Who Is at Fault if Someone Merges Into You?

As top a car accident lawyer in Orange County, our team understands that determining fault can be difficult, especially in merging accidents. Wondering who is at fault if someone merges into you? Call us at (949) 409-0055 for a free case evaluation. 

Orange County is home to several scenic roadways that offer drivers a picturesque view of Southern California. However, our winding highways also provide limited visibility and potentially deadly curves, especially when drivers neglect to pay attention. merging sign in California

Among the most common types of car wrecks that affect Orange County drivers are merging accidents, which include changing lanes or merging onto a highway. These types of collisions have the potential to cause tremendous damage to the vehicles involved, as well as severe injuries to drivers and passengers. 

Typically, the merging driver is considered responsible for the accident. However, that’s not always the case. In some instances, merging accidents are caused by other drivers, poor road conditions, and even defective car parts. As a result, it’s important for merging accident victims to speak to an experienced attorney.

At Case Barnett Law, our Costa Mesa personal injury attorney knows that navigating car accidents alone is challenging. As a premier personal injury firm in Orange County, California, we have both the resources and experience to help you secure the compensation you deserve. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about who is at fault if someone merges into you and what we can do to help. 

What Is Improper Merging?

Although many different behaviors can cause merging accidents, most of them involve improper merging. Drivers who engage in the following types of improper merging may be considered at-fault for the accident:

  • Failing to signal
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Failing to check blind spots
  • Merging too quickly or too slowly
  • Not leaving enough space between cars

For victims of merging accidents, proving improper merging can be difficult. However, obtaining an official police report and witness statements can help support your case.

Which Driver Has the Right of Way?

Although California drivers who fail to yield the right of way to ongoing traffic are usually responsible in these types of accidents, many different things can cause a lane merging accident. Ultimately, liability will depend on which driver had the right of way, and whether the accident occurred while merging onto the freeway or into another lane.

Merging onto the Freeway

According to the California Driver’s Handbook, freeway traffic has the right of way. That means that a driver who is attempting to merge onto a freeway must take the proper precautions to ensure they do not hit another driver. Failure to do so can result in being held responsible for any resulting damages. 

Additionally, drivers must enter the freeway at or near the speed of traffic and should not stop before merging unless absolutely necessary. Merging drivers should also avoid joining ongoing traffic when the gaps between traffic are too small to do so safely. They should use mirrors and turn signals as well as check blind spots in order to confirm the lane they’re attempting to enter is clear. 

Merging out of a Closed Lane

Although the California Driver’s Handbook explicitly gives freeway traffic the right of way, it doesn’t specify who has the right of way when it comes to switching lanes when one lane is ending. However, in most cases, the driver in the ending lane is responsible for merging safely—even if that means staying in their lane until traffic slows down enough to do so. 

How to Avoid Merging Lane Accidents

Even though you can’t control other drivers or force them to drive responsibly, you can adopt a few effective strategies to ensure that you’re not responsible for a merging accident. Here are some helpful tips: 

  • Always be vigilant of other drivers near you.
  • Try to enter the freeway at or near the same speed as ongoing traffic.
  • Leave at least a three-second space between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Remember that freeway traffic almost always has the right of way.
  • Never cross multiple lanes of traffic at once; instead, merge one lane at a time.
  • When merging, avoid coming to a complete stop (if possible) so that you don’t create a dangerous traffic backup.
  • Observe posted signs before merging into another lane.

Even though ongoing freeway traffic generally has the right of way, remember that there are certain situations in which a vehicle traveling on the freeway must share liability for a merging accident. For example, if the driver who had the right of way was speeding or impaired at the time of the merging accident, they may be held liable. 

Injured in a Merging Accident? We Can Help

If you’ve been injured in an automotive accident, regardless of what kind, you may be facing serious losses. You may have sustained injuries that require extensive medical treatment, or you may have totaled your car. You may even be facing life-long challenges as a result of the accident, like permanent disability. That’s a lot to handle alone. 

Luckily, you don’t have to navigate this situation by yourself. The experienced Costa Mesa car accident attorney team at Case Barnett Law can review your case, investigate the details of the accident, and present you with a way forward. They may even be able to secure compensation for a variety of economic and non-economic losses, including the following: 

  • Medical bills and future treatments
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Inability to work
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law
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