California’s busy roadways present endless chances for numerous types of collisions, but one of the most common types of accidents is merging accidents. Accidents with merging drivers can lead to side-swipe collisions, as well as numerous chain-reaction motor vehicle accidents, like multi-car pileups. Whether caused by a driver changing lanes or entering the freeway, merging collisions occur every day and can cause severe injuries.

California Merging Laws

California Vehicle Code §22107 prohibits lane changes that are unsafe, specifically stating that drivers shall not turn left or right without first ensuring it is safe to do so and providing a proper signal of their intent. The California Department of Motor Vehicle driver’s handbook says that traffic on the freeway has the right of way when drivers attempt to merge from an on-ramp. In addition, California merging laws require that drivers entering the freeway travel at a speed that equals or comes close to the speed of the freeway traffic.

What about in situations where one lane is ending and drivers must move to a different lane? In these situations, there is no specific guidance for that scenario. However, it is safe to assume that the state’s laws could be applied to mean the driver in the lane that is closing has the responsibility to yield the right of way and merge safely. Merging accidents can also occur when one vehicle attempts to change lanes by choice, at which point the same rules would apply. A driver seeking to change lanes can only do so if there is a clear, safe space to do so and after they’ve used their blinker to signal their upcoming merge.

Who is Responsible for Merging Accidents?

Violations of Vehicle Code §22107 or other California merging laws can result in accidents such as side-swipe collisions. Drivers who are injured in such accidents will likely choose to file an accident claim, which means determining fault will be a necessary step toward awarding compensation. California uses a comparative fault system in motor vehicle accidents. Comparative fault says that more than one driver can be responsible for an accident and that each driver’s compensation will be affected by the percentage of fault they are assigned.

Negligence is the major contributing factor in any personal injury case, car accident cases included. In a general sense, anytime someone fails to use reasonable care to prevent harming another person, they may be found guilty of negligence. In the context of merging accidents, negligence per se may be a factor if one driver violated a California merging law. Negligence per se is a legal theory that finds someone negligent if they violate a law.

In most cases, the merging driver would be considered at fault for the accident. Some notable exceptions to this could be:

  • If the other driver was traveling at excessive speeds, causing the merging driver to inaccurately calculate the lane opening
  • Poor road conditions, like rain or ice
  • Defective brakes, blinkers, or other car parts

Despite the possibility of the merging driver not being held liable for the accident, it is probable that they will be determined at fault.

Improper merging can occur when a driver doesn’t use their signal, tries to enter a lane when there isn’t enough space and cuts off the driver behind them, fails to check their blind spots, merges into traffic too slowly, or enters a lane too close to the vehicle ahead of them. Any of these driving behaviors, and more, can contribute to driver negligence and ultimately lead to a merging motorist being held responsible for an accident.

Preparing for a Merging Accident Case

Even though merging drivers are often responsible for these accidents, you should still prepare carefully for your car accident case. Your attorney can handle all the details of settlement and litigation preparation, but you should be prepared for the following elements and steps in your merging accident claim.

Attending Medical Appointments

Most of us have ignored medical advice from time to time, but now is not the time to do that. Not only does your continued recovery rely on adhering to the doctors’ orders, but so does your injury case.

Gathering Evidence

Building your case against the merging motorist means having substantial evidence that shows they were to blame for your accident. You will likely need your medical records, the accident or police report, proof of missed work, and any other documents that show the extent of your injuries and the impact on your life.

Taking Witness Statements

Witnesses provide a valuable third-party report of the events leading up to the accident. Having a statement from people who saw what happened can be incredibly valuable for your case.

If you are looking for a California car accident lawyer to represent you in your merging accident case, call The Accident Network Law Group. Take advantage of our free consultations to learn how we can be your biggest advocates during this difficult time. Call (714) 844-1010 to schedule an appointment in our Costa Mesa office, or call (951) 554-1010 for an appointment in our Riverside office.