Common Causes of Sideswipe Car Accidents

Two cars driving side by side

Drivers are often taught about the dangers of fatalities in head-on crashes or neck injuries in rear-end collisions, but less attention is given to the effects of sideswipe accidents. While sideswipe crashes may not cause as many deaths as head-on or side-impact crashes, they can still cause debilitating injuries and expensive damage to vehicles.

Common Types of Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe collisions occur when two vehicles make contact with each other on the sides of their vehicles. These crashes can occur anytime two vehicles are traveling next to each other, and are often the result of one or more drivers failing to stay in the proper lane. Even if a driver is able to avoid contact with another vehicle, the sudden swerving to avoid a crash can send the car off the road, into a tree, or even into another vehicle on the opposite side.

Sideswipe accidents can occur in several ways, including:

  • Parallel collisions. Sideswipes are most common when two vehicles are traveling in the same direction, such as on highways or multi-lane roads. Even if drivers are able to regain control of their vehicles after colliding, the at-fault driver is still liable for injuries and cosmetic damage resulting from the crash.
  • Opposite direction collisions. If two vehicles pass each other while traveling in opposite directions (such as in an intersection), one may swipe another as a result of avoiding a cyclist or road obstruction on the righthand side.
  • Secondary collisions. The glancing blow of a sideswipe can set off a chain reaction for the driver of the impacted vehicle. The force of the collision can send the driver out of his or her lane and into a ditch, against a guardrail, or into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Factors That Can Lead to Sideswipe Accidents and Injuries

The types of injuries in sideswipe crashes can vary widely depending on the location and force of impact. Although vehicles have less collision force on their sides than they do at the front or back, there is also more passenger protection in the front and rear of a vehicle. As a result, passengers who are struck in sideswipe collisions do not have the benefit of crumple zones, bumpers, or airbags to absorb the force of an impact.

Victims could be owed compensation for their property damage and injury costs from the person whose negligence caused the accident. Another driver, a vehicle manufacturer, or other party could be liable for injuries caused by:

  • Improper merging. Sideswipe accidents often take place where two lanes merge, such as expressway on-ramps and exchanges. If a driver enters a lane without checking his mirrors and blind spots, he could accidentally make contact with a parallel vehicle.
  • Failure to execute a lane change. Drivers who fail to recognize changes in traffic or wait until the last minute to take a freeway exit may misjudge the available space between cars when moving into another lane. Similarly, drivers attempting to pass a slow-moving vehicle may misjudge the distance and speed of oncoming cars, forcing them to swerve sideways into the car in the next lane to avoid a head-on collision.
  • Negligent driving. Many drivers simply drift into adjacent lanes because they are not giving the task of driving their full attention. Careless driving can involve distractions such as texting, talking on a cell phone, reaching for something in the backseat, or another activity that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel or focus off the road.
  • Impaired driving. A drowsy driver may be too tired to keep his eyes open, drifting into another lane as he falls asleep at the wheel. A driver who is under the effects of drugs or alcohol may not be able to stay in his lanes, weaving in and out of traffic and striking several vehicles on both sides.
  • Defective brakes, steering systems, or tires. Some sideswipe collisions are a result of poor vehicle construction or maintenance, such as a sudden tire blowout or a glitch in the steering system. A defect in braking systems can force a driver to swerve uncontrollably as he or she attempts to bring the vehicle to a halt.

If you are having trouble recovering after a car accident, our injury attorneys have offices in Illinois and Missouri to advise you on your next steps and legal rights. Contact the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.