Sideswipe Accident: Determining Who is at Fault


Sideswiping by accident isn’t just something that you do on Tinder – it’s a common occurrence on the road, and one of the top three types of car accidents. Drivers must always be aware of their surroundings. When a driver is on the road, he or she has a responsibility to maintain a watchful eye for any potential dangers. This includes being aware of other cars on the roadway as well as pedestrians and bicyclists.

In this case, one car was driving down a street when they hit another car from the side due to an error in judgment. For those who are not familiar with how this works, read below to find out who will likely be at fault for this accident.

Who is responsible in a sideswipe accident?

Generally speaking, the driver who does not stick to their lane is responsible for the damage to both vehicles. This can be complicated in a side-swipe accident as there could be several cars involved, and external factors that contributed to the accident, but the driver that “drifts” from their lane is most at fault.

Drivers have an obligation to stay in their lane, and only merge when it is safe to do so. Some common causes of drivers drifting out of their lane are:

  • Being distracted (texting, changing the radio, etc.)
  • Failing to check blind spots.
  • Failure to signal a lane change.
  • Driving under the influence.
  • Swerving to avoid road hazards.

While most of those points are definitely the fault of the driver, the last scenario can become rather complex. For example, imagine this scenario:

  • Driver A: Pick-up truck with unsecured furniture in the truck bed.
  • Driver B: A small sedan behind them.
  • Driver C: You in another lane.

So let’s say a couch bounces out of the pick-up truck’s bed and driver B swerves to avoid it – crashing into you. While driver B is “at fault” for hitting you, the truck driver is also responsible. In this case, they’ll be referred to as a “phantom driver” in a “no-contact accident”, or a “miss-and-run”. It’s likely they continued driving and didn’t even realize they caused an accident behind them, hence why they’re referred to as the “phantom driver”.

In this sort of scenario, the truck driver will technically be the one at fault, as the root cause of the accident. The driver who swerved into you will need to provide the police with a description of the truck, and their license plate if they’re able to remember it (many drivers simply do not.) The police may perform a rudimentary investigation, but it’s best if you hire an attorney from to do a proper, thorough investigation.

What if my vehicle was sideswiped while parked?

Sideswipe accidents don’t only happen while driving. Parked cars are frequently scraped by other vehicles, and often these are hit-and-run accidents. This is why it’s a good idea to have a dashboard camera with a parking mode feature. The camera will be in hibernation until it detects an impact, allowing you to review the footage and obtain the license plate number of the vehicle responsible for the damages.

If your vehicle is struck by another vehicle while you are parked, and the driver responsible fled the scene, you should first contact your local police department to file a hit-and-run report. You must do this within 24-hours, not only to help the police apprehend the suspect, but also because many insurance companies require your damages to be reported within 24-hours to the claim to be considered the result of a hit-and-run.

If you don’t own a dashboard camera, it will be harder to gather evidence. You’ll need to know if the area you were parked had any CCTV cameras, as well as talk to any possible witnesses. Obtaining CCTV footage won’t be easy either. You’ll need to request the footage from the owner of the CCTV camera – this could be your local municipality, or a business owner.

Private entities rarely hand over CCTV footage to civilians, and they’ll likely wait for a court order (subpoena) to do so. It’s also likely they delete footage after a certain amount of time, such as after 30 days – which is why it’s so important to get an attorney immediately, who can go through the proper channels as quickly as possible.

What to do after a sideswipe accident?

It’s imperative that you immediately call the police to come investigate the scene. Don’t agree to just exchange information with the other driver. The police will investigate the scene to help your insurance claim, and determine who was liable for the accident. To do this, they will need any necessary information such as your driver’s license, insurance information, as well as pictures of the accident.

Afterwards, you should contact an attorney to determine the amount that the other driver and contributing factors may be held liable for. For example, the other driver may have swerved into your lane to avoid a pothole in the road.

This would bring some liability onto the local municipality responsible for road maintenance. An experienced attorney will be able to look at these contributing factors, and be able to determine the best route for obtaining additional compensations on your behalf.


If you’ve been the victim of a sideswipe accident, whether on the road or while parked, an experienced attorney will be able to help you get compensation. They’ll also be able to give you a contingency plan for possible injuries you may have sustained during the accident, and help you get back on the road sooner than you might have otherwise.


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