Q Who’s at fault if a car hit me from behind while I was merging onto the expressway?
It was 3:30 p.m. and you had just gotten out of work. You really wanted to get home as quickly as possible because you promised your kids you’d barbecue tonight. Normally the fastest way home would be to take Sampson to I-10 and go over the bridge, but it is dangerously close to rush hour so you’re not sure if you should take your chances. You finally decide to go for it and drive down Sampson toward the I-10 on-ramp.
Once you’re past the point of no return, you realize that the traffic is bumper to bumper. You let out an audible sigh and take your place in line to merge. After about 15 minutes, you’re finally at the front of the on-ramp, trying to find an opening. Luckily the car next to you inched forward to leave you some room, and the car behind it appeared to be letting you over. You took the chance and maneuvered your car so you were at a diagonal—front on 10, back still slightly on the ramp. Then, all of a sudden the car behind you rams into your side and pushes you into the car ahead of you.
What just happened? You thought he was letting you in, and you had the space to move, but now you’re pinned in your car, and smoke is billowing everywhere. You can hear the man behind you swearing as you try to collect your thoughts. Are you at fault for judging the distance poorly, or is he at fault for not paying attention?
What Determines Who Is at Fault
Since Louisiana is a “fault” state, determining who is legally liable for the accident is extremely important, although sometimes difficult to determine. After taking statements from both of you, a state police officer or sheriff should be able to reasonably determine who is at fault and create Vehicle Traffic Accident Report for insurance purposes. Once the fault has been determined, that driver is liable for all damages.
However, when it comes to merging accidents, fault can be tricky to assign. Determining negligence or carelessness is based on key factors.
- Who had the right of way? When merging from an on-ramp, it is your responsibility to find a safe opening in order to get on. However, traffic must also take into account that you have to get over and shouldn’t speed up to prevent you from entering or cause you to unsafely stop on a ramp.
- Was someone needlessly careless or intentionally negligent? Although the through traffic technically has the right of way, if you had a safe opening and were partially merging, and a driver intentionally sped up to close the gap before you could finish the merge, he could be considered at fault.
- Where was the force of impact localized? The damage location, or force of impact, can be extremely helpful when determining fault as it can be used to better visualize the scene. If the impact was at the rear, most likely the car behind would be considered at fault since he didn’t brake in time. If the impact was at the side, generally the driver whose front end collided with the side, would be at fault. However, location damage isn’t a guarantee of fault.
The best thing to do after any type of accident—no matter who was determined to be at fault—is to contact an experienced lawyer to make sure your rights are being upheld. If you believe your accident was caused by a negligent or careless driver, contact us today for a complete review of your case. Our focus is on getting you the justice you deserve so don’t hesitate to call today for a free consultation.
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