As many as 1/3 of traffic accidents occur when a vehicle changes lanes. Not knowing who has the right of way or simply failing to follow traffic laws may result in an accident.
Texas is an at-fault state, so determining fault is the first step in claiming compensation. Who is at fault for a merging or lane change accident?
Below, our Houston car accident attorneys at Haun Mena explain who’s at fault for merging and lane change accidents in Texas.
How Is Fault Determined for Merging and Lane Change Accidents?
Typically, the party at fault for merging and lane change accidents in Texas is the party that attempted to enter a new lane of travel without having the room to do so safely. Generally, a vehicle changing lanes or merging must yield to vehicles already present in the lane.
Examples of rules for merging and lane change accidents:
When merging onto the highway, the vehicle entering the highway from an entrance ramp must yield to vehicles that are already on the highway.
If a lane ends on a multi-lane road, the vehicles in the lane that is ending must yield to vehicles that are in the continuing lane.
When vehicles are traveling in the same direction, a vehicle may only change lanes when there is room for them to safely do so.
A driver that is speeding may be at fault if another vehicle changes lanes and strikes them because the driver changing lanes couldn’t correctly judge the oncoming speed of the vehicle in the other lane.
Lane changes and merges are common driving maneuvers. There are many reasons that a driver may need to merge or change lanes. They may need to move over so that they can turn left. A lane may be ending because of the design of the road or because of special construction projects. A hazard may be in the way, or a law enforcement vehicle may be stopped on the side of the road. In all these examples, the general rule for fault is that the vehicle merging or changing lanes must wait until they have enough room to do so safely.
Texas Lane Change Statutes
What is the Texas law for lane changes?
Texas Transportation Code § 545.060 – A driver may not move from their lane unless the lane change can be done safely.
Texas Transportation Code § 545.061 – On a roadway with three or more lanes, vehicles entering from the right must yield to vehicles entering from the left.
Texas Transportation Code § 515-161 – A driver must yield the right of way when instructed to do so by a traffic sign or signal.
Texas Merging Traffic Laws
Additional laws that apply to merging and lane changes include:
Texas Transportation Code § 545.153 – A vehicle merging at an intersection must yield the right of way to a vehicle that has entered the intersection.
Texas Transportation Code § 545.154 – A vehicle on a limited-access or controlled-access highway must yield the right of way to a vehicle entering or about to enter the access or feeder road from the highway or leaving the access or feeder road to enter the highway.
Texas Transportation Code § 545.051 – An operator shall drive on the ride side of the roadway except to pass, prepare for a left turn, or if there is an obstruction.
Texas Transportation Code § 545.052 – When a vehicle is approaching in the other direction, a driver must move or remain to the right, giving the other operator half of the main traveled portion of the roadway or as much roadway as possible.
Texas Transportation Code § 545.053 – A driver shall not pass on the left unless the left side is clearly visible and free of approaching traffic. They must return to their authorized lane of travel before coming within 200 feet of an approaching vehicle or as soon as practicable.
Proving Fault in a Lane Change or Merging Accident
Causes of lane change and merging accidents include:
- Rushing, trying to get ahead in traffic
- Failing to check carefully for a clear lane
- Not understanding traffic laws and yielding
- Failing to signal
- Distracted or fatigued driving, drunk driving
- Reckless driving
The position of each vehicle at the time of the accident is critical to proving fault in a lane change or merging accident. For example, when an accident occurs as a vehicle is merging onto the highway, knowing which vehicle was on the highway and which was entering the highway may be instructive of what fault for the accident.
The party responsible may admit what happened. Accident reconstruction, damage to the vehicles, and where the vehicles and debris come to rest can provide valuable evidence.
When two vehicles are headed in the same direction, and a lane change attempt results in an accident, the party executing the lane change is usually at fault. When it is a two-lane road in the same direction, one vehicle is likely to have damage on the right and the other on the left. Vehicle damage may be instructive but not necessarily conclusive.
Proving fault can be a complex matter. A car accident lawyer can help you prove it. Drivers aren’t always honest, and there may be a chain reaction that results in additional damage. An experienced lawyer can help you prove a complex case and your right to compensation.
If You’re In a Lane-Changing Accident in Houston, Talk to a Lawyer
If you are hurt by a driver who failed to exercise reasonable care during a lane change or merge, you may deserve financial compensation.
At Haun Mena, we represent people who are injured by the actions of others. If you have been hurt in a car accident, we may help you evaluate what happened and prove your right to compensation.
Start with a free consultation with our car accident lawyers in Houston. Call Haun Mena or message us now to start your case.