Unsafe lane changes can be incredibly risky – for the motorist who is moving into the lane as well as for the motorists that are already occupying the lane. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that unsafe lane changes are responsible for more than 530,000 accidents – accounting for approximately 10% of all roadway accidents – every year.
When a motorist suddenly decides to move into a lane, the risk of a collision is very high, as they might momentarily lose control of their vehicle and collide with another vehicle which is already occupying the lane. In some cases, the motorist who is already occupying the lane might notice the oncoming vehicle and try to take evasive maneuvers, which in turn might cause them to lose control of their vehicle and collide with another vehicle or a stationary object.
Unsafe Lane Change Accidents – A Look at the Most Common Contributing Factors
Data shows that in a vast majority of cases, lane changing accidents are caused by the negligence of the motorist who is moving into the lane. Given below are the most common causes of lane changing accidents.
Failure to Check Blind Spots
The term blind spot refers to any area – directly behind or on either side of a vehicle – which is not visible to the driver. While rear-view mirrors and side mirrors can greatly reduce a vehicle’s blind spots, they cannot eliminate them altogether.
This is why motorists must look over their shoulders and check their blind spots before switching lanes. When they fail to do so, the likelihood of a collision increases considerably.
Drunk driving can increase the risk of vehicular accidents – including and especially lane change accidents – to a significant extent. A drunk motorist might not be able to judge the distance between their vehicle and the vehicles that are already occupying the lane, as a result of which they are more likely to a collide into another vehicle.
Alcohol is also known to affect motor skills, which means a drunk driver is more likely to lose control of their vehicle compared to a sober driver – especially while changing lanes.
A motorist is supposed to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel all the time. If they get distracted for any reason – eating, chatting with passengers, texting, or talking to someone on the phone – they are more likely to make a mistake that can result in an accident.
Especially, if a motorist gets distracted while changing lanes, they might fail to check if it is safe to do so and as a result might collide into another vehicle.
Unsafe Driving Habits
If a motorist drives in an unsafe or reckless manner, they are more likely to cause an accident, especially while performing risky maneuvers like lane changing.
Unsafe driving habits that can cause lane changing accidents include:
- Failing to signal before attempting to change lanes
- Attempting to change more than one lane at the same time
- Attempting to change lanes at a busy intersection
- Drifting into a lane in a reckless manner
Lane Changing Laws in New York
Section 1128 of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires motorists to check whether it is safe to make a lane change before attempting to do so. If they fail to do so, and if their actions result in an accident, they can be legally held responsible for resulting damages.
How to Determine Fault in a Lane Changing Accident in New York?
In most cases, the motorist who enters or merges into a lane will be held responsible for any accident resulting from their actions. This is because the motorist who attempts to change lanes is legally required to check whether it is safe to do so.
Even if a motorist believes that it is safe to enter or merge into a lane, they must use their turn signal to alert the motorists who are already occupying the lane. Failing to use the turn signal, especially while changing lanes, is considered a traffic violation in New York. So, in case of a crash or a collision, the merging driver will be held responsible for the resulting damages.
Comparative Negligence Doctrine in New York
Since 1975, New York has been following the comparative negligence doctrine for assigning liability in personal injury cases. Under the doctrine of comparative negligence, both parties involved in an accident can be held liable for the resulting damages, depending on the extent to which their actions contributed to the accident.
For instance, if two motorists attempt to change lanes at the same time – a practice commonly referred to as sideswiping – they can both be held equally liable for the accident.
Similarly, if a motorist who is already occupying the lane tries to prevent another motorist from merging into the lane, they can be held liable for the accident as well.
In these kinds of cases, the amount of compensation awarded to the victim will be reduced in proportion to the degree to which their actions contributed to the accident.
If, for example, you are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, and if you have been awarded $100,000, your compensation will be reduced by 20%, which means you will receive $80,000.
The comparative negligence doctrine makes it easier for lane change accident victims to sue the driver at fault, even if their own actions contributed to the accident to a certain extent.
In contrast, in states which follow the contributive negligence doctrine, if a victim is found to be partially at fault for the accident, they will lose the right to seek compensatory damages from the at-fault motorist.
Interestingly, prior to 1975, New York also applied the contributive negligence doctrine for personal injury cases. In 1975, it was changed into a pure comparative fault law, which is fair to all the parties involved in an accident.
Penalties for Unsafe Lane Changes in New York
If a motorist in New York attempts to change lanes in an unsafe manner and causes an accident, they can be held liable for the injuries and property damage resulting from the accident. In addition to this, they also have to face the following penalties.
- A fine of $150 (if it’s their first offense), a fine of $300 (if it’s their second offense within a span of 18 months), or a fine of $450 (if it’s their third offense within a span of 18 months)
- A state surcharge of $88 or $93
- Three points on the driver’s license
It should be noted that if a driver receives six points within a span of 18 months, they have to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee of $300. They have to pay $75 for every point they receive over six. If they receive 11 points within a span of 18 months, their driver’s license will be suspended.
Compensation for Victims of Lane Change Accidents in New York
If you are injured in a lane change accident as a result of another motorist’s negligence, you can seek compensation for the following damages.
- Medical expenses (the costs associated with surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, medications, and mobility aids)
- Lost wages
- Reduced income capacity, if you are left with a physical or mental disability which restricts your ability to work and earn money
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Diminished quality of life
How a Lane Change Accident Lawyer Can Help You
An experienced lane change accident lawyer can take care of all the legwork involved in filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party, including:
- Investigating the accident to find out who was at fault.
- Gathering the evidence needed to establish the at-fault motorist’s liability.
- Gathering the documentary evidence needed to support your personal injury claim, including your medical bills, prescriptions, physician’s report, and proof of lost income.
- Handling the paperwork associated with filing a personal injury claim.
- Negotiating on your behalf with the at-fault motorist’s insurance company for a settlement.
- Filing a personal injury case in a court of law to recover damages from the at-fault motorist.
Experienced Lane Change Accident Lawyers in New York
If you or someone in your family has been injured in a lane change accident in New York, the personal injury lawyers at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, LLP can help you.
Our law firm has been representing victims of vehicular accidents for nearly a century. Our attorneys have the skills, resources, and trial experience needed to establish the liability of at-fault motorists in personal injury lawsuits involving lane change accidents. We are proud to say that we have a 95% success rate and have recovered over one billion in compensatory damages for our clients over the years.
If you or any of your family members have been injured in a lane change accident, call us today at (212) 210-1615 to schedule a free consultation with one of our New York lane change accident lawyers. We can help you get justice and make sure you receive the compensation that you are entitled to.