Unsafe Lane Change Truck Accidents

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Driving next to large commercial trucks comes with many opportunities for collisions. Several factors specific to big rigs increase the risk of accidents, including large blind spots. Oftentimes, a truck driver cannot see the spaces surrounding the truck when making a lane change. This can lead to serious and deadly unsafe lane change accidents. The trucking company may be liable for damages after these collisions in California.

How Do Lane Change Accidents Happen?

Unsafe lane change accidents are more common with large trucks than other types of vehicles. Large trucks have trailers that can make it impossible for truck drivers to see more than a few feet on either side of them, even with rearview mirrors. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says these blind spots extend at least one lane to the truck’s left, two lanes to its right, 30 feet to the back and 20 feet to the front. It is generally safest to ride in a position diagonal from the large truck, but not on any of its sides for a prolonged period.

An unsafe lane change is a driver trying to move into a different lane when another vehicle is already occupying the lane. Merging on top of another vehicle could cause a sideswipe accident, rear-end collision or under ride trucking accident. An under ride accident occurs when the smaller car ends up beneath the truck, either to the rear or side of the trailer. It is a truck driver’s duty to reasonably prevent lane change accidents by signaling the intent to merge, checking for other drivers and executing the maneuver slowly and safely.

A lane change accident can happen when a truck driver negligently makes the move without first checking for existing vehicles in the lane. Abruptly changing lanes, speeding, tailgating, distracted driving and failing to look in one’s mirrors could all contribute to an unsafe lane change accident with a large truck. A passenger vehicle driver could also cause a lane change accident by weaving between lanes or cutting a large truck off and hitting the brakes. Heavy commercial trucks cannot stop as well as smaller vehicles.

Who Is Liable in a Lane Change Accident?

If the truck driver is guilty of making an unsafe lane change that results in a serious truck accident, the trucking company could be vicariously liable for damages. Rather than the truck driver absorbing personal liability, his or her status as a driver for the company could make the company legally responsible. For years, trucking companies evaded liability for truck driver actions by using independent contractors rather than employees. Federal laws, however, changed that and made trucking companies vicariously responsible for accidents that involve their trucks and drivers.

It may be possible for an unsafe lane change accident victim to receive compensation from a trucking company through an insurance claim. The victim’s attorney will first have to prove the truck driver made an unsafe lane change and caused the accident. Filing an insurance claim with help from an attorney can maximize the odds of compensation. A truck accident lawyer knows how to fill out paperwork and support the case with facts. A lawyer also knows how to negotiate with trucking industry insurance companies for fair outcomes for victims.

Comparative Fault in California

California is a pure comparative fault state, meaning the courts will divide fault for a trucking accident between the victim and defendant. If the courts find the driver of the smaller vehicle somewhat at fault for the accident, the driver may receive a reduced compensation award. The comparative fault law could diminish a victim’s financial recovery unless he or she can prove that the truck driver was more at fault for the collision. A lawyer can help with this burden of proof during an unsafe lane change accident claim.