Who’s to Blame in a Columbus, OH Merging Accident?

Merge AccidentsMerging onto highways and freeways around Columbus can be challenging. Unfortunately, many drivers are careless while merging and their negligence leads to serious accidents.

What are the rules for changing lanes and merging onto a roadway in Columbus?

In Ohio, the rules for changing lanes and merging are governed by traffic laws and the orderly flow of traffic. Although there are not specific laws that address passing while merging, some general guidelines apply, such as:

  • Yield to traffic. When merging onto a roadway, drivers must yield the right-of-way to vehicles already traveling on that roadway, meaning that merging drivers must wait for a safe gap in traffic before entering the lane.
  • Use turn signals. It’s critical that merging drivers use their turn signals to indicate their intention to merge into traffic. Signaling helps other drivers adjust their driving accordingly.
  • Accelerate appropriately. Merging drivers should try to match the speed of traffic on the roadway. Proper acceleration helps ensure a smooth and safe merge.
  • Don’t tailgate. Following too closely can increase the chances for a rear-end collision with the vehicle in front of you, as the driver might suddenly slow down or stop without giving you a chance to react.
  • Merge into the nearest lane. When merging, drivers should merge into the nearest lane of travel when it is safe to do so, avoiding sudden lane changes or swerving. If you need to cross lanes, wait until there is room in the next lane before merging.
  • Respect right of way. Drivers already on the roadway have the right-of-way over merging traffic. Merging drivers must yield to oncoming traffic and should not attempt to force their way into traffic.

Drivers must exercise caution and good judgment when merging onto roadways, as not following these guidelines while merging could result in accidents or traffic violations.

How is liability determined in a Columbus merging accident?

Assessing blame in a merging accident depends on the specific circumstances, although the merging driver is usually considered at fault. However, if a speeding driver in the adjacent lane or an aggressive driver who wouldn’t accommodate someone entering the lane caused the accident, a merging accident might not be the merging driver’s fault. There are certain factors that contribute to merging accidents and could affect liability. These include:

  • Failure to yield. If a driver fails to yield the right of way while merging, they may be considered at fault.
  • Speeding. If a driver is traveling at an excessive speed while attempting to merge, they may not have enough time to safely enter traffic, potentially causing an accident.
  • Failure to signal. If a driver neglects to use their turn signal to show their intention to merge and other don’t anticipate the move and a collision occurs, the driver who failed to signal could be considered at fault.
  • Impaired driving. If a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while attempting to merge, their impaired judgment and reaction times could contribute to an accident.
  • Distracted driving: If a driver is distracted by activities such as texting, talking on the phone, or adjusting the radio while merging, they may not be paying enough attention to the traffic around them, increasing the risk of an accident.
  • Aggressive or reckless driving. Tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, or refusing to yield to merging vehicles can increase the likelihood of a merging accident.

Fault for a merging accident is usually determined by investigating officers based on witness statements, physical evidence, and traffic laws. However, liability can also be determined through insurance claims and personal injury lawsuits.

Challenges with liability in lane-changing accidents

A collision between two merging vehicles can often lead to a chain reaction of crashes: as two cars collide, the force can be enough to send one (or both) ricocheting or spinning into other vehicles, who in turn may hit others. The greater the number of vehicles involved, the more important it becomes to determine who is liable, as it could be multiple parties.

When one of those vehicles is an 18-wheeler or commercial truck, the chances of a catastrophic injury increase. Establishing liability is more important than ever when you have sustained life-altering injuries. In most cases, trucking companies can be held liable for the crash. They also tend to have larger insurance policies, which increases your chance of receiving the compensation you need in order to recover.

Compensation for lane change and merging accidents

If you were injured in an auto accident that involved changing lanes or merging, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages, even if you were partially at fault. Ohio follows a comparative negligence standard, meaning an accident victim can obtain compensation from the negligent driver if they are determined to be 50 percent or less at fault for the accident. Typically, their compensation will be reduced according to their share of fault for the collision. However, if a claimant is determined to be 51 percent or more at fault, they will not be allowed to recover any damages.

If eligible, you could receive compensatory damages for the following accident-related costs:

  • Property damage
  • Present and future medical bills
  • Physical therapy
  • Medication
  • Present and future lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Emotional suffering, including post-traumatic stress
  • Loss of consortium

You may also be eligible for punitive damages, but the bar for these damages is high. We can discuss whether or not such damage may apply to your case.

At Soroka & Associates, LLC, our Columbus personal injury lawyers have earned the respect of insurance companies, defense lawyers, and former clients for our impressive negotiation skills and record of success in the courtroom. Our car accident attorneys work with investigators, law enforcement personnel, and traffic reconstruction experts (when necessary) to demonstrate how your lane change or merging crash happened and identify the responsible party. We also work with your doctors to understand the full scope and severity of your injuries, and present that information to juries on your behalf. Call us or fill out our contact form to get started today.