Defendants Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Cause By Unsafe Lane Changes

In California, many car accidents are caused by unsafe lane changes. If you have been injured by a motor vehicle that was making an unsafe lane change into your lane (or that hovered between lanes, threatening a collision), then you may be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries under California law.

Let's take a look at how unsafe lane change liability works.

What Constitutes an Unsafe Lane Change

In California, Vehicle Code 22107 governs unsafe lane changes. The statute elaborates on two general instances that will lead to a finding that the driver has committed an unsafe lane change in violation of the law:

  1. the driver changed lanes or moved their vehicle away from the center of the lane; and
  2. the movement at-issue was not reasonably safe given the circumstances; or
  3. the driver did not give an appropriate signal when moving.

These requirements allow for circumstantial evidence to determine liability in most cases. The sort of lane change conduct that is likely to be deemed a violation of Vehicle Code 22107 includes, but is not necessarily limited, to the following:

  • Failure to signal when moving between lanes
  • Failure to make a lane change in a timely manner (i.e., hovering between lanes for an extended period of time)
  • Failure to check for traffic before merging onto the new lane
  • Making multiple lane changes at one time
  • Excessively slowing down or speeding up when merging onto a new lane
  • And more

Negligence Per Se Possibilities

Violation of California Vehicle Code 22107 - the unsafe lane changes statute - will constitute a negligence per se act if it leads to an injury. Negligence per se is a unique concept in personal injury litigation of which many first-time plaintiffs are completely unaware. When negligence per se is applied, it can significantly strengthen your claims and help you push for a favorable settlement early on.

Negligence per se is essentially an automatic implication of negligent behavior (and therefore an automatic imposition of liability) on the defendant for violating a statute relating to the injury-causing conduct - here, unsafe lane changes. It's worth noting, however, that even if you can show that the defendant violated the unsafe lane changes statute, you cannot impose liability on them unless you can also show that their negligence proximately and substantially caused your injuries. In other words, if the defendant made an unsafe lane change, but that was not the true cause of your injury (i.e., perhaps there was some other intervening hazard), then you would not have a legitimate claim against the defendant-driver.

The Sudden Emergency Defense

In California, and in other states, the defendant-driver may be able to avoid liability for the damages caused by their unsafe lane change if they can prove that their actions were spurred by a "sudden emergency."

How does this work?

Suppose that you are injured in a collision with a car that swerves suddenly out of their own lane and into yours - because the transition is unexpected, and there is so little room for you to alter your course or slow down, the collision is inevitable.

When you bring a lawsuit against the defendant-driver for damages, however, they argue that they had no safe alternative but to swerve into your lane, and that they acted the same as any other reasonably prudent person would have in the same (or similar) circumstances). The defendant shows that another car was sliding out of control on the highway, and was tumbling towards them - had they not swerved into your lane, they might have been killed by the other tumbling vehicle.

Given these facts, the "sudden emergency" defense seems justified. It is not always justified by the facts, however. It's important to note that the sudden emergency defense only applies if the defendant can show that a reasonably prudent person - in the same or similar circumstances - would have acted as they did. This can be difficult to prove, so as long as you can create serious doubt as to how others would have acted (and show that the defendant had other, safer alternative choices) then you can undermine this defense.

Request a Free Consultation with an Experienced Mountain View Car Accident Attorney

Here at the Law Office of Brian J. O'Grady, we have over 40 years of experience advocating on behalf of injured plaintiffs in a variety of motor vehicle disputes, including those that involve unsafe lane changes.

We offer truly client-oriented legal representation that is tailored to your stated goals - unlike many other competing firms, we act as compassionate and comprehensive advocates, partnering with clients from the start of the engagement process to ensure that we have access to all the facts necessary to put forth a precise and effective argument on their behalf. This approach to litigation has brought us substantial success over the years. We have secured significant verdicts and settlements for our clients.

Interested? Call (650) 318-6131 today to request a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation with an experienced Mountain View car accident attorney here at the Law Office of Brian J. O'Grady. We will assess your claims and help you determine the best strategy for moving forward with the overall case.