Crashes When Lanes Merge in California

Dec 9, 2021

Merging onto a highway or changing lanes on a busy road can not only be nerve-wracking but also dangerous. If a driver fails to use their turn signals, speeds up, or otherwise misjudges the amount of space available when merging into a lane, such actions may cause a serious car accident.In this blog post, our Woodland Hills car accident attorneys at Frish Law Group, APLC will discuss why these collisions often occur and how liability is determined in merging accidents in California.

Common Causes of Merging Accidents

Merging accidents can happen for a wide range of preventable reasons. Knowing the common causes can help you become aware of potential ways a crash can occur and take precautions to avoid it.

The following are the common reasons for merging accidents:

  • Misjudging the available space between vehicles or the nearest vehicle to enter the lane
  • Changing lanes without using a turn signal
  • Merging too slowly or too quickly
  • Cutting off other vehicles
  • Crossing over multiple lanes
  • Speeding
  • Driving at night with the lights off
  • Driving while distracted

Determining Liability in a Merging Accident

The main factor in a merging accident is who had the right of way when the crash happened. If a driver is in the lane that is ending, he/she is supposed to yield to the vehicles in the other lane and safely merge when there is available space.

In general, a vehicle that is maintaining its own lane position is not liable for a merging accident in California. Therefore, a driver merging or otherwise changing lanes has a duty of care to ensure the chosen lane is clear before entering it.

When a lane is about to end and traffic has not slowed down, drivers should stay in the lane until the last second and merge using an alternating “zipper” method. If traffic has slowed down, drivers should change lanes before the end of the lane.

However, there are some situations where the driver in the lane or more than one driver could be at fault, such as:

  • If both drivers attempt to change lanes at the same time
  • If either driver speeds, drives recklessly, drives while distracted, or otherwise exhibits unlawful behavior
  • If a driver who is already in the lane rear-ends another motorist who has safely completed a lane change
  • If a vehicle in a lane experiences a type of vehicle malfunction, such as faulty brake lights or headlights, that could mislead a driver who is changing lanes

Preventing Merging Accidents

Merging accidents are avoidable, so long as drivers obey the traffic laws and safely operate their vehicles while sharing the road with others. Keep a safe distance and avoid tailgating before safely merging or changing lanes. Always use your turn signals to indicate your intent to other drivers.

Lastly, do not make sudden movements when merging or changing lanes. Rather, gradually merge or change lanes.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Woodland Hills or Los Angeles, call Frish Law Group, APLC at (818) 686-5527 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free consultation. We have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients!