Sideswipe Car Accidents

Why You Need a Car Accident Lawyer for Sideswipe Collisions

Some may equate vehicle sideswiping with minor fender benders. While sideswipes often involve mere glancing blows between vehicles, they can also cause major crashes because of intoxicated driving, speeding, distraction, and other reckless driving behaviors. As with any vehicle crash, a sideswipe has the potential to leave you with injuries of wide-ranging severity.

Sideswipe accidents may lead to a simple exchange of insurance information or ambulance transport to the emergency room. Our dedicated car wreck lawyers break down the different aspects of sideswipe collisions important for victims to understand to recover.

What Is a Sideswipe Collision?

The name efficiently explains what happens during a sideswipe crash. One driver crashes their vehicle’s side against an adjacent car. Sideswipes range from glancing blows to full-on crashes that engage both vehicles’ full length.

Factors That Contribute to the Severity of a Sideswipe Collision

The vehicles’ size and weight in a side swiping accident can determine the severity of the crash and ensuing injuries, especially if one vehicle is much smaller. The speed at which the automobiles are moving is likewise an important factor.

And drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who are otherwise distracted are slower to notice the oncoming sideswipe impact if at all, leading them to lean into the collision more before they correct course. If you happen to be in an adjacent lane, you end up dealing with the potentially catastrophic consequences of a sideswipe collision.

Causes of Sideswipe Collisions

Inattention is often to explain for sideswiping, but not always. Sideswipes also occur when a driver intentionally disregards another driver’s right-of-way as they enter the stream of traffic. When an inexperienced driver executes a poorly timed lane change or disregards a blind spot, a sideswipe accident happens. They even occur when a driver changes lanes to avoid colliding with another vehicle. Speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also lead to sideswipe collisions, like reckless driving results in impaired motor functions and poor driving decisions.

Sideswipe Collisions Happen Fast

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of lane-change accidents found that sideswipe collisions happened quickly and were difficult for victims to avoid.

For example:

  • Crashes or near-crashes occurred on average within 2.3 seconds of initiating an attempted left-lane change.
  • Adjacent drivers to left or right attempted lane-changes had minimal time to recognize the imminent danger and avoid a crash.
  • Drivers who managed to avoid another driver’s inappropriate lane change usually braked and steered away.

The NHTSA study shows that once a driver begins a lane change, sideswipe accidents happen quickly and are difficult for a victim to evade. The agency also determined that side-impact safety assist technology may reduce side-impact accidents.

The severity of Damage Caused by Sideswipe Collisions

While most sideswipe accidents involve only property damage, some sideswipe accidents cause injuries and death.

NHTSA data reports the following national statistics:

  • Total property damage only sideswipe accidents: 734,000
  • Total sideswipe accident injuries: 129,000
  • Total sideswipe accident fatalities: 909

The extent of injuries and property damage usually depends on the types of vehicles involved, drivers, and other conditions. The following are circumstances that commonly play a significant role in the extent of injuries and property damage.

Vehicle Mismatch

When an SUV or a large pickup truck sideswipes a smaller car, like a sedan, the smaller vehicle and its occupants usually sustain the most significant injuries. The differences in size, mass, and height become major factors during a sideswipe crash. A larger vehicle’s reinforced side panels and bulky tires can easily crush the smaller vehicle’s windows, roof, and doors. The impact often is enough to cause metal, glass, or plastic to strike passengers. The mismatch is even more pronounced when a commercial vehicle, such as a semi-truck, sideswipes a passenger car.

Opposite Direction Sideswipe

Oncoming vehicles cause opposite direction sideswipes, such as a vehicle crossing over a center lane, swiping the other car from front to back. Because of the vehicles’ cross-course, extensive Damage to property and injuries to passengers may result.

Sideswipes Involving Speeding

Speeding often leads to sideswipe collisions. A speeding driver initiating a poorly timed lane change into moving traffic is likely to cause a sideswipe crash. Speeding may impair a driver’s reaction time. Speeding may also cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. Speeding inevitably increases the risk of severe injuries and property damage.

Tractor-Trailer Side Underrides

When a tractor-trailer sideswipes a small vehicle, a side underride may occur. Instead of a glancing blow or a long swipe in a side underride, the smaller automobile ends up under the trailer. The damages and injuries vary, but in serious crashes, the trailer may shear away portions of the vehicle’s roof, and vehicle occupants often sustain serious, catastrophic, or fatal head injuries.

Sometimes underride accidents occur when a big rig makes a wide right turn and crashes into the side of a smaller vehicle in an adjacent lane. They also happen on roads and highways under traditional lane-changing circumstances.

In response to horrible side underride and rear underride deaths, a group of U.S. senators introduced the Stop Underrides Act in 2017. The bill would have updated trucker underride rules and required rear and side guards to protect motorists. The bill was reintroduced in 2019 as H.R. 1511.

Safety Enhancements Have Not Advanced Enough to Protect Passengers in a Sideswipe Collision

Over the past decade, vehicle manufacturers have improved side-impact protection, but not enough to protect passengers in sideswipe collisions. Manufacturers have added side airbags, airbag curtains, and reinforced side structural supports. These improvements limit side-impact consequences, but rear-seat passengers still sustain injuries because of gaps in rear-seat protection strategies. Rear passengers don’t have frontal airbags to protect their heads and upper bodies. Rear seatbelts don’t have force limiters to prevent injuries due to excessive seatbelt constriction.

Did a sideswipe accident injure you through no fault of your own? Free case consultation with a car accident lawyer can help you determine whether you can seek compensation to pay your bills.

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