Lane changes can be dangerous, and if you recently suffered an injury from an accident that occurred while changing lanes, you may wonder who is liable and a skilled West Virginia car accident lawyer can help. Ultimately, the driver changing lanes is responsible for ensuring a safe change. A driver should engage the turn signal and check rearview mirrors and over the shoulder before changing lanes. Some factors may mitigate the lane-changing driver’s liability, but they can be difficult to prove. When a vehicle enters a lane of traffic, the driver is responsible for any damage that results from his or her entrance into that lane.

Determining Fault for a Lane Change

In almost every car accident claim involving a lane change, the driver who made the lane change that led to the accident will likely absorb the bulk of the liability for the resulting damages. In rare cases, two drivers in adjacent lanes have managed to crash while attempting simultaneous lane changes. In a sideswiping incident, the two drivers would share liability for the incident in a 50/50 split. If an investigation can’t determine the exact positions of two vehicles in a sideswipe accident, each driver will receive 50% of the fault for the crash.

The driver who executes a lane change that results in an accident may also avoid full liability if the other driver was engaged in any illegal or unsafe behavior at the time. For example, if the other driver was texting while driving and not paying attention, the driver who made the lane change may argue that the texting driver could have avoided the accident but failed to do so because of the distraction. The lane-changing driver could establish a similar defense against a driver who was excessively speeding, driving aggressively, deliberately interfering with the lane-changing driver’s maneuver, or driving under the influence of alcohol.

Negligence and Compensation

When a car accident claim reveals shared fault between a plaintiff and defendant, state law determines how to proceed. Some states follow contributory negligence laws that bar plaintiffs from recovery if they share any fault for a claimed event. Other states use a comparative negligence system to assign fault to each party based on their level of responsibility for the damages in question. For example, if a driver caused an accident while changing lanes but the other driver involved was speeding and texting while driving, the judge overseeing the case may decide to split fault between both drivers because it would be very difficult to accurately determine each driver’s exact level of responsibility.

If one driver is clearly more at fault than the other, a comparative negligence law would allow a plaintiff to recover damages less his or her percentage of fault for the incident. For example, a plaintiff found 30% at fault in a $100,000 case would lose 30% of the case award. Some states allow plaintiffs to recover compensation even if they are 99% at fault, while others use a modified comparative negligence law that only allows a plaintiff to recover if his or her fault was less than the defendant’s. A plaintiff 50% or more at fault for an incident would not be eligible to recover damages.

Any driver who recently experienced an accident while executing a lane change should speak with a personal injury attorney in West Virginia as soon as possible. Although the driver who executed the lane change will likely absorb some level of liability for the damages, an attorney can help an injured driver determine whether another driver is more liable for the accident. Police reports, traffic camera data, and eyewitness statements can all play a crucial role in a lane-changing accident case, and an attorney can help you gather the evidence you need.