Motor vehicle accidents are common causes of injuries and deaths in Georgia. In 2018, statistics from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reported 1,504 auto accident deaths in Georgia alone. Every driver has a duty to obey traffic laws, pay attention to the road and act with reasonable care behind the wheel. Failure to do so could lead to liability for a collision. Determining liability, however, can be tricky if you get into a car accident while changing lanes.
How Does Georgia’s Fault Law Work?
Under Georgia law, it is critical to determine fault for an auto accident. You cannot begin the insurance claims process until you or your lawyer has identified the at-fault party. Georgia is a tort state, meaning the driver or party guilty of committing a tort, or wrongdoing, that caused the accident will be financially responsible for crash-related losses. Before you file an insurance claim, you will need to establish why your car accident occurred and who is legally to blame.
A tort typically describes an act of negligence. In car accident law, negligence refers to one party’s carelessness or failure to act in a reasonable manner. If negligence causes a car accident and related injuries, the negligent party will be legally responsible. One of the most common examples of negligence behind the wheel is a driver making an unsafe or illegal lane change.
What Does Georgia Law Say About Changing Lanes?
In a motor vehicle collision that takes place during a lane change, fault can be difficult to determine. If another driver crashed into you while trying to change lanes and you were injured in the crash, you would seek financial compensation from that driver for changing lanes when it was not safe to do so. If, however, you and the other driver both tried to enter the same lane at the same time and collided, fault can be more difficult to assign.
Georgia Motor Vehicles and Traffic Code Section 40-6-123 states that no driver may change lanes until he or she can do so with reasonable safety. Drivers in Georgia have the following responsibilities when changing lanes to accomplish the maneuver safely:
- Pay attention to the road and the driving task.
- Signal soon enough to alert other drivers of the intent to change lanes or merge.
- Check that the destination lane is clear.
- Check the rearview and side mirrors.
- Reduce the vehicle’s speed to match traffic, if necessary.
- Slowly and smoothly make the lane change when it is safe to do so.
Failing to take any of these steps, leading to a merge or sideswipe accident, will place liability for the crash with the driver that broke Georgia’s lane-change law. Fault typically goes to the driver trying to change lanes, as it is this driver’s responsibility to perform the maneuver responsibly. If, however, you and the other driver were both changing lanes at the same time, liability may not be clear.
Shared Fault Laws in Georgia
In a lane-change accident involving two drivers moving simultaneously, both may be partially responsible for a collision. In Georgia, drivers can share fault for a car accident. Georgia uses a proportional comparative fault law, meaning the individual found to be less than 50% responsible for the crash will be entitled to financial compensation.
The award, however, will be reduced by the driver’s percentage of fault. If one or both drivers are at least 50% at fault for a lane-change accident, neither will be entitled to compensation. If you need assistance determining fault after a car accident changing lanes in Georgia, discuss your case with a car accident lawyer before negotiating with an insurance company. A lawyer can help you assign and prove fault for a successful settlement.