Sideswipe Car Accidents: What to Know About Getting Sideswiped


Jan Reburiano

A speeding driver exhibiting negligence may not view the other vehicles while they’re merging lanes. You might’ve been caught in the reckless pathways of a negligent driver, causing a sideswipe car accident. The financial and emotional losses are devastating, but you can still recover with the right legal representation.

There have been 950 people killed in sideswipe car accidents in 2020 alone. This guide covers general facts on sideswipe crashes, but legal guidance specific to your type of car accident requires an auto accident attorney.

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What is a Sideswipe Accident?

A sideswipe accident is caused by two cars hitting each other’s sides while traveling in the same direction. This typically occurs when drivers are merging and changing lanes, not paying attention to other drivers doing the same.

The National Safety Council found that 1,600 sideswipe accidents resulted in death in 2021. Not only are sideswipes fatal, but they can cause significant property damage when losing control of your vehicle. Minor injuries like whiplash may occur when the crashed vehicles suddenly decelerate.

How Do Sideswiped Car Accidents Happen?

Sideswipe car accidents often happen due to a lack of awareness while merging lanes. The at-fault driver may have not viewed their surroundings, ignoring your turn signal before hitting your vehicle. They may have glanced away from the road to look at their cell phone, crashing into you without looking.

The NHTSA published a study in 2009 called Analysis of Lane-Change Crashes and Near-Crashes that studies the driving habits of 241 drivers. They found that:

“Glances away from the forward roadway greater than 2s were shown to increase crash risk by at least two times.”

-National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

They also found that most people who almost sideswept a vehicle failed to view their “side-view mirrors, side windows, and center mirrors” before switching lanes. A variety of factors could contribute to a driver’s lack of attention to their forward and surrounding roadway. This may include:

  • Distracted driving: Using their phone, eating, grooming, any preoccupation that distracts someone from the act of driving.
  • Driving while intoxicated: Falling under the influence of alcohol on the road accounted for 13,384 deaths in 2021.
  • Fatigued driving: When fatigued, you’re less attentive to the road in front of you as well as your surroundings. This increases your likelihood of sideswiping someone when changing lanes.
  • Reckless driving: Forcing yourself to change lanes to pass other drivers will make you less careful on the road, creating a sideswipe.

If you find yourself on the receiving-end of a sideswipe accident, it’s important to contact an attorney to represent you. They know how to analyze your situation to know who’s at-fault, and how much you’re able to sue for damages.

Common Injuries From a Sideswipe Car Crash

A sideswipe car crash may involve heavy injuries like broken bones and neck injuries on-impact. This is due to the barrier between the driver and their environment being much thinner on the sides of a car compared to the front and back.

There’s also the risk of drivers over-responding to the sideswipe, losing control of their vehicle, and causing an even more serious accident. They may swerve back and forth in response to the sideswipe, causing a head-on collision or a rollover accident.

What to Do After a Sideswipe Vehicle Collision

The first thing to do after a sideswipe vehicle collision is to remain calm. Have both parties pull over to the side of the road if possible. Do not flee from the scene, unless you’re prepared to face a hit-and-run charge in your state.

Call the authorities to make sure the accident is reported, while taking a police report for your attorney’s future use. If anyone requires immediate medical assistance, don’t hesitate to call 911 as soon as possible.

Exchange information with the other driver to let each other’s insurance companies know of the accident. Record info like:

  • License plate number
  • Auto insurance of the other driver
  • Drivers license number
  • Phone number, name, and other personal info

Keep the conversation cordial and friendly; do not apologize or use language that would incriminate you in a court of law.

After exchanging info, take pictures of the damages caused by the sideswipe, including the damage to surrounding vehicles and property. Any eyewitness accounts will also make determining fault much easier for everyone involved. This is especially vital if your accident involved more than two vehicles.

After clearing from the scene, record all of the medical bills, repair costs, and other fees associated with the sideswipe. This makes tallying up the damages much more manageable for your total settlement.

Who is At-Fault in a Sideswipe Accident?

The driver merging to another lane without proper indication like turn or hand signals is at-fault in a sideswipe accident. Most states like California dictate that cars travel in a single lane until it is safe to merge. Florida Statute 316.089 and many other state statutes require the following:

“(1) 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.”

Florida Statutes Title XXIII. Motor Vehicles § 316.089

Each state differs in their car accident laws, so it’s important to get expert legal counsel in your area for your specific case.

What If You’re Partially At-Fault?

It is possible for both drivers to be at-fault for the sideswipe car accident. To determine fault, you need to know your state’s negligence laws and how it affects your liability.

That’s where an auto attorney specialized in your state shows their worth. They know how your accident interacts with the comparative, contributory, or pure negligence laws in your area. There are some states that allow you to receive a settlement despite partially causing the accident. Know your specific percentage of fault with an attorney.

How to Tell Who Sideswiped Who

Professionals can tell who sideswept who by looking at the damage to each driver’s vehicle as well as their surroundings. Specific dents, scrapes, and scratches leave a pattern after a sideswipe accident. By looking at the shape of these damages, experts can accurately determine who hit who first, properly assigning liability.

Paint is also transferred when two cars hit each other’s side. Experts can find traces of the other car’s paint and match the pattern between both vehicles. The car with the matching paint is often the one at-fault for the sideswipe accident.

If experts have access to pictures of the scene, they can also tell who sideswept who through debris found on the vehicles after the crash. The more debris found in one vehicle while the other one remained intact suggests that a sideswipe took place. They can also tell which lane the sideswipe took place in, further helping liability.

Gathering as many pictures as possible, even of debris found on the road, can help with determining fault. Further evidence may help authorities determine if another accident, like a rear-end or head-on collision, took place. Eyewitness accounts and video surveillance provide another layer of objective evidence, strengthening your case.

Potential Damages In Your Car Accident Claim

You may have suffered serious economic damages after a sideswipe accident. Objective losses like:

  • Medical bills
  • Repair fees
  • Lost past and future wages
  • Damaged or lost property

These types of losses can be easily calculated and accounted for through the help of your attorney. Non-economic damages, however, are harder to quantify. These are the more emotional, non-tangible losses you sustained from an accident, like:

No type of loss is always more damaging than the other; it depends on your case entirely. Find an attorney who can accurately calculate both economic and non-economic damages so your settlement properly covers your losses.

When Can I Sue for Sideswipe Car Accidents?

The time in which you can sue for an auto accident is called the statute of limitations. This deadline usually starts at the date of the accident and runs for a certain period of time. The statute of limitations for sideswipe accidents depends on your state and may be changed according to your case.

Make sure to file your case before the statute of limitations ends. If you miss the deadline, your case will be barred from further review. File with an auto accident attorney as soon as possible so your evidence stays fresh and relevant for review.

Find an Auto Attorney For Your Sideswipe Claim With LegalASAP

Finding a trusted auto accident attorney is crucial to the success of your case, as well as your overall settlement amount. Accepting the first offer from an insurance company will almost never give you the max settlement you qualify for.

A sideswipe accident may leave you with overwhelming fees with little to breathe. Make sure an attorney is there to help you through, so you’ll leave the situation holding the negligent driver responsible.

LegalASAP has a 500+ law firm network located in the United States, ready to assist you in your time of need. To contact a legal representative as soon as possible, call 888-927-3080 or fill out the short evaluation form below.

Jan Reburiano is a content writer and SEO specialist for law firms focusing on personal injury, disability, employment law, among other practices. He has written and edited numerous articles and created commercial spots for broadcasters that you can find in his LinkedIn. Jan currently lives in Los Angeles, California while writing for clients from around the United States.