Sideswipe collisions, where the sides of two vehicles make contact while traveling in the same or opposite directions, are unfortunately common in Florida. While these types of accidents may seem minor compared to head-on or rear-end crashes, they can still cause severe injuries and extensive vehicle damage. When sideswipes are caused by unsafe passing maneuvers, determining liability can become complex. This article examines Florida laws regarding passing other vehicles and establishes when unsafe passing leads to clear liability in sideswipe accidents. Those injured in such crashes should consider consulting with an experienced car accident lawyer to fully protect their rights.
Legal Duty to Pass Safely
Florida Statute 316.083 clearly defines the duties of overtaking vehicles. Drivers must adhere to the following when passing another car traveling in the same direction:
- Do not attempt to pass unless there is sufficient distance ahead to do so safely. Factors like oncoming traffic, intersections, and lane markings determine whether enough clearance exists.
- Do not pass on the right except under very limited circumstances. Passing on the right is only legal on multi-lane roads with unobstructed pavement.
- Do not drive off the pavement or the main traveled portion of the road when passing. Straying onto the shoulder, grass, sidewalk, or dirt to get around a vehicle is prohibited.
- Do not pass unless visibility is clear. Inclement weather, shadows, or glare can restrict visibility and make passing unsafe.
- Do not pass within 100 feet of intersections. Intersections frequently involve turns across lanes, which carriages cannot anticipate.
- Do not drive above the speed limit when passing. Excessive speed reduces control and reaction time.
- Use turn signals when changing lanes to pass. Signals warn other drivers of pending lane changes.
These duties exist to prevent dangerous sideswipe collisions. Failing to pass properly generally means a driver is negligent and liable for any resulting accident.
Liability When Improper Passing Causes a Sideswipe
If a sideswipe crash occurs when a driver makes an illegal or careless pass, that driver will usually bear full liability. For example, say Car A attempts to pass Car B on a two-lane road without enough clearance. Car A sideswipes Car B while squeezing between Car B and oncoming traffic. Here, Car A clearly violated the duties to pass with sufficient distance and vision. The driver of Car A would be cited for improper passing and held fully responsible for the sideswipe.
Similarly, imagine Car C tries to hastily pass Car D on the right shoulder without signaling or checking their blind spot. Car C sideswipes Car D and pushes it off the road. Again, the passing driver breached multiple duties, including passing on the right improperly. Car C’s driver acted negligently and would be liable for injuries and damages from the sideswipe.
Defenses to Passing Liability
There are some defenses that drivers who improperly pass can raise. For example, Car E might argue that the vehicle it sideswiped, Car F, made an unpredictable maneuver like swerving or sudden braking, which contributed to the accident. But Car F’s driver can respond they had to swerve or brake due to an obstacle in the road that Car E would have seen if they were passing more cautiously.
Car E might also claim Car F did not signal a turn or lane change, misleading them into thinking it was safe to pass. However, generally, Car E still had a duty to pass with sufficient clearance regardless. Overall, defenses tend to fail when a driver clearly passes in an unsafe and illegal manner. The negligence of the passing driver overrides any alleged negligence by the passed driver.
Comparative Negligence for Sideswipes
In rare cases, courts may find both the passing and passed driver hold some liability under comparative negligence laws. Here, the damages are split based on each party’s percentage of fault. For instance, if Car E passed unsafely, but Car F abruptly changed lanes without signaling, Car E may bear 80% liability and Car F 20%. This reduction only applies if the passed driver’s actions were also clearly negligent and directly contributed to the accident.
Seeking Damages After an Improper Passing Sideswipe
Victims of sideswipe crashes caused by negligent passing often suffer serious injuries like:
- Fractures from impact with interior vehicle parts
- Sprains and strains from the body being jerked around
- Lacerations from broken glass
- Concussions when the head hits windows or pillars
- Whiplash and spinal injuries when struck from the side
- Traumatic brain injuries, especially if the cars were traveling at speed
- Emotional injuries, including anxiety, PTSD and depression
They also frequently incur major vehicle damage along the doors, mirrors, and side panels. To fully recover for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and repair costs, accident victims should consult with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after an improper passing sideswipe. An attorney can build a strong liability case using police reports, witness statements, and video evidence. They can also hire expert accident scene reconstructors if needed.
Those injured in sideswipe accidents deserve full financial compensation. An experienced car accident lawyer can negotiate skillfully with insurance adjusters, deal with out-of-courtroom settlements, or file a lawsuit if necessary. Do not let an at-fault driver get away with their negligence. Pursue your legal options.
Sideswipe collisions from improper passing often result in serious harm. Florida law clearly establishes duties for safe passing, which create liability for any ensuing accident when violated. Damages can be extensive. Anyone injured by an unsafe pass should reach out to a qualified car accident attorney to aggressively seek recovery in their specific case. With an attorney’s help, liability can be proven and just compensation obtained. Do not wait to get the support you need.
If you’ve been involved in a sideswipe collision that wasn’t your fault, get in touch with us today. We have 32 offices located in 19 states, including Florida, Georgia, and Illinois. You can visit one of our offices or call us for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.