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Sideswipe Collisions

A sideswipe collision is one where a vehicle hits or swipes another on the side. In almost all sideswipes, the cars are both traveling in the same direction and in adjacent lanes. But, a car can potentially swipe another going the opposite direction as well, if they are on a narrow one-lane road and one is traveling too close to the lane divider or goes over it.

Because the accident is a swipe, a passing blow, they may seem less dangerous than other types of vehicle accidents, like head-on or broadside collisions. However, a sideswipe collision could cause severe injuries or death. While some sideswipes are mild, others can be hard enough to knock a vehicle into the next lane, where they run the risk of impact with another vehicle. This is especially likely if the sideswiped vehicle is much smaller than the other one.

Sideswipes can also knock affected vehicles into road dividers, barriers, trees or other obstacles, or off the road entirely. All of these could result in serious accidents. An affected vehicle might also hit a bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian because of a sideswipe.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, sideswipes are the inciting event in 2.7 percent of deadly car accidents. If you or a loved one have been in a sideswipe collision, contact a car accident attorney today and discuss your rights under the law.

Who May Be Responsible for Sideswipe Collisions?

Sideswipe collisions often stem from driver error. The most common cause is one vehicle trying to change lanes and either failing to check for other vehicles, or checking but failing to see the other vehicle because of a blind spot. They may also happen as a result of a failure to indicate the intention to change lanes.

Other factors can play a role in sideswipes as well. Drivers may sideswipe another vehicle because they are driving while intoxicated (DWI), which affects a driver’s attentiveness, judgment, reflexes, and prudence. Drowsy driving or falling asleep at the wheel, even for only a few minutes, can cause the affected driver’s vehicle to veer from their own lane. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in 25 drivers report that they have fallen asleep while driving within a 30-day period.

Distracted driving, in which a driver’s attention or focus is on factors other than the road and driving, can also contribute to careless actions that result in a sideswipe or to failing to stay in the driver’s lane.

Finally, road rage may be a factor in some sideswipe collisions. Road rage is a form of extreme aggression directed toward other drivers, either for perceived poor driving or slights. A driver may deliberately swipe another vehicle as a result of anger.

What Are Common Injuries From a Sideswipe Collision?

The injuries one can suffer from a sideswipe depends on the severity and the trajectory of the vehicles afterward. Obviously, a bump can result in cuts and bruises, while a car knocked off the road and over a cliff can result in death.

As a result, sideswipes can cause a wide variety of injuries, including:

  • Broken bones
  • Sprains
  • Lacerations (cuts)
  • Contusions (bruises)
  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal injuries
  • Burns
  • Scarring/disfigurement
  • Coma
  • Death

Who May Be Responsible for a Sideswipe Collision?

When one or more vehicles collide, the party or parties responsible are generally the ones that caused the collision. In other words, if you were sideswiped by a driver who did not look before trying to merge into your lane, that driver may be held responsible. The same is true of a driver who did not check the blind spot properly before changing lanes, or someone who was driving while intoxicated, drowsy, distracted, or engaging in road rage.

Why? All drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers and the public, to try to operate their vehicles in a safe and prudent manner. The standard is based on actions a reasonably prudent person would take. For example, a reasonably prudent person would drive safely, under the circumstances, and obey traffic laws.

If a driver violates the duty of care and causes a collision with resulting injuries, the party may have acted negligently. A negligent party could be held liable, or financially responsible, for the damages that the negligence has caused.

Bear in mind that not all accidents stem from driver error, including sideswipes. A problem with the steering column or elsewhere in a vehicle, for instance, may make a vehicle difficult or impossible to drive safely. If manufacturing issues or defects cause an accident, the manufacturer may face liability. If poor or incomplete repair caused the accident, repair shops may face liability.

What Damage Compensation Could I Receive as a Result of My Injuries?

Those injured by a negligent party can typically seek justice in the form of relevant damage compensation. The categories follow below:

Economic Damages

  • Medical expenses, both current and expected. These include charges for doctor’s appointments, hospitalization, surgery, emergency services and ambulances, diagnostic testing, prescription medication, physical rehabilitation, and assistive devices like wheelchairs.
  • Lost wages, both current and expected, if your injuries or treatment has caused you to lose work.
  • Loss of future earning capacity, if you can’t work at the same job you had before the accident.
  • Property damage, such as a vehicle or items in the vehicle.

Noneconomic Damages

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life, if you can no longer enjoy activities you enjoyed before the accident.

What Are My Damages Worth?

The damages that injured parties seek and receive vary according to the degree of injury and its impact on your life. There is no one-size-fits-all, where you would receive a certain amount of compensation for a sideswipe collision, regardless of your injuries.

Damage awards are determined in several different ways. For existing economic damages, the total amount is added together. For medical expenses, for example, the damage award sought is equal to the total amount you paid. For wages lost from work, the damage award sought is equal to the amount of time you could not work, multiplied by your wages.

If your injuries are sufficiently severe that you are likely to need medical treatment or time off work in the future, expert testimony is often required. Your car accident lawyer may use expert testimony about your rehabilitation, treatment needed in the future, recovery time, and any amount of expected future disability to help determine the likely treatment and effect on your work life. The expected future amount of bills is used to calculate medical expenses. The expected time lost from work is used to calculate future income.

If you cannot go back to work at your former occupation, expert testimony could also be used to calculate your expected lifetime wages and payment for disability.

The calculation of noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, is a bit more complicated because it is more subjective. The more serious the injury, the higher the amount of compensation you might collect.

The seriousness is often determined by looking at the expected recovery and recovery time, and the impact on the injured person’s life. For example, a sprained ankle may cause pain initially and heal fairly quickly, carrying no long-term consequences.

However, If the injured person suffered a TBI, the medical costs and wages lost from work might climb much higher. A TBI is potentially a catastrophic injury, one in which the person’s life will never be the same. Some TBIs result in permanent cognitive or brain impairment or other serious and life-long injuries. This may result in a need for specialized care over the course of the injured person’s life. In that case, you might expect more compensation than from a sprained ankle.

What Should I Do if I Am Sideswiped?

If you are in a sideswipe collision, move immediately to a safe position, where other cars cannot hit you. Your safety is the first consideration.

Do not leave the scene unless you are severely injured. The law requires that everyone involved stop and render aid if an accident hurts or kills someone or damages property. The fact that some sideswipes are minor does not alter this law; it applies no matter how minor the injury or damage.

The law also mandates that you report any accident, in which someone is injured or killed, to law enforcement. Accidents causing property damage to the extent that a driver can no longer normally and safely drive the car also fall under this law.

The one exception to these laws? If you are seriously injured and emergency responders take you to the emergency room. Never refuse to go if EMTs say you should. Make your health and safety your first consideration.

If you are not seriously injured, wait in a safe place for law enforcement to come. Officers will put together an accident report after speaking to everyone involved and take notes on the scene. When they talk to you, tell them fully and clearly what happened.

Get a copy of the accident report. This can help establish what caused the accident.

Exchange contact information with all other drivers. Get and give insurance information, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers.

If you have a smartphone with you, it is a good idea to take multiple pictures of the accident scene. Your goal is to gather photographic evidence of what happened and the consequences of the accident. Take pictures of the vehicles, the road, the site of impact, and anything that could indicate cause, such as broken side view mirrors or skid marks.

If you have a smartphone and good lighting, you should also take pictures of your injuries. If you are eligible to seek compensation, insurance companies and courts require evidence of the extent and nature of your injuries. Bruises fade and cuts heal, so take pictures while the injuries are fresh.

If eyewitnesses saw the event, get contact information from them as well and take notes on what they saw.

Once law enforcement indicates that it is okay to leave, you can leave. Have a friend, family member, or ride service pick you up if your car is not safe to drive.

Then, always see a doctor or go to the emergency room, so a doctor can check you out for any injuries. Do this regardless of whether you feel you suffered an injury. Many serious injuries, such as TBIs, may not feel like anything to you right away. You need a medical professional to check for injuries.

Whether you were taken to an emergency room or see a doctor after leaving the scene, it is important to keep all records and follow all medical advice. If you are prescribed medication, for instance, fill the prescription as soon as possible and take it as recommended.

The primary reason to see a doctor and follow all medical advice is to make sure you are treated appropriately. But there is a second reason, too. Insurance companies might make it seem as if your lack of urgency to see a doctor, or to follow the recommendations, mean that you were not hurt as seriously as you were. The defense may try to use those actions against you. Make sure they cannot.

How Do I Seek Damage Compensation?

Injured parties can seek justice in two ways. The majority of states have fault systems for car accidents, meaning that injured parties are free to seek redress from at-fault parties (In no-fault states, by contrast, you must approach your own insurance companies first).

The first way is to approach the at-fault party’s insurance carrier directly. These claims are known as third-party claims. The second way is to bring a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.

Both methods offer compensation in the categories discussed above. However, insurance companies may pose more difficulties than a personal injury suit. Insurance companies often do not offer to pay what your claim may be worth, because it could affect their bottom line.

The smart move is to contact an experienced vehicle accident attorney, who could negotiate for a just settlement with the insurance companies or bring a suit in court.

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