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Merging onto a highway or interstate is always a little stressful, even when traffic is light. That’s because you’re required to enter the roadway at a fast enough speed to keep up with other traffic, but you may have only a hundred feet to accelerate and reach that speed. And when traffic is heavy, there may be few, if any, openings for you to merge, turning a routine maneuver into a tricky and potentially dangerous affair.
Many highway and interstate crashes occur while merging, as they’re essentially high-speed lane changes. But who is at fault for these crashes? Merging drivers may run out of room and have no choice but to drift into the main lanes of traffic, but other drivers also may not have enough room or time to react to clear a path.
At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, our lawyers have helped many drivers who were injured in merging-related accidents, and we’re here to breakdown this common but complicated legal situation.
If you were hit by an oncoming vehicle while merging, it’s likely—but not guaranteed—that you will be considered at fault. Why? Most police officers, insurance companies, and even juries will assume that you changed lanes off the on-ramp and onto the highway or interstate without paying attention or checking your mirrors. In other words, you will be assumed to have negligently merged into the path of another vehicle without looking to see if the path was clear.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and many times merging drivers aren’t at fault or had no choice but to merge because their on-ramp was ending and they had vehicles behind them. And sometimes, drivers in the lane adjacent to on-ramps fail to accommodate merging drivers, and although that doesn’t necessarily make them at fault, it’s worth considering if the cause of the crash is contested.
Merging drivers may be assigned partial or full fault for a crash due to the following reasons:
Although drivers in adjacent lanes of traffic don’t have any duty to merging drivers—i.e., slowing down or changing lanes for them is only a courtesy and not a requirement—they DO have a duty to drive safely, responsibly, and within the law. That means that if a merging crash occurs because the driver in the adjacent lane was speeding, impaired, or distracted, they can be held liable for the crash.
Merging drivers also may not be held liable for their crashes if they’re hit by drivers who drift into them. For example, a driver may be attempting to merge, but the driver in the adjacent lane isn’t paying attention and drifts, speeds up, or slows down at the same time the on-ramp driver begins to merge. If there’s a collision, the non-merging-driver could be considered responsible because they created a dangerous condition when the merging driver otherwise was clear to enter the highway or interstate.
Merging crashes are treated similarly to rear-end crashes. Although the drivers who rear-end others are usually considered liable, it’s not always an open and shut case. Certain circumstances can make it so that the rear-ended driver, or in this case, the non-merging-driver, can be held liable for the crash. Our Cleveland car accident lawyers know the ins and outs of all crash-related compensation claims, and we’ll work hard to prove you weren’t at fault and get you the money you’re owed. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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