Did a sideswipe collision injure you? A sideswipe collision can involve much more than a simple bump between vehicles. These crashes can severely damage automobiles and cause life-altering injuries to occupants. A violent sideswipe collision can turn a person’s life upside down in the blink of an eye, leaving them in need of financial accountability and justice from the driver at fault.
Drivers need to understand what causes sideswipe accidents, the possible consequences of these crashes, and what legal rights accident victims may have to recover compensation for their expenses and losses.
A car accident attorney can also help you obtain financial recovery after a crash someone else caused. An attorney can explain your options, investigate your case, document your losses, and handle the insurance companies and defense lawyers on your behalf.
What Is a Sideswipe Collision?
A sideswipe collision is a type of motor vehicle crash in which the side of one vehicle collides with the side of a second vehicle. In some cases, sideswipe collisions involve the sides of both automobiles scraping against one another. In others, the impact is more direct. Sideswipe collisions frequently occur on the highway as drivers negligently merge or attempt to change lanes.
While some sideswipe collisions only result in vehicle damage, others cause the vehicles to bounce off one another and impact other cars, run off the road, or strike guardrails or other fixed objects. A sideswipe collision may also cause a vehicle to roll over. In such cases, sideswipe collisions can lead to potentially life-threatening injuries.
Sideswipe Collision Statistics
The National Safety Council estimates that 257,000 sideswipe accidents resulted in injuries in 2020. These crashes resulted in an estimated 371,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths.
The California Highway Patrol provided the following statewide sideswipe accident statistics:
- A total of 40,478 sideswipe collisions occurred statewide
- 2,381 sideswipe collisions occurred between moving and stopped vehicles
- 1,605 collisions occurred due to a vehicle making a right turn
- 2,409 collisions occurred due to a vehicle making a left turn
- 328 collisions occurred due to a vehicle making a U-turn
- 750 collisions occurred while one vehicle passed another vehicle
- 5,860 collisions occurred due to lane changes
- 615 collisions occurred due to a vehicle entering traffic
- 300 collisions occurred during merging
- 525 collisions occurred due to a vehicle crossing into the opposing lane
- 110 collisions occurred while a vehicle traveled the wrong way
Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions
Most sideswipe collisions occur due to unsafe lane changes caused by a driver failing to signal or check their mirrors and then attempting to move into a lane already occupied by another vehicle.
However, numerous other factors can cause or contribute to sideswipe collisions, including:
- Reckless driving, including darting between lanes to weave through traffic
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Drowsy or fatigued driving
- Distracted driving, especially using a cell phone behind the wheel
- Failure to yield the right of way, including failing to yield when merging onto the highway or failing to yield to faster-moving traffic
- Driver inexperience, including unfamiliarity with the rules of the road
- Limited visibility due to nighttime or adverse weather conditions
- Vehicle defects
- Inadequate vehicle maintenance, including failing to fix broken mirrors or turn signals
- Poor road conditions, including hazards that cause a driver to swerve out of the way and potholes that can cause a car to jump into another lane
Who Can You Hold at Fault for a Sideswipe Collision?
One or more drivers involved in a sideswipe collision will usually bear responsibility for the crash.
Other parties you could potentially hold at fault for a sideswipe collision include:
- The at-fault driver’s employer when an employee causes an accident while on the job
- The vehicle’s owner (if not the driver)
- Auto mechanics who perform negligent maintenance that leads to the accident
- Auto manufacturers or auto part manufacturers who may have liability for a sideswipe accident caused by vehicle defects
- The government entity that designed or maintained the roadway, if something inherent to the road contributed to the crash
Determining who is at fault for a sideswipe collision often requires reviewing different pieces of evidence, such as:
- Police accident reports and driver crash reports
- Accident scene photos and videos
- Surveillance/traffic camera footage
- Vehicle event data recorder (“black box”) logs
- Eyewitness testimony
- Driver cell phone records
- Vehicle maintenance records
- Post-accident inspection or repair reports
- Accident reconstruction expert reports
The determination of fault may impact your financial recovery after a sideswipe collision. For example, California follows the pure comparative negligence rule in accident lawsuits. This rule, which applies in cases involving multiple at-fault parties, assigns each such party liability for an accident victim’s losses in proportion to their percentage of fault for the underlying accident. The rule also applies when an injured victim shares some fault for causing their injuries.
An accident victim can still bring a legal claim even if they have some share of fault for the crash. However, they will have liability for a share of their losses in proportion to their percentage of fault.
What Should You Do After a Sideswipe Collision?
Steps you should take after suffering injuries or vehicle damage in a sideswipe collision include:
- Report the accident to the authorities by calling 911 or the police’s direct number or filing a crash report with the California DMV.
- Take photos and videos of the accident scene as soon as possible, ideally right after the crash.
- Seek prompt medical attention from paramedics at the scene or by going to the hospital or your doctor. That way, medical professionals can identify the injuries you sustained in the crash.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s treatment plan and instructions. Do not put off or give up on your medical care or rehabilitation.
- Keep any bills, invoices, or receipts of expenses you incurred due to the crash.
- Gather your pay stubs, income statements, or tax returns to calculate your wage losses after you miss work or suffer a reduction in your earning capacity.
- Start a journal to document the pain and difficulties you experience due to your injuries, impairments, or medical treatment.
- Refrain from posting about the accident or your injuries on social media. Do not post photos and videos of yourself while still undergoing treatment for your injuries or pursuing your insurance or legal claims. Insurance companies and defense attorneys can use anything you post to undercut your claims.
Finally, speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as you can to start pursuing compensation.
Options for Financial Recovery After a Sideswipe Collision
A sideswipe collision can cost you significant financial losses due to property damage and injuries. Fortunately, you might have several options for recovering compensation for those losses.
First, you may have coverage under your car insurance policy, particularly if you have:
- Med-Pay coverage. Med-Pay coverage provides money to help pay for expenses resulting from injuries, including medical bills, regardless of who caused the accident.
- Collision coverage. Collision coverage will cover the cost of repairs to your car or reimbursement of the value of your car if the cost of repairs exceeds its fair value.
- Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage. These coverages protect you if the other driver does not have sufficient insurance to pay for your losses. It effectively replaces the coverage that the other driver should have but does not.
You also have the right to file a car accident injury claim against the driver responsible for the sideswipe collision for all financial and personal losses you incurred due to the accident.
You may also have a claim against the driver’s employer if the accident occurred in the course and scope of the at-fault driver’s employment. You could also have a claim against any other persons or business entities whose negligence or legal fault contributed to the accident.
How Much Compensation Can You Recover in a Sideswipe Collision Claim?
A financial recovery in a sideswipe collision claim can provide you with money for expenses and losses such as:
- Car repairs and rental vehicle expenses
- Reimbursement of your vehicle’s value after the insurance company deems your car a total loss
- Medical and rehabilitation expenses, including ambulance services, emergency room care, hospital care, surgeries, prescription medications, doctor’s appointments, and physical therapy
- Long-term care expenses to help with permanent disabilities, including home health services or home renovations to install disability accommodations like wheelchair ramps or grab bars
- Lost wages/income after missing time from work during your injury recovery
- Lost future earning capacity and job benefits caused by disabilities that prevent you from returning to the workforce
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and distress from your injuries, recovery, or disabilities
- Lost enjoyment and quality of life due to disability or permanent scarring/disfigurement
No attorney can promise you will recover a particular sum through a settlement or verdict.
Your financial recovery will depend on various factors, including:
- The severity of your injuries
- Whether you suffer temporary or permanent disabilities that interfere with your ability to work
- The availability of insurance coverage, including applicable coverages in your car insurance policy
- The number of injured victims and at-fault parties
- Whether you bear any fault for the accident
- The strength of your legal case
The Statute of Limitations on Sideswipe Collision Lawsuits
Every state limits the time to file a lawsuit after a sideswipe collision. For example, in California, the statute of limitations on personal injury claims gives you only two years after a sideswipe collision to file a lawsuit or three years to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for property damage.
In addition to the statute of limitations, you should also keep in mind the notice deadlines if the sideswipe accident involved a collision with a local or state government vehicle. The California Tort Claims Act requires you to notify the relevant government agency of your claim within six months of the accident.
Failing to file your claims on time under the statutes of limitations or the Tort Claims Act may result in the permanent dismissal of your case and the loss of your opportunity to recover compensation for your injuries and losses. For that reason, you should not delay preparing your case and working with an attorney to explore your legal options.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help You?
After a sideswipe accident, you deserve the freedom to focus your time and energy on your physical and mental recovery. Working with a car accident lawyer will allow you to pursue medical treatment and rehabilitation while an experienced legal advocate fights to secure the compensation you need and deserve.
A car accident attorney can help you following the crash by:
- Investigating the accident to secure evidence from the scene, including obtaining surveillance/traffic camera footage or interviewing eyewitnesses to the crash
- Working with expert witnesses to determine the cause of the accident and to identify the driver and other parties who bear liability for your losses
- Documenting the injuries and expenses you sustained due to the accident, including calculating future medical expenses and lost income
- Discussing your legal options with you and preparing you for what to expect during the claims process
- Putting your insurance and legal claims together and filing them on your behalf to begin vigorously negotiating for a maximum settlement for you
- Filing a lawsuit to pursue your claims in court and at trial to demand a fair result for you from the at-fault driver and other liable parties
A Bakersfield personal injury lawyer can help give you peace of mind knowing that you have someone working to protect and advocate for your rights and interests.