Merging onto a Louisiana roadway like I-10 or Route 90 can be tricky, even without heavy traffic. If drivers are not careful, a dangerous crash could occur.
Victims of these collisions may be able to seek compensation, but they must prove the other driver is at fault. Below, the experienced lawyers at Galloway Jefcoat discuss who may be at fault if one car hits another while merging.
If you were injured in an auto accident, our Lafayette-based vehicle accident lawyers may be able to file an insurance claim or lawsuit on your behalf. We have obtained millions for victims of car crashes in Lafayette and surrounding areas.
Zero upfront costs unless we win. Call us today at: (337) 984-8020.
When Do Most Merging Accidents Occur in Louisiana?
Merging accidents often occur when a driver attempts to get on an interstate like I-10 from an onramp.
The driver may misjudge the distance between his or her vehicle and approaching traffic. There are also merging accidents when one driver needs to get over because their current lane will end. Despite lower speed limits on these roads, merging crashes can be just as severe as those on interstate highways.
There are two main types of merging accidents that happen on interstates and other roadways:
- Two cars merge into the same lane at the same time, causing a sideswipe collision.
- The merging car or the one that is already in the lane rear-ends the other.
There are various reasons why these two types of merging accidents happen, but these are all examples of negligent driving, including:
- Failing to activate a turn signal to alert other drivers that you are attempting to merge/change lanes
- Merging too fast or too slowly from an on-ramp – merging too slowly is especially dangerous because there is less time for other cars to react to you
- Trying to cut another driver off
- Crossing multiple lanes all at once while attempting to merge – drivers should only move over one lane at a time
- Failing to check blind spots before drifting into another lane
- Distracted driving, such merging while you are distracted by your phone or being distracted while another driver attempts to merge in front of you
- Road rage, which might happen after a driver gets cut off – the driver might speed up and hit the other car while it is merging
- Failing to turn on headlights at night or just before dark
- Hydroplaning on a wet road
While rare, sometimes a driver will wave you ahead and as you merge, the other driver will speed up and hit your car. The other driver will then claim he or she did not wave at you, and you are liable for the crash. This is an example of a staged car accident.
Who Has the Right of Way When Merging?
In Louisiana, any cars that are entering a highway from a smaller road or parking lot are required to yield to vehicles that are already on the highway. This rule is explained in Louisiana Revised Statutes 32:124. State law also requires drivers to use their turn signals to notify other drivers of their intention to merge before making the maneuver.
A different statute says drivers on the highway are required to move to the right to allow faster moving cars to pass on the left. However, this does not apply to drivers entering the highway from an onramp. Drivers who are already on the highway are not required to yield to you.
Who is at Fault if Someone Merges Into You?
Generally, the driver who was merging is held liable for a merging accident. This is because the merging driver did not have the right of way. Drivers who did not have the right of way at the time of the crash are often held liable for damages. That said, each situation is different and needs to be analyzed on its own.
Liability if You Were Rear-Ended While Merging in Louisiana
Often, the driver who was rear-ended is held liable for a rear-end merging accident. The other driver likely had the right of way and merging drivers are required to respect that.
However, there can be many factors at play in a merging accident that involves one driver rear-ending another. There are important questions that should be asked about these kinds of accidents:
- Was the driver who was already on the road speeding?
- Was he or she distracted or impaired by alcohol or drugs?
- Was the driver fatigued or drowsy?
- Did the driver who rear-ended you change lanes in the last few seconds before the crash, meaning you thought you had enough time and space to merge?
The answers to these and other questions should help clarify liability for this type of accident.
Is the Non-Merging Driver Ever at Fault?
There can be instances when a non-merging driver is at fault for a merging accident in Louisiana. For example, the non-merging driver might be at fault if he or she was speeding, distracted or had changed lanes in the last few seconds before the crash.
Did the driver speed up at the last second? He or she might be at least partially to blame for the crash.
The question is: Would the accident have been avoided if the non-merging driver had acted differently?
If the answer to this question is yes, that driver may bear fault. However, the burden of proof in any car accident case is on the victim. That means your attorney would need to establish that the other driver was negligent and his or her negligence contributed to the crash.
When the victim and another party share fault, the victim’s compensation will be reduced according to the victim’s percentage of fault. This is because Louisiana applies a pure comparative fault standard. You can recover compensation even if you are 99 percent at fault. For example, if you are found to be 20 percent at fault, your compensation award would be reduced by 20 percent.
However, situations in which two drivers share fault for a merging accident are rare. Typically, the victim of a merging accident is in the car that was already on the road. The negligence of the merging driver is what caused the crash.
What Should I Do If I Got Hit While Merging on I-10 or Another Road in Lafayette?
You should treat the aftermath of a merging accident the same way you would the aftermath of any other type of accident. There are certain steps you should take for your safety and to help protect your claim for compensation. These include:
- Move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic if possible and turn on your hazard lights
- Call the police so they can secure the scene and complete a police report
- Exchange information with everyone involved in the crash, including driver’s license number, insurance details and contact information
- Gather evidence, such as pictures of the crash and injuries you can see
- Go to the hospital as soon as possible for treatment – you may think your injuries are not that big of a deal but you could be wrong; waiting to seek treatment allows injuries to get worse
Evidence of a Merging Crash
The burden of proof in a merging accident claim is on you. That means your lawyer must gather evidence to prove the other driver was negligent. Your lawyer must also establish a direct link between the driver’s negligence, the crash and your injuries.
Some of the evidence your lawyer may use to prove your case includes:
- Police report
- Statements from witnesses
- Pictures of the scene
- Medical records
- Report from an accident reconstruction expert
- Dash camera footage, if it is available
- And more
Injuries Drivers Suffer in Merging Accidents
Drivers and other vehicle occupants can suffer serious injuries in merging crashes. This can include:
- Broken bones (legs, arms, wrists, elbows, ribs and hands)
- Whiplash, which happens when your head and neck are thrown forward during impact and back when your vehicle stops, such as in a rear-end collision
- Back injuries, such as strains of soft-tissue, herniated discs, pinched nerves and broken vertebrae
- Traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions
- Internal organ injuries
- And more
You should not assume your injuries are minor. Even if your symptoms feel like they are no big deal, you should seek treatment. Sometimes minor symptoms get worse and they are part of a severe injury.
Compensation for a Merging Accident
In a merging accident lawsuit, your lawyer can seek compensation for economic and non-economic damages, including:
- Medical bills, including expenses you have already incurred and those you might incur in the future
- Lost wages if you miss work
- Lost earning capacity if you suffer a long-term injury that limits your ability to work
- Repairing or replacing your vehicle
- Pain and suffering
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Post-traumatic stress
- Lost companionship
- And more
At Galloway Jefcoat, we are committed to seeking full compensation for your damages, at no upfront cost to you. We have decades of experience building cases against negligent drivers and securing compensation from insurance companies.
How to Safely Merge Onto a Freeway in Lafayette
Defensive driving is the key to avoiding a merging accident. Here are some best practices for drivers who are merging and drivers who are already in the lane others are merging into.
Tips for Drivers Who are Merging
If you are trying to merge:
- Use your turn signal before you start to merge so other drivers know you are preparing to change lanes
- Gradually merge into the other lane; if you merge too quickly you could cause drivers to overreact
- Double-check that you have enough time and space to merge when you start to move over
- Avoid cutting off other cars
- Always check your blind spots before merging
Tips for Drivers Who Are Already in the Lane
If you are in a lane other cars are merging into:
- Avoid speeding because it may increase the risk of an accident
- Avoid tailgating other drivers as this gives merging drivers more room to safely merge
- When possible, change lanes
- Do not try to keep any other cars from merging, as it can increase the risk of an accident
Call to Discuss Your Legal Options After a Merging Accident
Do you need help after getting injured in a Louisiana car accident?
Galloway Jefcoat has the resources and experience to manage your legal case and there are no upfront fees for our services. Our firm has been representing the injured in Louisiana for decades and we have a track record of success. We’ve recovered millions from insurance companies through negotiations and courtroom decisions.
Give us a call to learn more about how we can help you: (337) 984-8020.