Who is at Fault in a Lane Change Accident in Oklahoma?

If you’re a regular reader of our legal blog, you might remember our article about new lane change laws adopted by Oklahoma City last fall.  Under the new law, drivers who fail to signal at least 100 feet before making a lane change can be fined over $170.  The law was introduced to help improve road safety and reduce car accidents in Oklahoma City, and with good reason – improper lane changes are a major cause of crashes and collisions.  According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO), unsafe lane changes were responsible for more than 3,860 accidents in 2014 alone, or about 10 accidents per day.  There’s no question that lane change accidents are commonplace in Oklahoma – but which driver is at fault when they occur?  

What Lane Change Laws Are OK Drivers Required to Follow?

The new lane change rule, Ordinance No. 25,204, took effect in Oklahoma City last October.  Before the law was passed, drivers were required simply to use their turn signals whenever making a lane change, without any specific rules relating to distance between vehicles.  The old law stated only that a vehicle “shall not be moved from [its] lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety and has signaled for a change of course,” which is a fancy way of saying a driver needs to confirm that changing lanes is safe before doing so.  Under the new ordinance, this wording was amended to add a 100-foot rule.

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The 100-foot distance established by the new ordinance is about the length of an NBA basketball court (which is 94 feet), or, if you’re not a sports fan, about two and half school buses.  That means if you’re traveling at a speed of 45 miles per hour, you’ll need to start signaling about one and a half seconds before you actually start to change lanes.  If you’re traveling at 65 miles per hour, you’ll need to signal for about one second.

One or two seconds may not seem like much, but city officials hope that this small, simple change will have a powerful impact on reducing the amount of preventable accidents that take place each year.  OHSO’s 2016 report (which is yet to be released) should shed light on how effective the new law really is.

How is Fault Determined When a Car Crash is Caused by Changing Lanes?

Even a minor car accident can burden the victim with huge medical bills, not to mention the hefty costs of repairing or replacing damaged personal property.  At the same time, the injury victim will likely need to take time off of work to recover, which makes the financial situation even more difficult – especially if the injuries are serious enough to cause permanent disability.

Fortunately, it is often possible for injured Oklahoma drivers to recover compensation to help shoulder these expenses, either by making an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.  However, in order for a car accident victim to get compensation, he or she will need to prove the other driver was at fault for the accident.

In order to determine fault, one must look to Oklahoma’s lane change laws (or to Oklahoma City’s new ordinance, if that’s where the accident occurred).  Stated simply, the driver who was negligent – meaning, in this context, the driver who failed to follow lane change laws by signaling properly – would generally be liable for resulting injuries.  All drivers have a “duty of care” toward each other, and when a driver carelessly or intentionally breaks traffic laws, he or she has breached that duty.

Of course, car accidents can be caused a jumble of factors, and there are many cases where both drivers share some of the blame for a crash.  However, even in this situation, the injury victim can still recover compensation, provided he or she was less than 51% at fault for the collision.  For obvious reasons, this is known as the 51% Bar Rule.  (If you’d like more information on this topic, see our previous article about partial fault for car accidents.)

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Contact a Reliable Car Accident Attorney

If you or one of your family members was in a car accident in Oklahoma City or the surrounding area, including Norman, Edmond, and Moore, you may be entitled to compensation to help with current and future expenses related to the crash.  Call an Oklahoma City car accident lawyer of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 to set up a free, confidential legal consultation.  We have over 75 years of combined experience handling automotive accident claims in the Oklahoma City area, including truck accidents and motorcycle accidents.