Who Is At Fault in a Lane-Changing Accident in Florida?
Drivers in Florida owe a duty to each other to drive in a safe, reasonable manner and to follow all of the rules of the road. So, before a driver makes a lane change, the driver should check mirrors and make sure there is enough room to enter the lane. The driver should also use a signal and yield if the law requires it. Unfortunately, too many drivers fail to take those steps. In turn, they can cause devastating lane-changing accidents.
If a driver making an unsafe lane change caused a crash that injured you, our experienced Florida car accident lawyers at Englander Peebles will demand all compensation that you are entitled to receive. We have earned a reputation for refusing to back down when taking on insurance companies. They know that we can and will go to trial if that’s what it takes to pursue full and fair compensation for our clients. Contact us now and learn more about how we can help you in a free consultation.
Why Do Lane-Change Accidents Happen?
As we have seen in Fort Lauderdale at Englander Peebles, most lane-change crashes can be traced to driver negligence. Some of the most common types of negligent acts which lead to these crashes are:
- Failing to check side and rear mirrors before entering another lane
- Turning into a lane without enough distance from other cars
- Failing to use a turn signal (or at least a hand signal)
- Entering a lane without the right of way
- Straddling two lanes instead of making a complete lane change
In many cases, drivers cause accidents in Florida while changing lanes because they fail to react appropriately to changes in the road or weather. For instance, a driver may try to enter another lane where:
- The road is going uphill, which can prevent the driver from seeing other cars
- A solid white or yellow line prohibits changing lanes
- A highway construction zone is set up
- Visibility has been greatly reduced due to fog or heavy rain
These are all dangerous acts which contribute to lane-changing crashes. Often, these acts are the products of careless and reckless decisions that drivers make. For instance, a driver may fail to check mirrors because the driver is too distracted by talking on the phone or reading or sending a text message, or the driver may be impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Sometimes, truck drivers stay on the road for too many hours and become overly fatigued. As a result, they may fail to pay attention or make clumsy maneuvers, which can lead to lane-change accidents. Due to the immense size and weight of most tractor-trailers, these crashes can be especially dangerous.
How Can You Prove Fault in a Lane-Change Crash?
Florida is a no-fault state. If you are involved in a crash, then you will file a personal injury protection (PIP) claim with your own insurer. However, if an accident causes you to sustain medical expenses and/or lost wages that exceed your PIP coverage, or if you suffer a “permanent” injury, then you may bring a claim against the driver who caused the accident. Florida law defines a “permanent” injury as one that involves:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
- Death (of a loved one)
Should you find yourself in this situation after a lane-change accident, you will need to prove that the other driver was at fault. At Englander Peebles, we can handle the investigation of your crash in order to determine fault as well as handle every other aspect of your claim, including dealing with the insurance company. Types of evidence which can point to fault include:
- Accident scene photos
- Dash-cam footage or footage from a nearby surveillance camera
- Accounts of eyewitnesses
- Black box data
- Cell phone records
- Toxicology text results
Our attorneys often work with accident reconstruction experts. These are trained, knowledgeable professionals who know how to piece together the different types of evidence from a crash, determine the factors which contributed to it and, ultimately, assess who was at fault. The expert’s conclusions can help us when seeking a settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company or, if necessary, the expert can testify on your behalf at trial.
What Happens If You Share Fault in a Lane-Changing Accident?
Since the early 1970s, Florida has followed a pure comparative fault system when it comes to personal injury claims, including car accidents. Under this system, you could still recover damages in a lawsuit against another driver after a lane-changing accident even if you were partially at fault for it. However, your damages would be reduced based on the percentage of fault assigned to you. For instance, if you were 60 percent at fault in a crash that resulted in $100,000 in damages, the most you could recover would be $40,000.
Some states bar a person from recovering any compensation if his or her share of fault exceeds a certain amount. For instance, you could be barred from recovering damages in some states if your share of fault was 51 percent or greater. Florida is not one of those states. In Florida, you can recover at least some damages as long as you were not 100 percent at fault for a crash.
So, for example, you may have been involved in a crash that another driver caused because the driver suddenly entered your lane directly in front of your car without checking mirrors or using a turn signal. However, if you had not been speeding at the time, you may have been able to avoid the collision. In this scenario, you could possibly be considered to be at least partially at fault. However, your fault would likely not lead to a total denial of compensation.
Get Help from an Experienced Florida Car Accident Lawyer
At Englander Peebles, our lawyers are outstanding litigators. We know how to thoroughly prepare cases for settlement negotiations and trials. If you were hurt in a lane-change accident in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Miami Gardens or elsewhere in Florida, contact us for a free review of your case and learn more about how we can help you to pursue maximum compensation.
Warren Q. Peebles is a Missouri native and Truman State University graduate who was inspired to become a lawyer by his family’s experience after his father suffered life-changing injuries in a car accident. Warren went on to graduate from the Stetson University College of Law and began to practice personal injury law. He joined forces with Gary B. Englander in 2016 to create Englander Peebles, and he has since focused on building the firm’s reputation for litigation excellence and excellent client service.