Who is At Fault in a Car Accident When Changing Lanes in Massachusetts?

An accident that occurs while changing lanes is a common occurrence in Massachusetts where there are multiple lanes on a roadway.  At any moment while traveling on a multi-lane roadway, a car could suddenly merge into your lane of travel without warning or cut you off. 

Merge lane changes can be caused by a number of factors:

  • Changing lanes without activating a turn signal
  • Speeding up to merge into your lane and then slowing suddenly
  • Crossing multiple lanes at once  
  • Cutting off your car while merging
  • Driving while distracted, falling asleep, or while under the influence and drifting into your lane

The law on merging lanes in Massachusetts as in other states is that you must stay within your lane of traffic and to not merge or move into an adjoining lane without first being reasonably sure it can be done safely.  You can do so safely by checking your mirrors and blind spots before turning on your turn signal to let other motorists be aware of your intentions. 

Any accident at high speed leaves few options for the parties involved.  Being struck on the side of your auto by another vehicle at 65 miles per hour can cause you to lose control and to merge without warning into another lane and strike another vehicle, or to leave the roadway and strike a barrier or other object. Injuries can be minor, if you are lucky, but can easily result in traumatic brain injuries, broken limbs, organ injuries, disfigurement, and permanent disability if not death. 

How to Prove Liability in Lane Change Accidents

Very often, lane change accidents are only witnessed by the parties involved or by other motorists passing who do not want to be involved.  Insurance companies as well as a car accident attorney will have to fully investigate the accident before determining liability or if comparative fault is more likely.

Unless you can show that the other vehicle was just entering the roadway from a driveway or ramp and failed to yield, you may well face a scenario where both parties claim that the other suddenly merged into their lane without signaling or checking their blind spots.  It may also be a situation where both drivers decided to simultaneously merge into an open lane from opposite sides.

In a serious accident where police are on the scene to investigate and to see if medical attention is needed, the officer can interview the parties and observe if a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  A driver might admit to the officer that he was fatigued and momentarily fell asleep.  If there is cellphone on the seat or mounted, the officer is permitted to check it to see if the driver was texting or on a call in the moments just preceding the collision. 

Newer motor vehicles and commercial vehicles have dashcam cameras that can provide video evidence that another auto darted into a lane at a high rate of speed or that your car did not move from its lane of traffic when the other auto merged into your lane.  Some have data recorders or EDRs that stores data which might reveal that the car was traveling 85 miles an hour when the collision took place, well above the posted speed limit.  Another possibility is that a car failed to have its headlights on if the accident occurred at night.

In some of these cases, the insurer or a car accident attorney for the injured claimant might decide that the evidence pointing mainly to one party is not present or liability is not determinable and deny liability or accept 50% fault.  Under Massachusetts’ comparative negligence law, an injured party can recover compensation so long as his own degree of fault is no more than 50%. If at 51% or more, then that party may not recover any compensation. However, any injured party can recover PIP benefits or up to $8,000 for medical expenses and lost earnings regardless of fault under their own or the insured party’s auto liability policy.

Retain a Car Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain 

Any accident injury claim should be handled by a seasoned car accident attorney who can ensure that evidence is preserved, that all issues of liability are resolved, that your damages are demonstrated, and that your rights are secured. Injury claims from lane change accidents can present difficult issues of liability and possible issues regarding damage claims. Call our office at (617) 277-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.