Who is at Fault in a Car Accident While Changing Lanes in Texas?

When you learn to drive, whether as part of a drivers’ education course or as part of your drivers’ exam, you learn to make lane changes. Most of the busy highways in the Dallas area are multilane highways with on- and off-ramps, meaning you need to be comfortable changing lanes and merging in Dallas. Even backroads may have more than one lane, and require proper care and skill to navigate safely. But who is at fault in a lane-changing crash? Dallas car accident attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., explain.

Lane-Changing Accidents in Dallas

In the typical lane-changing accident, one person moves to change lanes or pass another car, and crashes into a car next to them. For this example, the car who was changing lanes may have broken a few laws, just in those few seconds, and is likely at fault. §§ 545.053-545.057 of the Texas Transportation Code deal with passing another car. These rules require that you only pass in an area that allows it (e.g. an area with multiple lanes and no “no-passing zone” signs). When passing, you must make sure that the other lane is clear, which requires checking your blind spots. Most car mirrors leave a blind spot in the area from the front door handle back past the rear corner of the car (on both sides). To safely change lanes or merge, you must physically turn your head and look back out the side windows of your car. Keep in mind that other cars have their own blind spots, and that tractor-trailer accidents may occur because their size blocks other drivers’ views.
You also must use a signal when changing lanes. § 545.104 requires you to use your signal when turning, changing lanes, or starting from a parked position. Additionally, after passing, you must return to the right lane.

If you are the car being passed, you also have some requirements under § 545.053. This statute requires that you stay in your lane while being passed, and do not accelerate until the car has passed you. This means that swerving or speeding up to prevent a car from legally passing you would be illegal.

Texas Traffic Laws and Car Accident Fault

In general, when an accident involves breaking the rules of the road, the party who broke the law is responsible for the accident. This means that you may be at-fault for a crash if you:

  • Fail to signal when changing lanes,
  • Change lanes into another vehicle,
  • Fail to return to the right lane,
  • Pass in a no-passing zone,
  • Prevent another car from passing you, or
  • Violate any other road rules (such as by speeding).

One law that even experienced drivers may not understand deals with the right of way when the right and left lanes try to move into a middle lane. On a road with three or more lanes, multiple cars may try to enter the center lane at the same time – but who is at fault for that accident? Under § 545.061, the car coming from the right must yield to the car coming from the left. That means the car on the left has the “right of way” over a car on the right. This is the rule, since cars on the left need to be able to get out of the way of cars trying to pass them, or may need to get to an exit.

Lastly, while it is legal to move multiple lanes at the same time (e.g. to go from the right lane, across the second lane, to a third lane in one move), it is not usually safe. Always check your blind spots, use your signal, and move cautiously when changing lanes.

Merging Car Accident – Am I At Fault?

The rules for merging onto a highway are similar to those for lane-changing. You must signal, check your blind spots, and may not merge if the roadway is too crowded. Additionally, § 545.151 says that a car on an entrance ramp must yield to cars already on the highway. Even on on-ramps without a yield sign, you must still yield.

Note that “yielding” does not always mean “stopping.” In fact, stopping on an entrance ramp may be unsafe. Cars behind you expect you to reach highways speeds and enter the highway. If you need to adjust speed to match an open space on the highway, that’s usually fine. However, if you must stop, do so far back on the ramp, and with plenty of warning for those behind you. This gives you room to accelerate to highway speeds before merging, and may prevent other cars from rear-ending you if you slow gradually.

Car Accident Attorney in Dallas

The Dallas personal injury lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm represent those who were injured in car accidents in Texas. If you were injured because someone failed to properly merge or change lanes, talk to an Arlington, TX personal injury attorney today. Because these laws are so clearly established, they may help you prove the other driver was at-fault for your injuries. For a free consultation on your car accident case, call (817) 476-1797 today.