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Who Is At-Fault in a Car Accident Changing Lanes?

October 14, 2020

In a Colorado car accident, determining who is responsible for a collision is very important. All drivers whose actions cause accidents must pay for the damages of any victims, including other drivers, their passengers, and pedestrians. In some situations, identifying who is at-fault can be a challenge — especially if the accident happened while someone was changing lanes. Either driver could be at fault, or both motorists may share a portion of the liability.

Colorado Laws on Lane Changes

Colorado traffic laws prohibit drivers from making unsafe lane changes. Under Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1007 states that you can only change lanes when you determine that it is safe to do so. You will need to look for other drivers or pedestrians by looking at your mirrors, turning to look, or using your vehicle sensors. You will need to change lanes quickly and use your turn signal.

It can be difficult to determine who is liable for the accident — especially if both drivers merged at the same time. While the merging driver is often at fault, this isn’t always the case. There are many negligent actions that can cause a lane change accident, including the following.

  • Switching lanes before the lane was clear
  • Failing to check rear or side mirrors
  • Failing to use a turn signal
  • Driving while distracted
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Driving over the speed limit

Determining Liability in Lane Change Accidents

You have two options for seeking compensation after a car accident: an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. Insurance companies and courts need to consider multiple factors when assigning car accident liability, such as who had the right of way at the time of the accident, who was making the lane change, and whether or not the vehicle traveling in the other lane committed any negligent actions.

To prove another driver is responsible for an accident, you will need to establish the presence of negligence. While insurance company practices vary, Colorado courts assign fault based on three specific elements.

  • Duty: The defendant owed a duty of care at the time of the accident.
  • Deviation: The defendant deviated from the duty of care.
  • Direct causation: The plaintiff suffered injuries as a direct result of the defendant’s actions.

If you can establish these elements, you can prove that the other driver is responsible for the accident. However, the court may assign you a portion of fault based on your actions during the accident, which will reduce your settlement amount. This is because of Colorado’s modified comparative negligence rule.

For example, if the court finds you were speeding at the time of the lane change, you might receive 30% of the liability. If you’re seeking $10,000 in damages, you will only receive $7,000.

You cannot collect damages if you share more than 50% of the fault — if the court finds out you were texting at the time of the accident, for example, you may share 70% of the liability and receive $0 in damages.

Do You Need a Lawyer for a Changing Lane Accident?

Car accidents can be very complex, especially if they involve lane changes. You may need the help of experts to provide testimony to support your arguments, and you will need to defend yourself against claims that you were responsible for the accident. In addition, insurance companies can offer you lower settlements than what you need to recover, putting you at risk of further financial hardship later on.

Hiring an attorney to help you with your insurance claim or lawsuit can provide these benefits to you. Your lawyer will have access to expert witnesses who can validate your claim, can evaluate and negotiate your settlement offers, and defend you from liability. As soon as you receive medical attention, contact a car accident attorney to discuss your legal options.

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