One of the most sudden and startling types of car accidents that occur is the sideswipe, where one vehicle enters another vehicle’s lane and strikes the side of another car. The resulting accident could involve only two cars, or it could set off a chain reaction and leads to a multi-car pile-up.

In a sideswipe crash, the driver of the vehicle that initiated the crash by leaving their lane is legally responsible. However, this does not answer the real question that arises in real-life situations: who sideswiped who? Sometimes it is not always clear who prompted the accident, but there are some factors that a car accident lawyer at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman will look at to determine who is to blame.

How do sideswipe accidents occur?

A sideswipe happens when two vehicles are traveling in the same direction, and the side of one contacts the side of another. Often, the vehicles are moving at high speed and neither driver is expecting it. The sudden, shocking impact may lead one or both drivers to over-correct, resulting in additional collisions with vehicles in other lanes. The original drivers or others on the road may hit their brakes and end up in a rear-end crash.

A sideswipe can occur so suddenly that the drivers do not, at first, know who caused the first impact. However, it is important to gather enough evidence to determine who first struck who because it often points to who was negligent and therefore liable for the crash. Examples of negligence that can lead to a sideswipe accident include:

  • Carelessly changing lanes without checking blind spots
  • Drifting into another lane while drowsy or distracted by devices or passengers
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Weaving through traffic while drunk
  • Hydroplaning due to speeding on wet or icy pavement
  • Failing to yield to oncoming traffic while merging
  • Changing lanes at the same time as another driver

In New York or New Jersey, your no-fault insurance policy may cover the cost of medical treatment stemming from your accident injuries, as well as some lost wages. However, if your accident was serious, you may need to prove fault to receive full compensation. Uncovering the sequence of events in the crash is the first step in doing this.

Damages available in a sideswipe accident

In New York and New Jersey, no-fault laws affect what a sideswipe accident victim can recover. When no-fault laws apply, a victim may sue an at-fault driver for property damage to a vehicle but damages related to personal injuries are treated differently.

  • New York – If you suffer physical injuries, your right to pursue full compensation will depend on whether you can sue an at-fault driver. Your right to sue will depend on whether your injuries meet the “serious injury” threshold. If your injuries are minor and do not meet the threshold, you may only recover certain economic losses such as limited medical bills and lost wages, from your no-fault insurance policy. If your injuries meet the statutory definition of “serious” then you can sue the at-fault driver and recover full economic damages, as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
  • New Jersey – As an injured driver, your right to sue an at-fault party depends in part on the type of coverage you selected when you obtained auto insurance. If you opted for basic coverage, you can only recover economic damages under your policy unless your injuries are deemed “serious”. If you chose a standard policy, you may sue an at-fault driver for full damages, including pain and suffering, without a “serious injury” threshold.

Your policy limits and details about the accident will further impact how much compensation you may be eligible to recover. Speak with an experienced lawyer who can give you a better idea of your potential monetary recovery based on your specific case.

What to do after a sideswipe accident

Since liability in a sideswipe crash is not always immediately apparent, taking steps to preserve evidence will help you prove your case. Important steps include:

  • Call the police. You will need a report to document the accident and the damage, even if the other driver asks that you skip the call. Not only does this help your case but it is almost always required by law.
  • Take photos – Document the damage to the vehicles, the scene, and any visible injuries as soon as possible. Photographs can corroborate your report of damage as well as help experts determine the sequence of events and fault.
  • Speak to witnesses – Eyewitnesses are valuable when it comes to proving what happened. Ask for the names, addresses, and phone numbers of anyone who saw the accident.
  • Seek a medical evaluation – If you are seriously injured, immediate medical attention takes top priority. If you do not need emergency treatment, see a doctor within 24 hours to document your condition and determine whether you have any conditions like a head injury that might not be obvious for several days but need early detection and treatment.

Get a free legal evaluation

Sideswipe accidents raise unique issues, and time to pursue a claim is limited. If you have been injured, call Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman today to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. We are here to serve you with offices located in Rockland County and Bergen County.