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Who Is At Fault In A Car Accident Changing Lanes In California

There are plenty of relatively routine actions that drivers perform on the roadway that are also incredibly dangerous. One of those actions is changing lanes. While most of us probably change lanes without thinking twice about the mechanics and processes behind doing so, the reality is that this is a fairly dangerous procedure with plenty of failure points along the way. Here, we want to discuss who may be at fault for a vehicle accident caused by changing lanes in California.

Assigning fault for a lane change accident

Just like any other vehicle accident, an accident involving a lane change will usually result in a responding police officer citing a driver for the incident. In some cases, more than one driver may contribute fault, but in varying degrees. This can all become very confusing when it comes to securing compensation through an insurance settlement and might be best to hire a car accident attorney.

The reality is that drivers owe a duty of care to others around them. This means that every driver is responsible for operating their vehicle safely at all times. This is particularly true when changing lanes. When a driver needs to make a lane change, they need to activate their turn signal in the direction that they wish to go. This gives adequate warning to all other drivers about the impending lane change. However, simply activating a turn signal does not give a driver the right to change lanes whenever they want. The driver wanting to make the lane change must check their surroundings, including their mirrors and blind spots, to make sure that they can safely change lanes.

There are various ways in which a driver changing lanes could be at fault. This could include:

  • If the driver did not activate their turn signal before changing lanes and collided with a vehicle in the other lane.
  • If the driver failed to check their mirrors or blind spots, preceded to change lanes, and struck another vehicle.
  • If the driver crossed multiple lanes of traffic at once without stopping in each individual lane and signaling their intention to change into another adjacent lane.

In most situations, any vehicle that enters a lane that is already occupied by another vehicle and strikes those other vehicles will be at fault for the incident. However, there are some scenarios where more than one driver could be at fault, including:

  • If both drivers attempted to change lanes at the same time, resulting in a sideswipe or side-impact collision.
  • If either driver exhibits unlawful behavior, such as reckless, distracted, or impaired driving.
  • If a vehicle already in a lane experiences some type of vehicle failure, including faulty headlights or faulty brake lights, that could mislead other drivers.
  • If a driver rear-ends somebody who has already completed a lane change, which could indicate that they were driving too fast for conditions.

Merging into traffic

There are various scenarios where a driver may have to merge into traffic, particularly when going from a city street onto a highway. In these cases, drivers entering the highway will have to yield to other vehicles already on the roadway. Any driver wishing to merge must activate their turn signals and wait until there is traffic opening large enough for them to merge into. In some cases, this requires vehicles wanting to merge coming to a complete stop while they wait for a clear path. Oncoming drivers are not responsible for slowing down or changing lanes themselves to allow for easier merging.