We may associate sideswipe collision accidents with relatively minor vehicle damage like scrapes, dents, and missing trim. Most of us do not think of these collisions as potentially catastrophic and deadly incidents, but some are.
Side-to-side collisions between vehicles can lead to horrific crashes that leave victims seriously or fatally injured. In this blog post, we explore these accidents in detail and describe the ways you can protect your health and your rights if you fall victim to one.
Causes of Sideswipe Collisions
According to Popular Mechanics, more than 840,000 sideswipe accidents occur annually in the United States due to vehicle blind spots.
While blind spot-related accidents play a role in sideswipe accidents, the other causes include:
Driver inattentiveness – We have all witnessed drivers who fail to pay attention to the road ahead while they comb their hair, take a call, send a text, or fiddle with the radio. Drivers who allow distractions to pull their attention away from driving safely often drift out of their lanes and into the paths of other vehicles, heightening the risk of sideswipe collisions.
Road-raging drivers – Road raging drivers put other drivers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bike riders in harm’s way by allowing their anger to influence the choices they make behind the wheel. Many of the erratic driving behaviors associated with road rage can lead to dangerous sideswipe collisions, including illegal passing, speeding, not giving other motorists room to maneuver, and intentionally running other drivers off the road.
Drivers operating under the influence – Drugs and alcohol slow driver response times and make them less likely to make safe decisions behind the wheel. A driver under the influence may, for example, misjudge what constitutes a safe distance between vehicles or may struggle to drive in a lane, which can easily lead to a sideswipe collision.
Merging without caution – Failure to yield the right of way leads to many sideswipe accidents, particularly at points where roads merge. Drivers tend to make this mistake through inattention or aggressiveness, or failure to clear their blind spots.
Drowsy driving – Truckers, overnight workers, and others who have not had sufficient sleep risk dozing off while driving. In seconds, a drowsy driver’s vehicle can leave the travel lane and sideswipe another vehicle.
This is not a complete list, of course. No matter what scenario leads to a sideswipe collision, victims can suffer serious injuries that disrupt their lives. An experienced car accident injury lawyer can help those victims obtain the compensation they deserve from the at-fault parties.
Common Sideswipe Collision Accident Injuries
A sideswipe accident involves an impact between the side of one vehicle and the side of another. Sometimes, that impact can cause serious vehicle damage and injuries to passengers in its own right.
Sometimes, however, the impact strikes a glancing blow that, while doing relatively minor damage to the vehicles, causes one or both drivers to lose control. After the initial sideswipe impact, vehicles can spin or veer from their lanes and end up in secondary collisions. Those secondary collisions represent the biggest danger of sideswipe collisions and may cause the worst injuries.
Those injuries can include:
Back and spinal cord injuries, which cause paralysis, chronic pain, and loss of mobility, and can cost millions of dollars to treat over a lifetime.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) that inflict physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments, any of which can defy treatment and exact an extreme emotional toll on victims and their families.
Amputated and crushed limbs, often resulting from a limb becoming pinned under or inside a vehicle that crashes in a secondary accident.
Burns that inflict agonizing pain, cause a high infection risk, and leave victims to live with painful, disfiguring scars.
Broken bones and orthopedic injuries that, while they may eventually heal, keep victims out of work and often lead to long-term physical disabilities.
These are just some of the potential injuries a victim of a sideswipe collision accident can face. No matter what kind of injury your sideswipe car accident caused you or a loved one, an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer can fight to make sure you recover compensation for the harm you suffered.
Seeking Compensation for Sideswipe Collision Accidents
Any person, company, or government agency responsible for causing a sideswipe collision can face legal liability for the harm victims suffer because of it. However, obtaining the compensation victims deserve from a party at-fault for a sideswipe accident takes the skill and experience of a car accident injury lawyer. Here’s why.
Determining Legal Liability for a Sideswipe Collision Accident
Victims of sideswipe accidents often assume that the other driver whose vehicle collided with theirs should have financial responsibility for their damages. In many cases, they are right. However, that assumption may not capture the whole picture. Multiple parties could face legal liability for causing a sideswipe accident.
They frequently include:
- Drivers, who (as we mentioned above) will face liability if their dangerous decisions or actions behind the wheel led to a sideswipe crash;
- Employers of drivers who crash a work vehicle;
- Automotive manufacturers, if a defective product they made and sold malfunctions and contributes to the cause of a sideswipe collision accident;
- Bars and restaurants that sold alcohol to a visibly intoxicated customer who then drove and caused a sideswipe collision; and
- Local and state government agencies and contractors responsible for designing, building, and maintaining safe roads, if a preventable and unreasonably dangerous road condition contributed to a sideswipe crash.
Experienced lawyers for sideswipe accident victims frequently investigate a crash to identify all parties whose unreasonably dangerous decisions and actions contributed to it. The more parties who bear financial responsibility for victims’ injuries, the better victims’ chances of recovering the compensation they need and deserve to pay for treating their injuries.
Evaluating the Harm Done by a Sideswipe Collision Accident
Obtaining full and fair compensation for a sideswipe crash victim also requires a thorough understanding of how the accident affected the victim’s life.
Although every case is different, skilled car accident injury lawyers will usually explore the following categories of damages and assign a dollar value to each to reflect the harm done to the victim.
Medical expenses the victim incurred for treatment of the injuries suffered in the accident, including costs of emergency care, hospitalization, doctor visits, long-term care stays, therapy, medication, and medical equipment;
Non-medical expenses the victim had to pay to adapt to or live with crash injuries, such as the cost of hiring services to help with day-to-day responsibilities like childcare or transportation;
Lost income, both past and future, that the victim could not earn because the injury kept the victim out of work and/or unable to work;
The victim’s physical pain, emotional suffering, reduced quality of life, and damaged personal relationships resulting from the sideswipe collision accident and injuries; and
In some cases, punitive damages that punish and deter extremely reckless or outrageous conduct that caused a sideswipe crash.
Only by evaluating the categories of damages can a victim’s car accident lawyer know how much money the victim has the right to recover. Determining this number ensures that the victim obtains full and fair compensation.
Taking No Fault Insurance Into Account
Insurance laws vary from state to state, but if you live in a state with no-fault or personal injury protection (PIP) automobile insurance laws, you generally must first turn to your own insurance to cover medical and other expenses after a car accident, no matter who bears the blame for causing it.
PIP laws try to relieve the courts of lengthy accident claims. Under no-fault laws, you don’t need to prove negligence in a contentious lawsuit to obtain benefits. In theory, this makes for a faster resolution when a minor accident takes place. You may, however, need a car accident lawyer to keep your own PIP carrier from denying or reducing your compensation.
Victims of sideswipe collision accidents often struggle to understand their PIP insurance and how it affects their rights to seek compensation. Insurers rarely write the policies so that everyday people can understand them. An experienced car accident injury lawyer can help you understand the rules, how the law applies to your situation, and can develop a legal strategy to help you obtain the maximum compensation available under the law for your injuries and losses.
Protect Yourself After a Sideswipe Collision Accident
After a sideswipe collision crash, you may not know what to do to get the compensation you deserve. Every crash has its unique aspects, of course, so victims may face different challenges. Still, in our experience, victims can often benefit from following these tips.
Call 911 and Stay Put
Many sideswipe accidents lead to such severe vehicle damage and injuries that no one thinks twice before calling first responders and staying at the scene. However, drivers sometimes make the mistake of thinking that they do not need to call 911 because the only damage they can see consists of cosmetic scrapes, dents, and broken trim on their vehicles.
Do not be one of those drivers. Always stop to call 911 for your own and others’ safety. The stress of getting into a car accident can mask the pain of an injury that you or someone else suffered. Leaving the scene when someone may have gotten hurt could put your health and legal rights at risk. Do not chance it. Stay where you are and call first responders.
Seek Medical Attention
When EMTs arrive at the accident scene, let them check you over. Take an ambulance ride to the hospital if they recommend it. Even if they do not, follow up within 24 hours with your primary care doctor or at an urgent care center. Many car accident injuries do not necessarily show symptoms right away, but doctors can diagnose them with simple tests.
Rather than risking your health by merely assuming that you are okay, let a medical professional examine you to rule out unseen injuries that could cause major health complications. Never try to tough it out after an accident. By visiting a doctor, you not only protect your health, you also generate medical records that your lawyer can use to help prove your damages.