Establishing fault in a car accident is usually one of the first things that people want to do after getting into a crash. But usually fault is harder to establish than one might think. Many questions can be asked from “was a blinker used?” to “was someone speeding?”. In lane-changing accidents, speed, blinker use, distance, distraction, or negligence in another way can all come into play when determining liability.
According to Findlaw, a negligence claim in a lane-changing accident would include elements such as:
- Duty: Did the other driver owe you a duty of care to drive responsibly?
- Breach: Did the other driver fail to meet this duty, by changing lanes too abruptly or without looking?
- Causation: Were you injured as the result of the other driver’s lane change, and were your injuries the fault of the car accident, and not something some other cause?
- Damages: Can you document your injuries, through medical records, medical expenses, or evidence of emotional distress?
In Florida, the lane-changing law, Statute 316.085 states that:
No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless authorized by the provisions of this chapter and unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction of any vehicle overtaken. In every event the overtaking vehicle must return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and, in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle.
No vehicle shall be driven from a direct course in any lane on any highway until the driver has determined that the vehicle is not being approached or passed by any other vehicle in the lane or on the side to which the driver desires to move and that the move can be completely made with safety and without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the same direction.
What this means is that in Florida, don’t switch lanes until you reasonably see it is a clear coast, or you might be considered partly at fault. Photographs, witnesses and police reports are definitely needed to strengths your liability case.