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Gregory Perenich
13 April 2022

​What Happens If You Get Sideswiped?

A sideswipe collision often seems to come out of nowhere. Whether someone in the opposite lane shifts into your traffic lane or someone in a parallel lane drifts into your lane, sideswipe collisions can cause immense injury and substantial property damage.

Some vehicles might have airbags that will not deploy in the case of a sideswipe collision. Others may have airbags that deploy immediately, especially in the case of airbags on that side of the vehicle.

Sideswipe collisions can cause significant trauma and injuries that may have lifetime consequences.

Sideswipe Collisions: Defined

​What Happens If You Get SideswipedA sideswipe collision occurs when one vehicle “swipes” the side of the other, often because one driver has drifted out of his lane of traffic into another one. Typically, a sideswipe collision occurs between two vehicles traveling in the same direction in different lanes of traffic; however, in some cases, collisions can occur between cars traveling in opposite directions.

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How Do Sideswipe Collisions Occur?

Sideswipe collisions may occur in a variety of ways.

Merging

When merging into traffic, the driver in the merging vehicle may need to look carefully before fitting into the overall traffic flow. In some cases, however, the driver may misjudge the amount of room he needs to safely change lanes and may accidentally sideswipe another vehicle due to an improper merging. In other cases, the driver may fail to notice the presence of a smaller vehicle while merging.

Changing Lanes

Changing lanes, whether to pass, avoid faster-moving traffic, or simply settle into a more comfortable position on the road, requires care. The driver who intends to change lanes must carefully check the movement of other vehicles around him to ensure that he does not change lanes on top of one of them.

Unfortunately, the driver may sometimes fail to change lanes correctly, resulting in a merging accident. Frequently, merging accidents occur because the driver misjudged the amount of room between two vehicles or missed the presence of a much smaller vehicle, often one that fits into his blind spot.

Distraction

Driving while distracted can substantially increase the risk of collisions, including sideswipe collisions. A distracted driver may take his hands, eyes, or attention off the road while driving. Since roads rarely travel in a perfectly straight line, a driver can quickly start to slip out of his assigned lane, causing him to sideswipe another vehicle due to lack of attention.

Inebriation

Many intoxicated drivers struggle with swerving across the road. Inebriation interferes with safely controlling the vehicle, which makes it very difficult to drive in a straight line. Inebriation may also create tunnel vision, so drunk drivers who try to merge or change lanes cannot keep up with what happens around them.

Furthermore, drunk drivers may lose reasoning skills that remind them not to engage in unsafe actions like swerving on the road, changing lanes abruptly, or fitting a vehicle into a space that does not offer enough room.

Drowsiness

Drowsiness and fatigue can make it very difficult for drivers to maintain overall safety out on the road. Often, drowsy drivers show some of the same lapses in judgment as intoxicated drivers. Others may have trouble with tunnel vision or may notice their attention drifting more often.

Some drowsy drivers can even fall asleep behind the wheel, which would leave the vehicle with no one controlling it. As a result, the vehicle could quickly slide off-course, causing a sideswipe collision.

Common Injuries From Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe collisions can cause a range of injuries, depending on the force of the accident, what protection the vehicle offers, and where on the vehicle the accident occurs. Passengers on the side of the vehicle hit in the accident have a greater likelihood of suffering severe injuries, but passengers anywhere in the vehicle can suffer severe injuries. A sideswipe collision can also push a vehicle into something else, including an oncoming traffic lane or a traffic barrier, which may increase the risk of substantial injuries for all passengers.

Broken limbs on the side of the vehicle where the collision occurred commonly result from sideswipe collisions. In the case of extreme damage in the accident, patients may suffer immense crushing damage, including, in some cases, injuries that result in the need for limb amputation.

Sideswipe collisions can also result in:

  • Whiplash
  • Head trauma, including concussion or brain injury
  • Back and neck injuries

Seeing a doctor after a sideswipe collision can help rule out severe injuries and allow you to receive treatment for any injuries you did suffer in the crash.

Protecting Yourself After a Sideswipe Collision: What Comes Next

As you get out of your vehicle after a sideswipe collision, you may wonder what steps will protect you.

Here’s what you must do:

Report the accident.

Always report an accident that involves significant property damage or any potential for injury. If you know you will need to seek insurance coverage for the accident, report the incident to the police and allow them to come to the accident scene.

Let the police know what caused the collision from your perspective, based on what you saw. Often, you may not have had a chance to observe the other driver’s behaviors leading up to the collision, making it more difficult to define the cause clearly. You should offer a truthful, accurate statement without trying to fill in things you did not see or exaggerate.

Avoid brushing off the other driver’s actions, whether you saw them or not, or inadvertently accepting even partial liability for the accident. Stick to the facts when offering information to the officer.

Collect evidence, if you can.

Collecting photographic evidence can prove particularly important after a sideswipe collision. Sometimes, the damage to the two vehicles makes it easy to tell which vehicle slipped sideways into the other one. In other cases, however, evaluating fault in the accident may depend on the position of the two vehicles at the time of the accident. By taking photos before you move the vehicles involved in the accident, you can collect essential evidence to establish that the other driver committed the error that led to the accident.

While collecting evidence, do not forget the important elements that can allow you to pursue compensation through the other driver’s insurance company later, including information about that driver’s insurance coverage, license, and vehicle.

Seek medical attention for any injured parties in your vehicle.

If anyone in your vehicle suffers an injury in the accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Medical care can prove essential to your recovery after a sideswipe collision, especially if you have suffered severe injuries.

Even if you do not notice obvious injuries after the accident, consider seeking medical attention immediately after the accident. Within 24 hours of a collision, medical attention can help identify injuries you may not have noticed on your own.

Not only that, seeking immediate medical attention after an injury can make it easier for you to prove that you deserve compensation in the form of an injury claim. If you fail to seek medical attention, you could inadvertently worsen substantial injuries, including broken bones, and the insurance company may attempt to claim that you suffered your injuries at another time, rather than during the sideswipe collision.

Contact a lawyer to learn more about your right to compensation.

Before you talk to the other driver’s insurance company about your sideswipe collision injuries, consult an accident lawyer to ask about your next steps and how much compensation you might deserve.

Sideswipe collision cases can turn complicated, especially if the other driver denies liability. Sometimes, you may have clear evidence that shows who caused the accident. You might have photos of the other driver’s vehicle sitting across the line while you remained in your lane. You might have accident photos that show your vehicle pushed well across the line or into another obstacle, making it clear which driver caused the collision. The damage on the two vehicles might clearly show which driver committed the error.

However, liability for a sideswipe collision can prove much less evident in other cases. If the other driver denies liability, you may have a hard time proving which of you committed the error that led to the accident. In that case, you may need an attorney to help represent you.

What Happens During a Sideswipe Collision Claim?

If you suffered injuries in your sideswipe collision, seeking compensation for the collision may prove essential. Not only does a sideswipe collision claim help provide you with the compensation you need to repair your vehicle, it can compensate for the cost of treatments for injuries that exceed your personal injury protection insurance coverage. However, the claim process may become more involved and complicated than you think.

Both your lawyer and the insurance company will start with a full investigation of the claim.

Both sides want to get a comprehensive idea of exactly what led to the sideswipe collision, the challenges you faced because of your injuries, and what your bills look like.

The investigation process may involve:

  • Talking to witnesses
  • Examining the damage to the two vehicles
  • Looking at any footage of the accident scene, including both photos and videos
  • Taking statements from both drivers involved in the accident
  • Bringing in an expert to help recreate the conditions that may have caused the accident
  • Looking at both drivers’ records or activities on the day of the accident to explore inebriation or fatigue as an accident cause

Each side will use that evidence to build a case establishing who likely caused the accident and, therefore, who deserves compensation through an injury claim for the accident. Your lawyer and the insurance company will also want to see your medical records and the limitations posed by your injuries to assess the physical challenges you have faced because of the accident and get a better idea of your next steps.

Each side will put together a settlement package.

Your lawyer will focus on maximizing the compensation you can recover for your injuries as much as possible. Sideswipe collisions can lead to extreme injuries and considerable financial challenges, especially if you end up out of work for quite some time because of your injuries. Your lawyer will help build a comprehensive claim that shows how much you deserve.

On the other hand, the insurance company will usually try to minimize the compensation it has to pay out as much as possible. The insurance company’s settlement offer, especially the first one, may prove much lower than the one created by your lawyer.

The two sides will negotiate.

Most of the time, negotiation will go through your lawyer, who can help guide you toward a reasonable settlement agreement and give you a better idea of the compensation you really deserve for your injuries.

The negotiation process can take time and may depend on various factors, including your willingness to settle and the insurance company’s willingness to negotiate. Working with a lawyer makes the negotiation process much easier and, in many cases, can help it progress more smoothly.