where she needed to be. Forcing a lane change where it’s not safe is the absolute last thing she should have done. I will have you know that I did stop and give my contact information to the driver of the Ford Taurus so that if there is any question of liability I can give my account. Independent witnesses are important in a case like this.

Laskin Balma Attorneys at Law in Sacramento and Elk Grove CA have worked with disputed liability cases for years and we know how to handle it. If you have been in a side-swipe collision and don’t know whether you are at fault or if your insurance company has wrongly denied your claim, please give us a call and we will try to help if we can.