Errors made while changing lanes are among the most common causes of Florida car accidents, one of the more frequently-cited of the 73,000 right-of-way violations issued in Florida last year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates approximately 9 percent of all crashes are caused by improper lane changes.
Causes of improper lane change accidents can include changing lanes without signaling, waiting to signal until after the lane change has begun, driving between lanes for an extended period of time, changing lanes on a stretch of road where lanes are separated by solid instead of dashed lines, driving impaired or driving distracted.
One of the first questions people think to ask in any crash case is how they can prove the crash was the other driver’s fault. Before answering this, it should be noted, that Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to auto insurance. That means you can usually recover some damages no matter who is to blame (up to $10,000 for medical bills and a percentage of your lost wages).
However, if your injuries or serious or someone died (meeting the threshold to step outside the no-fault law, as outlined in F.S. 627.737(2)), you will need to contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale injury attorney to advise you on filing a claim against the other driver. To collect any damages, you will be required to prove fault (legally referred to as “negligence”).
However, establishing fault in a lane-change crash (or any for that matter) can be tougher than one might presume – primarily because crashes often have more than one cause. Questions can arise, such as:
- Was one party speeding?
- Was a turn signal used?
- Did the injured driver swerve before being struck?
- Was one of the drivers distracted?
- Were all drivers following others at an assured clear distance?
Any of these can impact not only a finding of negligence, but the degree of negligence.
Florida’s Comparative Fault Law
F.S. 768.81 is Florida’s pure comparative fault law, allowing any and all parties involved to be assigned a percentage of fault based on the fact pattern. That means even if the other driver did improperly change lanes, the injured person could be deemed partially at-fault for causing or exacerbating the crash/causing the injuries in question.
For example, if the other driver improperly changed lanes but you were speeding, you might be assigned 20 percent fault. This would translate to a 20 percent reduction in your overall damage award. So if your damages were calculated at $100,000, you would only receive 80 percent of that.
Who is Typically At-Fault in a Lane Change Accident?
F.S. 316.085 outlines rules for overtaking, passing and changing lanes.
Drivers are not permitted to drive left of center in overtaking and passing unless authorized under other provisions of the statute (namely, that the left side is clearly visibly and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to allow such overtaking to be complete without interfering with the operation of any vehicle traveling in the opposite direction).
Further, no vehicle should be driven from a direct course in any lane on any highway until the driver has determined that the vehicle is not being approached or passed by any other vehicle in the lane or on the side to which the driver desires to move – and that move can be made completely safely).
If your Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney can establish this, you have a good chance of proving the lane change accident was the other motorist’s fault – and that driver therefore owes you damages.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
FL drivers racked up 73,000 tickets for right-of-way violations in 2018, May 30, 2019, NBC-8