Lane change accidents are a common occurrence on southern California roadways and can result in significant harm to the involved parties. Determining who is liable in these situations is crucial for a fair resolution, whether that involves an insurance claim, litigation or an actual trial. In this article, we provide an overview of the legal landscape surrounding lane change accidents in California and how liability is typically determined.
Basic Principles: Duty of Care and Negligence
The law imposes a "duty of care" upon all drivers, meaning that one must operate their vehicle in a manner that is reasonable and safe to avoid causing harm to others on the road. Failure to fulfill this duty can result in negligence, which is a fundamental concept in establishing liability for an accident.
The California Vehicle Code: Section 22107
California Vehicle Code Section 22107 sets forth the general rules for making lane changes. The code specifies that a driver should only change lanes when it is safe to do so and after giving appropriate signal. Violation of this provision may be strong evidence of negligence on the part of the lane-changing driver, which could significantly impact the determination of liability.
California adheres to a "pure comparative negligence" system. This means that if both drivers contributed to the accident, liability would be apportioned according to the percentage of fault assigned to each party. Even if one driver is found to be 99% at fault, they may still recover 1% of their damages from the other party.
To determine liability, you'll need substantial evidence. This can include:
Police Reports: These often contain a preliminary assessment of fault. Though inadmissible in a trial, police report findings on fault tend to be highly persuasive to insurance companies.
Eyewitness Testimonies: Independent accounts can help corroborate your version of events. These are most persuasive when they come from third party witnesses who were not in your vehicle at the time of the crash.
Traffic Cameras or Dash Cams: These can provide objective records of the incident, helping to clarify fault.
Event Data Recorders (EDRs): Modern vehicles often contain EDRs that record data such as steering wheel movements in the seconds before a crash. This information can be instrumental in establishing whether a vehicle had initiated a lane change.
Expert Witnesses: Accident reconstruction experts can help determine fault based on skid marks, vehicle damage, and other physical evidence.
Insurance Company's Role
After an accident, the insurance companies involved will conduct their own investigations to determine fault. It is vital to approach these dealings cautiously, as statements you make can be used against you. Consulting with an experienced attorney can provide you valuable insights into effectively navigating these interactions.
If you’ve suffered damages as a result of a lane change accident, you may be entitled to various forms of compensation, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An experienced attorney can guide you through the complex legal landscape to help you obtain the justice you deserve.
Determining liability in a lane change accident in California involves a complex interplay of laws, evidence gathering, and interactions with insurance companies. A careful and methodical approach is critical in ensuring that justice is served and that you are adequately compensated for your losses.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a lane-change auto accident, contact Phillips & Associates for a free consultation today. You will immediately be put in touch with John Phillips or Patrick DiFilippo, who can help determine whether you have a case and advise you on the best course of action moving forward.