Sideswipe Collisions

April 25, 2024 | Ed Bernstein
Sideswipe Collisions

Imagine you are driving on a multi-lane highway. You are driving straight in your lane and see a vehicle in the adjacent lane turn its right blinker. A second later, you hear a loud scrape down the side of your car. You have likely just been in a sideswipe collision because the driver in the adjacent lane hit your car while trying to drift into your lane.

While sideswipe collisions are not nearly as destructive and traumatic as T-bone or head-on crashes, they can still result in serious damage to the vehicle and cause severe injuries. Always take a sideswipe collision seriously and seek the medical treatment you need for any potential injuries right away. Then, ensure you consult a Las Vegas car accident lawyer about what happened and your rights to possible compensation from the liable driver.


Overview of Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe Collision

A sideswipe collision happens when the sides of two vehicles, moving in the same or opposite directions, come into contact. These types of accidents frequently occur when drivers attempt to change lanes without checking their blind spots or fail to notice another vehicle’s position. Due to the sudden nature of the event, the impact can be quite startling for both drivers, sometimes resulting in loss of vehicle control and subsequent crashes.

The Dynamics of a Sideswipe Collision

At highway speeds, even the slightest contact can have pronounced effects. When two cars sideswipe each other, the initial impact can cause one or both vehicles to lose stability, potentially leading to a complete spin-out or, in the worst cases, a multi-vehicle chain reaction. The force of the impact can also cause drivers to lose control of the steering, further complicating the situation.

During a sideswipe accident, the degree of damage and potential for injury depends on various factors, including the vehicle’s size, relative speeds, point of contact, and whether the front or rear of the vehicle made contact.

The Difference Between a Sideswipe Collision and a Side-Impact Crash

Sideswipe collisions are often mistakenly confused with T-bone or side-impact crashes. The key difference between the two is the angle of impact. In a sideswipe, the vehicles travel in parallel, limiting the impact’s force in terms of direction. In a side-impact crash, the forces are typically perpendicular to each other, which can be far more damaging to the vehicle occupants as it often involves another heavy or immovable object, like a tree or pole.

Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions

Sideswipe collisions often occur in the blink of an eye. But what are the common causes of these crashes? Below is a breakdown of some of the ways a car might sideswipe another car on the road or highway:

Distracted Driving

Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions I Distracted Driving

Modern life is full of distractions; unfortunately, many drivers succumb to them. Whether it is the ping of a new message, adjusting the radio, or in-depth discussions with passengers, distractions can quickly lead to unintended lane drift and, subsequently, a sideswipe collision. Distracted driving is a common cause of sideswipe collisions and other types of crashes on our roads.

The fix: Drivers should stay focused on the road at all times. Digital devices should be stowed away, and conversations with passengers should be kept to a minimum in complex driving situations.

Driving with No Headlights at Night

Visibility is drastically reduced at night, making it harder for drivers to see other vehicles. When one car’s headlights cannot be seen, it dramatically increases the risk of a sideswipe collision, especially when passing or changing lanes.

The fix: Drivers should always drive with their headlights on when it is dark. This isn’t just about seeing better; it’s also about being seen by other drivers.

Improper Lane Changes

The art of a lane change is just that – an art. It requires timing, signaling, and checking your surroundings. A driver who carelessly changes lanes without this trifecta is a recipe for disaster.

The fix: Drivers should be methodical about changing lanes. They should signal their intent to switch lanes well in advance, check mirrors and blind spots, and always leave enough space to complete the maneuver.

Failure to Check Blind Spots

Blind spots are exactly what they sound like — spots where a driver’s vision is blind. Failure to check these areas before making a move, particularly on multi-lane roads, can easily lead to a sideswipe collision.

The fix: Drivers should remember to both do a head check and use their mirrors before shifting lanes. Their head’s range of motion can see areas their mirrors can’t.

Failure to Use Turn Indicators When Changing Lanes

This is another crucial step when changing lanes. Turn indicators are a way of communicating with other drivers about an intended move. When not used, it is a recipe for confusion and, in the worst-case scenario, a collision.

The fix: Drivers should make a habit of signaling every time they intend to change lanes or direction. The rule of thumb is that it’s better to over-communicate than not.

Driving Too Fast for Conditions

Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions I Weather Condition

Road and weather conditions can change on a dime. What was a safe speed to travel can suddenly become much too fast, particularly around curves or in heavy traffic.

The fix: Drivers should always adjust their speed according to the current conditions. A good driver is flexible, constantly aware of their surroundings, and makes adjustments as necessary.


Common Causes of Sideswipe Collisions I Speeding

Excessive speed is not just dangerous; it’s reckless. Speed limits are there for a reason, and one of those reasons is to help prevent accidents like sideswipes.

The fix: Every driver should respect speed limits, especially in unfamiliar areas. The few minutes gained by speeding are not worth the risk to a driver’s safety or the safety of others.

Impairment by Alcohol or Drugs

This one’s a no-brainer. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment, reaction time, and vision – all critical components of safe driving. They can easily lead to a sideswipe collision, among other accidents. Unfortunately, however, drunk driving remains one of the most common causes of death on our roads, claiming the lives of about 13,000 Americans every year.

The fix: No driver should ever drink or use drugs if they plan to drive. If someone has any doubt about their mental state, they should err on the side of caution and find a different means of transportation.

Cutting Off Other Vehicles

This aggressive and dangerous driving behavior usually involves changing lanes directly in front of another vehicle without leaving enough space. It forces the other driver to brake suddenly, which can lead to a sideswipe collision.

The fix: Drivers should be courteous on the road and always give other vehicles plenty of space. It is a simple way to avoid potential accidents.

While these might seem like simple fixes to the common causes of sideswipes, drivers commonly fail to use proper caution and continue to collide with the sides of other vehicles. When this happens to you, a car accident attorney can hold the driver liable for their negligence.

Injuries Suffered by Victims of Sideswipe Collisions

A sideswipe collision is a jarring experience with potentially far-reaching consequences, especially on the driver’s physical health. While every sideswipe collision is unique, many victims in these crashes experience one or several of the following injuries:

  • Neck injuries. The sudden jerking motion of a vehicle hit from the side can lead to neck trauma. Whiplash, one of the most prevalent neck injuries in car accidents, can cause long-term discomfort and reduced mobility. More severe injuries like cervical dislocation, where the vertebrae in the neck move out of place, can be life-altering. 
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Another catastrophic consequence of sideswipe collisions is a traumatic brain injury or TBI. These injuries range from concussions to more severe cases that result in comas or long-term cognitive and physical impairment. TBIs account for over 200,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year. 
  • Spinal cord injuries. As with any traffic accident, there is a potential for spinal cord injuries in a sideswipe collision. Injuries to the spinal cord can result in paralysis, numbness, or a loss of motor functions in various parts of the body. Rehabilitation from such injuries is not only necessary for physical health but also for psychological and occupational well-being.
  • Internal injuries. The sudden force of a sideswipe impact can cause internal bleeding or organ damage. These injuries are challenging to diagnose without the appropriate and prompt medical tests, often leaving victims unaware of their severity. 
  • Crushed or amputated limbs. In the most severe sideswipe collisions, limbs can become trapped or severed. The immediate physical and emotional impact is overwhelming, and the long-term effects can include drastic lifestyle changes and extensive rehabilitation. 
  • Bone fractures. Bone fractures are common in car accidents, and sideswipe collisions are no exception. Injuries like compound fractures (where the bone pierces the skin) and vertebral fractures can lead to complications if not treated promptly. 
  • Bruises. Often overlooked, bruises can be an indication of serious internal trauma, especially when they are located in areas not directly affected by the seatbelt or airbag. Recognizing the patterns of your bruises and discussing them with medical professionals can lead to the early detection of more severe conditions.
  • Knee injuries. The knee is a complex joint that can suffer various injuries from the impact of a sideswipe collision. Torn ligaments, dislocations, and fractures are not uncommon and can have long-term implications on a person’s ability to walk and engage in daily activities. 

Regardless of what type of injury you suffered, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, loss of income, diminished quality of life, pain and suffering, and a wide range of other damages and losses. An experienced car accident lawyer can help you assess the value of your claim after a sideswipe collision and work hard in your best interests to help you secure the compensation you need.

Who’s at Fault for a Sideswipe Collision? 

Who’s at Fault for a Sideswipe Collision

Determining fault in a sideswipe accident is not always straightforward. It often comes down to the specifics of the situation. Generally, the driver who changes lanes or moves out of their lane must do so safely without causing problems for other road users. For this reason, the car’s driver that leaves their lane is generally at fault for causing a sideswipe collision, though there may be exceptions.

The driver already in the lane must also be alert to their surroundings and not create a hazardous situation by speeding up or slowing down to prevent a lane change. State laws and the drivers’ perceived actions can influence legal fault. That is why legal assistance is often necessary when trying to prove the fault of the other driver involved in the crash. 

Cases of negligence are assessed based on whether a driver breached their duty to drive responsibly. If one driver fails to check their blind spots, uses their phone, or attempts a lane change without proper indication, they can be found negligent and at fault. To prove fault for a sideswipe collision based on negligence, you must establish the following elements:

  • Duty of care. The duty of care is a legal obligation that individuals have to avoid causing physical harm to others. This means safely operating a vehicle on the road, obeying traffic laws, and taking necessary precautions to prevent accidents.
  • Breach of duty. Once the duty of care is established, the focus shifts to proving that the other driver breached their duty, directly causing the accident. This can be through actions like inattentive driving, improperly signaling a lane change, or drifting due to external factors like texting or intoxication.
  • Causation. It is not enough to demonstrate that the other driver was negligent, as they must have caused the accident through that negligence. This can be a nuanced aspect of a sideswipe collision, where issues like concurrent negligence or unforeseeable events come into play.
  • Damages. After the collision, the next step is proving the extent of the damages you have suffered. This includes medical bills, vehicle repair or replacement costs, lost income, and any pain and suffering experienced as a result of the accident.

Seeking legal counsel to understand your options for compensation can alleviate the financial burden of medical treatments and lost income. A lawyer can help you prove the above-mentioned elements of negligence by gathering the necessary evidence and working with experts. Additionally, having a personal injury attorney can provide the emotional support needed to conquer the challenges ahead.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.