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Determining Who is At Fault in a Car Accident Changing Lanes

Posted on 08/18/22

Irresponsible lane change practices can lead to a variety of types of crashes. Not only does this include sideswipe crashes, but any responsible lane change can also force other vehicles to take evasive actions to avoid a collision, which could lead to other types of collisions on the roadway. Here, we want to discuss how to determine fault after a lane change accident occurs.

What Pennsylvania Law Says About Improper Lane Changes

When we examine Section 3334 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, we can see that there are laws regarding improper lane changes. The law states that “a person is prohibited from turning their vehicle or changing lanes unless and until the movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal.”

Aside from the strange phrasing of the law, the basic gist is that individuals cannot change lanes unless they have the right of way to do so.

Examining Improper Lane Changes

Improper lane changes can occur in a wide variety of ways. Anytime a person wishes to change from the land that they are currently in to another lane, they must activate their turn signal to indicate which way they wish to go. However, that alone is not sufficient. Individuals must check their mirrors and blind spots to ensure that they have a clear path to get into the lane where they want to go. 

All drivers are responsible for yielding the right of way to other vehicles already in the lane of traffic where they wish to change lanes to. Drivers in the desired lane are not required to slow down or make room for a driver who wishes to change lanes.

If a driver attempts to change lanes, but they have not yielded the right of way and an accident occurs, then the driver who attempted the lane change will be at fault.

Additionally, one common area where individuals need to change lanes is when merging on or off the highway. When a driver wishes to merge from an on- or off-ramp into a lane of traffic, they must activate their turn signal and wait for traffic to clear in the desired lane. Drivers are not responsible for slowing down to allow individuals to merge. Failing to yield to vehicles already in the lane of traffic is a violation of law, and if an accident occurs because of driver failed to yield, then that driver will be responsible for the incident.

Could Another Driver be Held Responsible?

As with other types of accidents, a lane change accident may not be cut and dry. There are certainly factors that could lead to other drivers being held responsible, even if the driver making the lane change failed to yield the right of way appropriately. If another driver on the roadway was distracted, impaired, or operating at a high rate of speed, they could also be held responsible. In these situations, there could be a shared fault for an incident, in which case Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence system would be used to determine percentages of fault and compensation amounts.

However, regardless of fault, we need to point out that many drivers in Pennsylvania use no-fault insurance, which means they turn to their own insurance carrier for compensation regardless of who was at fault for the incident. The Commonwealth does allow individuals to choose to use a full tort or fault-based system, in which case fault will have to be determined, and the at-fault driver will pay compensation to other parties involved. If you have recently been in a PA car accident, feel free to contact our West Chester car accident lawyers today.