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Who Is at Fault in a Car Accident Changing Lanes?

Colburn Law

Proving Fault in a Lane Change Accident


As drivers, it is important that we navigate the roads safely and pay close attention to other vehicles in our vicinity. This is especially important while changing lanes; it is very easy for a driver to experience a lapse in judgement or concentration, move to another lane, and crash into another vehicle.

If you experience injuries during one of these accidents, determining who is at fault can be a challenge. If you have been involved in a lane-change accident, contact our Seattle car accident lawyers today for a free case evaluation.

The Importance of Establishing Liability in Car Accidents

Washington follows fault-based insurance laws, which require all drivers to pay for the damages in accidents they cause. The state requires drivers to purchase minimum amounts of liability insurance to uphold this financial responsibility. If you suffer injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you have three options to seek compensation for your losses.

  • You can file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s company.
  • You can file an insurance claim with your own company, provided you have the appropriate coverage.
  • You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver in civil court.

In all three legal pathways, identifying a liable party is crucial to filing your claim. While there may be some exceptions, you usually cannot initiate the process until you identify who is responsible. When it comes time to prove your case, you will need to establish that the driver’s negligent actions breached his or her duty of care as a driver, and directly caused your accident and subsequent damages.

Liability in Lane Change Accidents

There are many ways a lane change accident can occur, and in most cases, liability likely falls with the driver who made the lane change. The most straightforward type of lane change accident involves a merging driver who fails to make the change safely and prudently, committing one or more of the following acts of negligence.

  • Failing to ensure the lane is clear before merging
  • Failing to signal the intent to change lanes
  • Merging on top of another vehicle
  • Failing to leave an appropriate amount of distance between vehicles
  • Failing to check mirrors prior to making the lane change
  • Driving while distracted
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving over the speed limit
  • Driving while fatigued

Merging Lanes & Driver Responsibility

It is always the responsibility of the merging driver to ensure that he or she can make a lane change safely. If the driver merges without ensuring that it is safe to do so and causes an accident, he or she is liable for victims’ damages.

There are some situations where both drivers may be responsible for a lane change accident. For example, you and another driver may attempt to merge at the same time, colliding into one another. In some cases, the merging driver who had a safe destination lane will have the right-of-way, and the other driver will be liable for the accident.

If neither driver had a safe opportunity to make the lane change, both drivers may be partially liable for the damages. The insurance company may dismiss your claim if it believes you may be liable for the crash. If you are filing a lawsuit, Washington’s pure comparative negligence laws will apply, and the court will reduce your award by the amount of liability you share.

Hiring an Attorney for a Lane Change Accident

Lane change accidents can be very complicated. as soon as possible. Your Seattle personal injury lawyer can investigate your claim and gather evidence to prove the at-fault driver’s liability while protecting your right to compensation. As soon as you receive medical attention for your injuries, speak to your lawyer about your legal options.