Car accidents occur in Texas for many reasons, including distracted driving, speeding and following too closely. One of the most common types of accidents, however, is the lane-change accident. A car accident while changing lanes can lead to a complicated insurance process. Determining fault and liability for a lane-change accident may require an in-depth investigation into which driver was in the wrong.
Assigning Fault in a Car Accident Involving Changing Lanes
If you live in a no-fault state, you may not need to determine who is at fault for a car accident while changing lanes. In no-fault states, all injured parties will seek benefits from their own insurance providers, no matter who was at fault. Texas, however, is a fault state. This means you must assign fault before you can file an insurance claim.
Lane-change accidents are notoriously complex when it comes to determining fault. In general, the fault will go to the driver who broke a roadway rule, breached his or her duties of care to the other driver, or failed to yield the right-of-way. These are common mistakes that commonly cause auto accidents in Texas. Determining fault in a lane-change accident takes investigating who bore the right-of-way at the time of the crash. One driver had the right to be in the lane while the other driver did not.
Determining the Right-of-Way
Right-of-way refers to the legal authority to proceed along a specific route. What establishes the right-of-way in a particular situation is Texas law. When it comes to merging or changing lanes, Texas Transportation Code 545.060 gives the right-of-way to the driver already occupying the lane. It states that all operators must keep to single lanes, and may only move from the lane if they can do so safely.
The driver in the destination lane (Driver A) will always bear the right to proceed over a driver trying to switch lanes into the destination lane (Driver B). It is Driver B’s responsibility to make sure he or she can change lanes or merge onto a highway in a way that is safe. Driver B must take due care to safely complete the maneuver, such as using a turn signal, checking rearview mirrors and ensuring the lane is clear before moving. The right-of-way going to the existing driver means the Driver B will be liable for a lane-change accident, in most cases.
Did the Driver Obey Texas Laws for Changing Lanes?
In determining fault for a lane-change accident in Texas, investigators will need to figure out who broke a roadway law in making an illegal or unsafe maneuver. Investigators may look at police reports, photographs, video surveillance footage, eyewitness statements and testimony from experts to determine fault. In general, the driver making the lane change will be responsible for the wreck for not making sure the lane was clear before moving. In some cases, however, the driver in the destination lane could be at fault.
Driver A could bear fault for a lane-change accident if he or she intentionally sped up or hit the brakes to prevent Driver B from changing lanes. Speeding, weaving through traffic, motorcyclist lane-splitting and not using headlights at night are also examples of negligence that could make Driver A responsible for a lane-change accident. If Driver A was lawfully in a lane and had the right-of-way, however, Driver B would most likely be liable for making an unsafe lane change.
Sometimes, two drivers merge into the same lane at the same time, causing a collision. In this case, fault could go to one or both drivers. The driver who entered the lane last would most likely take responsibility; however, both drivers may bear a percentage of fault for the crash. Since lane-change accident claims can be especially difficult to navigate in Texas, contact an attorney to help you determine fault. A Houston car accident lawyer can help you fight for fair compensation.