There were 309,371 vehicle crashes in New York state in one recent year, according to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research (ITSMR), 933 of them fatal. In the Bronx alone, there were 10,710 crashes, 38 of them fatal. Nationwide, more than 37,000 people were killed in car accidents during that same time, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you or a loved one has experienced a life changing car accident speaking with a car accident attorney could help you receive legal compensation.
Many different factors, including driver error, road and traffic conditions, and weather, can contribute to car accidents. One type of accident, the sideswipe collision, is “the first harmful event” in 2.7 percent of fatal car crashes, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Sideswipe Collisions: What They Are
In a sideswipe collision, both vehicles are traveling in the same direction, and one vehicle hits the side of another. The impact can range from a barely noticeable bump to a significant collision, in which one or both vehicles might be pushed into another lane or even off the road. If this happens, the initial vehicles might hit other vehicles, guardrails, dividers and retaining walls, and even pedestrians. An accident like this can be fatal or severely injurious to multiple people.
Why do sideswipe collisions happen? Frankly, it’s almost always driver error. For two cars traveling side by side to hit each other, either one or both drivers must not know the other vehicle is there—and being aware of where the other vehicles on the road are is a basic safe driving principle. They may have not checked when trying to merge into another lane, or checked side-view mirrors but not realized that another vehicle was in a blind spot. One driver may have failed to signal an intent to change lanes. The inattentiveness could also stem from driving while intoxicated (DWI) with alcohol or drugs or distracted driving.
Weather can certainly play a role. A severe snowstorm, for example, can make a vehicle coming up in the next lane close to invisible. But one of the rules of safe driving is that no one should ever drive their vehicle into an area they can’t see—and that goes for changing into the next lane too!
All drivers are responsible for following safe driving practices and New York state laws and regulations. Failure to do so can cause an accident, and the driver that causes it can be liable for injuries.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Injured in a Sideswipe Collision?
New York is a no-fault state for car accidents. No-fault means that injured people go first to their own insurance carrier to obtain compensation for injuries and damages caused by the accident, such as medical bills and property damage.
All New York state drivers are required to carry $50,000 in no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, plus $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury per person, $50,000 total liability bodily injury coverage per accident caused, $10,000 liability coverage for property damage, and uninsured motorist coverage.
In other words, if treatment for injuries sustained during an accident causes $30,000 in medical bills and repairing your car costs $8,000, your own insurance carrier should compensate you, regardless of whether the other driver sideswiped you or not.
However, state law also allows injured motorists to step outside of the system of no-fault if the injuries are serious, as defined by the law. Serious injuries have occurred if someone sustains:
- Bone fractures
- Significant disfigurement
- Permanent limitation of a body organ or member’s use
- Significant limitation a body function or system’s use
- Any injury that has caused substantially full disability for 90 days
If your injuries are serious, you can bring a suit against the other driver if you have reason to believe they are at fault, or file a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance.
Once you step outside of no-fault because of these injuries, the law also allows you to bring a claim for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. The no-fault system doesn’t compensate for pain and suffering.
How Can Another Driver Cause an Accident?
All drivers are responsible for driving safely and following the law. If they don’t, they have breached the duty of care owed to other people on the roads. A breach of such care is negligence. If a driver has caused an accident due to a failure to signal, for example, they can be deemed negligent and responsible for injuries and damages caused by the accident. Failures in judgment caused by a DWI or distracted driving are also examples of potential negligence.
All drivers in New York state must immediately report an accident to the police if a person was injured or killed. In addition, all drivers involved must file an accident report to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
It’s also the law to report any accident in which property damage amounted to more than $1,000, within 10 days of the accident. Exchanging information with the other driver(s), such as your driver’s license, insurance, and registration, is also required by law.
Both police reports and reports to the DMV are evidence of what occurred in the accident and who was involved. They can be important evidence if you elect to pursue a claim for damages.
If you have more questions about a sideswipe car accident you experienced or any other type of crash, contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can provide you with answers, evaluate your claim, and let you know whether you have a strong legal claim.