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Who Is At Fault in a Car Accident Changing Lanes?

Posted in Auto Accidents

One of the most common types of car accidents in New Mexico is the lane-change accident. Changing lanes is a particularly risky maneuver because both drivers may try to switch into the same lane at the same time. It can also be dangerous due to blind spots. Many lane-change accidents, however, trace back to a negligent driver. A careless or inattentive driver may change lanes without looking, or drift out of his or her lane due to drowsiness or intoxication. If you get into an accident while changing lanes, find out who may be liable for your damages.

Fault in a Car Accident Changing Lanes

What Does the Law Say in New Mexico?

New Mexico Statute Section 66-7-317 states that if a roadway has two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, all drivers must keep as nearly as practicable within one lane only. A driver may move from the lane only after making sure he or she can do so safely. It is against this law to move from a single lane on a multilane road without first checking to make sure the maneuver is safe. If a driver changes lanes without making sure the destination lane is clear, that driver has broken state law and may be liable for a related car accident.

How to Change Lanes Safely

All drivers have a responsibility to change lanes correctly according to state law. The proper way to change lanes is to signal your intent using your blinker at least 100 feet before where you plan on merging or switching lanes. Check your side and rearview mirrors to make sure a vehicle is not already in the lane where you are trying to go. Glance over your shoulder to check any blind spots before changing lanes.

When you are sure it is safe to do so, use one slow and controlled movement to switch into the destination lane. Do not try to squeeze your vehicle in between two cars or cut another driver off. If you crash into another vehicle or another driver crashes into you while trying to change lanes, everyone involved will need to determine fault before filing an insurance claim.

Who Is Liable for a Lane-Change Car Accident?

New Mexico is a fault car accident state, meaning liability for an accident will go to the party that caused the wreck. In a lane-change accident case, the liable party is generally the person who changed lanes without making sure it was clear. If Driver A was in one lane, for example, and Driver B merged on top of Driver A without checking to make sure the lane was available, Driver B would be liable for the crash. Liability can become tricky, however, when a lane-change accident involves both drivers switching lanes at the same time.

If you and another driver merged into the same lane at the same time, you both may share some of the fault for the collision. If you bring an injury claim against a driver for a lane-change accident but that driver alleges you were also at fault, the courts may reduce your damages according to the rules of comparative negligence. New Mexico uses a pure comparative negligence doctrine when dividing fault between a defendant and plaintiff.

Comparative negligence says that even if a plaintiff contributed to his or her injuries, that plaintiff can still receive a portion of compensation. In a lane-change accident involving the fault of both drivers, the courts will assign a percentage of fault to each. The person with the majority share of fault (51% or more) will have to pay the other driver compensation for his or her losses. The courts will reduce the party’s award, however, by his or her percentage of fault. If the courts find you 30% at fault for the lane-change accident, for example, you would receive 30% less of a compensatory award from the other driver.

Car accidents while changing lanes can lead to complicated insurance claims. For assistance handling your claim, contact a car accident attorney in Albuquerque.