- December 22, 2021
- Attorney David Mann
- Car Accidents
There are two reasons many car accident legal cases involve changing lanes. First, cars changing lanes creates a naturally higher risk of collision than cars driving straight down the road. Second, it can be difficult to prove what happened and who is at fault for the accident. Here are some ways to determine who is at fault in a lane-change accident.
Who Is at Fault in A Lane-Change Accident?
A lane-change accident follows the same law as other car accidents. Fault in a car accident is determined by negligence. Negligence is when someone has a duty to someone else and injures them by not meeting that duty. For example, drivers have a duty to drive safely, and causing an accident by failing to drive safely is considered negligence.
Fault in a lane-change accident does not depend on whether a driver got a ticket or not. The standards for a traffic ticket are different than the standards for a car accident lawsuit. A traffic ticket requires a breach of a specific traffic law statute. It can also be hard for an officer to have enough proof to write a ticket without having directly seen the incident.
If an officer does write a traffic ticket, it will often be useful evidence in proving negligence. However, the ticket must be related to the cause of an accident. For example, even if the driver that caused the accident had an expired license plate and got a ticket for it, having an expired license plate didn’t cause the accident. A ticket for something like an improper lane change or speeding would usually help show that the driver caused the accident.
Who Is at Fault in A Car Accident When Changing Lanes?
The person who was changing lanes will usually be at fault in a car accident involving lane changing. The car staying in the same lane generally has a right to continue in that lane. It’s similar to how a driver at a yield sign or stop sign needs to wait to have a clear path before they can proceed. Like any general rule, there can be exceptions.
- If a car speeds up to block another from changing lanes, that driver might have fault for a subsequent accident.
- If two cars are changing lanes at the same time, they might both have a duty to avoid the other. Fault may not be clear, or it might be shared between the two drivers.
- The car changing lanes may not be at fault if the other car did something else unsafe that led to the crash. For example, the driver who was changing lanes may have prudently checked to see that the lane was clear but not have been able to see a car approaching through traffic at more than twice the posted speed limit. In that situation, the speeding driver might be liable for the accident even if they never changed lanes.
Fault in an Improper Lane-Change Accident
Georgia has two main traffic laws regarding improper lane changes. If a driver violates one of these laws, they will usually be responsible for the accident.
Georgia Code Section 40-6-123 requires that a driver:
- Only change lanes when it is safe to do so.
- Use their turn signal before changing lanes.
- Not suddenly stop or decrease their speed after changing lanes.
Georgia Code Section 40-6-48 requires that drivers use traffic lanes as they are marked. It also requires that “a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.”
Other types of traffic violations that might be considered lane-change accidents include improper passing, improper use of turn lanes or emergency lanes, or otherwise changing lanes when not permitted to do so. Since these types of laws are usually intended to prevent accidents, it can be hard for a driver cited for a violation to try to argue that they weren’t at fault for the accident. Distracted driving is also a common factor in lane-change accidents since the distraction can make the driver less observant when changing lanes.
Fault for Unsafe Lane-Change Accident
There is not really a difference between an improper lane change and an unsafe lane change. Instead, these words might be used interchangeably. Unsafe lane change can also sometimes be more specific than improper lane change.
For example, it might be an improper lane change to change lanes before a no-passing zone turns into a passing zone. However, if a driver does so only a few feet from the end of the no-passing zone and has full visibility, this might not be unsafe in the eyes of most people.
On the other hand, there can be an unsafe lane change even where lane changes are technically allowed. For example, drivers can normally change lanes when there are dotted white lines. However, they still have to make sure it is safe to do so by checking for other cars before changing lanes. Whether you call a lane change improper, unsafe, or both, a bad lane change will often mean that driver is at fault for the accident.
Get Help from an Experienced Accident Lawyer
Lane-change accidents can be hard to prove because it’s often one driver’s word against the other’s. Unlike a stop sign accident, the damage to the cars may not clearly show who was changing lanes and who had the right of way. The experienced trial attorneys at Mann Law Firm can help you prove your claim and get the compensation you deserve. Call (478) 742-3381 to schedule a consultation.