Florida has many multi-lane roads, particularly around Fort Lauderdale. The Florida Turnpike, I-95, and I-595 go right through the city. Add the high volume of beach and nightlife traffic to these roads, and you have the perfect recipe for sideswipe collisions. All it takes for a sideswipe to happen is for one driver to merge onto a highway or other multi-lane road without looking first.
Even two-lane roads see sideswipe accidents, though not as many as multi-lane roads and highways. Sideswipes on two-lane roads generally happen when a driver panics and merges too early while passing the car in front of them.
Because sideswipe accidents usually happen at high speeds, car occupants often suffer severe or catastrophic injuries, or even death. With the amount of traffic Fort Lauderdale sees, especially during spring break and the summer beach season, car accidents, including sideswipe accidents, are all too common.
Causes of Sideswipe Accidents
Several driving habits and/or mistakes cause sideswipe accidents, including:
- Merging onto a road without checking the vehicle’s blind spot.
- Excessive lane-changing when a driver is in a hurry. This aggressive driving can also result in a traffic charge against the driver who excessively changes lanes, since this driving behavior puts others at risk.
- Changing lanes and not seeing a vehicle in the vehicle’s blind spot.
- Distracted driving.
- Speeding and other reckless driving.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and other illicit substances.
- Merging too closely to another vehicle.
- Not signaling when changing lanes.
If a driver changes lanes or merges and causes a sideswipe accident because they did not make sure their actions would not interfere with other drivers, the driver could be charged with a non-criminal moving violation.
When a driver sideswipes someone, even if the initial impact is not severe, the momentum can cause the other driver to sideswipe someone else, get into a head-on wreck, spin out, swerve, or go off the edge of the road. When a driver forces another driver out of their lane via a sideswipe, the driver who was hit can end up damaging another person’s vehicle, running into a pedestrian or bicyclist, or crashing into an inanimate object. Any one of these situations can cause someone’s death.
Types of Sideswipe Accidents
There are two common types of sideswipe accidents. The first is when a driver sideswipes a parked car. The other type of sideswipe accident happens when both cars are traveling with the flow of traffic. It is common to see sideswipe accidents in Fort Lauderdale while vehicles are traveling along highways and other multi-lane roads.
A sideswipe accident with a parked vehicle usually happens when the stationary vehicle is parked in a roadside parking space or parking lot. Hopefully, if this happened to you, the at-fault driver left their contact information for you. Even though Florida is a no-fault insurance state and your insurance will most likely cover the accident, it is always better if the at-fault driver’s insurance covers it and takes the hit on the increase in premiums. If they did not, a Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney may help you track down security video footage to identify the other driver’s vehicle.
The Consequences of Sideswipe Accidents
Sideswipe accidents often do more than just damaging the vehicles involved. If anyone has their arm out of the window, that person could suffer serious or catastrophic injuries. Glass could shatter and cut the vehicle’s occupants. And, as mentioned before, the sideswiping driver might push the other vehicle into oncoming traffic, traffic alongside you, or even into a pedestrian or bicyclist. The second vehicle could end up damaging fences, lawns, mailboxes, transformer boxes for underground utilities, trees, and telephone poles.
Depending on the circumstances, the secondary consequences of the sideswipe accident can cause severe or catastrophic injuries or even death. In addition to going after the at-fault driver for damages, the accident victim may need to prove that the at-fault driver was responsible for injuries and property damage resulting from the secondary collision. The sideswiping driver should be held responsible for these damages since they caused the accident in the first place.
Taking photos of the entire accident scene can help investigators prove that the sideswiping driver is responsible for damages to your vehicle and person as well as any secondary damages.
After a Sideswipe Wreck
The first thing you should do after a sideswipe wreck is to call first responders. You will need a police report to help prove your case. Plus, you might need a police report if the at-fault driver tries to blame you when speaking to their own insurance company.
Secondly, if you are uninjured enough to do so, check on others involved in the accident, including the at-fault driver—unless the at-fault driver is volatile and you are concerned they may try to hurt you. If you can move around safely, take photos of the accident scene. Be sure to capture skid marks and other damage to the roadway from all vehicles involved. An accident investigator will determine the cause of the accident and who might be at fault by looking at several factors, including markings left on the road by either vehicle. Also, take photos of any property damage, such as broken fencing and mailboxes.
Obtain the contact, insurance, and registration information from other drivers involved in the wreck. Ask witnesses for their contact information and to describe what they observed.
Allow the emergency medical technicians to check you out, even if you believe you have minor injuries. The symptoms of some types of injuries do not manifest for hours or days. Once the police release you from the accident scene, seek immediate medical attention. Let your doctor know that you were in a car accident and that you would like them to check you thoroughly.
Notify your insurance company that you were in an accident. Do not give the insurance company’s representative any information other than your contact information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information.
Working With the Insurance Company
Some people would prefer to settle their claims themselves. However, we do not recommend attempting this, especially if you suffered extensive damages. Insurance companies are in business to make money. Any claim they pay affects their bottom line. Even your own insurance company does not have your best interests at heart when it comes to paying out a claim.
Those who try to settle their own claims usually leave money on the table and don't cover the cost of their injuries, or they end up getting a car accident lawyer involved later. Insurance companies look for any reason to deny your claim or offer you a pittance. One of their favorite tricks is to twist what you say to deny your claim.
Instead, give the insurance company representative your contact and insurance policy information, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact number. The representative will attempt to draw you into a conversation about the accident—don’t fall for it. Just keep referring the representative to your attorney.
What If the Other Driver Tries to Blame Me for the Accident?
The driver who left their lane is almost always at fault for the sideswipe accident. If you were sideswiped by another driver and that other driver tries to blame you for the accident, seek the help of a sideswipe accident attorney. We have ways of determining who was wrong and will help prove that the other driver caused the accident.
Sideswipe Wreck Injuries
The injuries you could suffer in a sideswipe wreck depend on several factors, including whether the at-fault driver just grazes you, hits you hard, pushes you into oncoming traffic, causes you to sideswipe another vehicle, runs you off the road, or causes you to hit a tree, pole, or other inanimate objects. Several other factors determine the severity of your injuries, including the size of the vehicles involved.
Common injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles, and other soft-tissue injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating brain injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Amputation of limbs or digits in the accident.
- Amputation of limbs or digits after the accident because a doctor could not save the limb or digit, or because an open wound became gangrenous.
- Scarring and disfigurement.
- Psychological injuries, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Florida law allows those injured in accidents to recover compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages include economic damages and non-economic damages.
Special damages, often referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value. The court orders the defendant to pay economic damages in an attempt to make you financially whole again.
Special damages can include:
- Past medical expenses you incurred because of the accident and before a settlement or a trial award.
- Future medical expenses you incurred because of the accident and after a settlement or a trial award.
- Past lost wages you lost because of accident injuries before a settlement or a trial award.
- Future lost wages you expect to lose because of accident injuries after a settlement or a trial award.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a sideswipe accident.
General damages, often referred to as non-economic damages, do not have an inherent monetary value. You cannot put a price on quality of life, pain and suffering, and other such damages. Nor does the money erase your injuries and other losses. However, the court orders the defendant to pay them in an attempt to make you financially whole again. The money can reduce the financial stress you suffer after an accident, wondering how you will provide for your family while you try to recover enough to go back to work.
Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress for those who suffered injuries in a sideswipe accident.
- Emotional distress for those who lost a loved one in a sideswipe accident.
- Loss of quality of life, should you have to take medication or use ambulatory aids for the rest of your life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or participate in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a finger or a foot.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder control.
- Amputation, whether you suffered it directly because of the accident or because an open wound, whether from the accident, a surgical wound, or a burn, became gangrenous.
- Extensive scarring and disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you would normally do, such as grocery shopping, house cleaning, lawn maintenance, and home repair and maintenance.
In Florida, a court might order a defendant to pay punitive damages if the injured party can prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent. The court does not order punitive damages to make the injured person whole again, but as a fine for punishment because of the defendant’s egregious behavior.
The court may order punitive damages in the hopes that the defendant will not repeat the actions or inactions that caused the other person’s injuries. The state could also criminally charge the defendant if their behavior was criminal. For example, a drunk driver might face charges in criminal court for driving under the influence and might also have to pay punitive damages for causing severe injuries in a car accident because they knew or should have known that they were too drunk to drive without putting someone else’s life in danger.
Contact a car accident lawyer today to find out which damages you can seek for a sideswipe accident.