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How to Tell Who Is At Fault For a Side Swipe Accident

Steven Matz
April 1, 2024 | Car Accident

Key Takeaways:

  • Sideswipe collisions are dangerous motor vehicle accidents often leading to serious injury.
  • Motorists and their passengers may sustain injuries including but not limited to TBI, spinal cord injuries, permanent scarring, internal bleeding, and other serious health conditions.
  • Drivers neglecting to make lane changes safely are usually to blame for a crash, but this can sometimes be difficult to prove.
  • Motorist behaviors frequently leading to sideswipe accidents include unsafe lane changes, distracted driving, DUIs, road rage, and poor road conditions, to name a few causes.
  • Working with an experienced Michigan car accident attorney can help you obtain compensation to cover the cost of your injuries and other losses you suffer.

Sideswipe car accidents occur more often than you might think. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 830,000 sideswipe accidents in 2021, accounting for 13% of all traffic crashes.

Sideswipe accidents may not look as severe as a fender-crumpling collision, but the vehicle occupants on the sides of the vehicles getting swiped in traffic accidents are at risk of critical injuries.

What is a Sideswipe Collision?

A sideswipe accident is when two vehicles traveling in the same direction collide when one makes a lane change. It can occur by shifting to either the left or the right, but the outcome will be the right vehicle impacting the left side of another.

Side-impact crashes can be very dangerous, especially when occurring on roadways permitting higher speeds, such as interstates or other local highways. Both cars are usually taken by surprise, so drivers do not have much, if any, time to react. In 2022, sideswipe accidents was the 4th most common type of car accident.

2022 michigan car accident type statistics

If the other driver is at fault for the accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the driver, insurance company, or another 3rd party.

How is Fault Determined in a Michigan Sideswipe Accident?

All motorists have a duty to safely travel in their chosen lane and not switch lanes until safe to do so. In most cases, the car leaving its lane while traveling is typically the at-fault party. At-fault drivers usually fall into one of the following scenarios.

  • Failing to thoroughly check blind spots
  • Drifting into another lane due to distractions
  • Failing to make certain their vehicle has enough room to shift lanes
  • Neglecting to use turn signals to show an intention of changing lanes
  • Driving at high speeds
  • Engaging in reckless driving
  • Failing to use headlights when appropriate
  • Not taking weather or road conditions into consideration
  • Cutting off other drivers due to road rage or other reasons
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Drivers who do not make certain a lane change is safe are most often to blame, but this can be difficult to prove. Additionally, sometimes the not-at-fault party may share blame, depending on their own behaviors.

  • Speeding up as another car changes lanes in front of them
  • Slowing down when a vehicle changes lanes behind them
  • Acting in ways consistent with distracted driving
  • Missing other driver’s cues or signals
  • Purposely preventing the other vehicle from entering their lane

Additionally, a merging vehicle should yield to other vehicles. In areas where a highway lane ends, it can be difficult to do if other cars speed up while the car running out of lane must merge or act in a way that prevents a vehicle from joining the existing lane.

Common Causes of Sideswipe Accidents in Michigan

If one vehicle merges or shifts into the other vehicle’s lane, colliding with another car, this can cause one or both drivers to lose control of their vehicles, resulting in secondary crashes into other cars, guard rails, or even off the road completely. Common causes of sideswipe accidents in Michigan include the following reasons.

  • Texting or talking on the phone while driving
  • Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes
  • Being distracted by GPS navigation
  • Adjusting music or climate controls
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Driving while drowsy or tired
  • Zoning out due to distractions or preoccupations
  • Road rage
  • Distractions from children or pets
  • Tire blowouts
  • Sliding on wet or icy roads

As you can see, some sideswipes truly occur by accident or are unavoidable, while others are completely preventable.

Pay Attention To All Vehicles Involved

If you experience a sideswipe accident, pay close attention to the vehicles involved. Most Michigan motorists will deny fault, so you will need to gather evidence to prove your case.

  • Eyewitnesses to the accident (obtain their contact information)
  • Video evidence from any cameras in the area (highway, dash cams, businesses, etc.)
  • Observe if any other drivers appear intoxicated
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Common Injuries From Sideswipe Car Accidents

Sadly, many common injuries motorists and their passengers suffer after a sideswipe accident are very serious and/or life-altering. Injuries may be permanent or need significant rehabilitation to recover. Common injuries in sideswipe collisions include:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Neck injuries
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Back injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts, lacerations, scrapes, and bruises
  • Burns
  • Organ damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Permanent scarring
  • Death

If you experience a sideswipe crash, you should seek medical care as soon as possible, even if you feel fine after the impact. Many common injuries are not outwardly visible and can lead to serious complications if the accident victim does not receive appropriate medical attention.

How a Michigan Car Accident Attorney Can Help

Grey sedan with damage to the front quarter panel

Sometimes, it is difficult to determine the at-fault vehicle in sideswipe accidents, and Michigan’s no-fault approach to insurance is complex. Your lawyer can help you in several ways throughout the difficult aftermath of a car accident. You can expect your Michigan car accident attorney to:

  • Examine the details of your case
  • Explain your legal rights
  • Assess your injuries and evaluate property damage
  • Provide legal advice about your options
  • Look at medical bills and vehicle damage to assess your losses
  • Gather evidence, including eyewitness testimony, police report, photos, video, and other evidence to support your auto insurance claim
  • File Michigan’s required paperwork for PIP claims
  • Negotiate with insurance companies
  • File a third-party insurance claim if you meet eligibility criteria
  • Pursue a personal injury claim in court, if necessary
  • Represent you in court

Victims without legal representation often receive denied claims or offers undervaluing their claims. Your lawyer will advocate for you to prevent insurance companies from taking advantage of you, improving your chances for compensation.

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Why Clients Choose Matz Injury Law

Matz Injury Law puts your needs first. Our Southfield law firm is known for listening to our clients and working with them to get the best possible outcome. To date, we’ve gotten over $300 million in settlements for our clients, including a $3.45 million settlement in Genessee County when a truck crossed into oncoming traffic, causing serious injury and death.


“Steve was outstanding from the first telephone conversation all the way through until he settled my case at an amount that exceeded my expectations. He is a consummate professional and a compassionate attorney, and I would highly recommend him if you ever find yourself in need of a personal injury attorney.” — Sharyn G.

“Jared and his team are amazing! They navigated through a massive amount of paperwork and dealt with an auto insurance company. I never could have done it on my own! Thank you Jared MATZ!” — Clark S.

We Stay By Your Side

Suffering a Michigan auto accident is a traumatic experience, and it’s common for victims to have difficulty making decisions or following through the important steps necessary in the aftermath of a crash. Insurance companies are notorious for trying to devalue the losses suffered by accident victims, and if they appear friendly, know they aren’t on your side.

Matz Injury Law will stand right by your side throughout the entire process. Our personal injury lawyers will work hard on your behalf to get you the needed amount of compensation to cover your losses. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 1-866-22Not33 or fill out our online contact form.

Frequent Answered Questions

If Two Cars Merge Into the Same Lane in Michigan, Who is at Fault?

Proving fault in this scenario can be difficult. It may be determined one or both drivers are at fault. Your attorney can assess the situation and present a strong case.

How Do You Prove Someone Sideswiped You?

Proving another motorist caused your side-impact accident will involve examination of both cars and the accident scene.

  • Dents, scratches, and scrapes along each car’s side
  • Damage patterns
  • Presence of inanimate objects, such as guard rails or a wall
  • Yaw marks from the tires might determine the location of initial impact

Additionally, the presence of any inanimate objects, such as guard rails or walls, where the other driver was over-correcting or swerving too quickly to avoid collision can be an indicator of fault.

Where Do Side-Impact Crashes Usually Occur?

It’s common for sideswipes to commonly occur during lane changes on roadways, such as interstates or expressways, where vehicles move at high speeds.

Why Are You More Vulnerable in a Side-Impact Crash?

Occupants of cars experiencing side-impact accidents are usually more vulnerable because there is less to protect them, only the door/window as opposed to the front end or trunk areas to bear some of the car crash.

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Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

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