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Merging Collisions: Who's at Fault in Virginia? Who Has to Pay?

You’re generally very good at merging on and off the highway. You look ahead to assess traffic, pick an opening and adjust your speed to smoothly slide in.  However, the traffic gods were not with you today as you attempted to merge onto I-95. Not only was traffic heavy and there was not an open spot in sight, but the car parallel to you wanted to get off and was attempting to merge into you.

Since neither of you had space to move, what were you supposed to do? Should you slow down to let him in, or should he have slowed down to let you in? To avoid a collision, you decided to slow down to let him over and then sped up to take his place on the highway. Was that the correct thing to do?

To Get Over or To Not Get Over: That Is the Question

Merging confusion, lack of merging etiquette, and delusional merging entitlement account for 4% of all traffic collisions, according to the US Department of Transportation. Although 4% may not seem like a lot, considering that merging takes up only a small fraction of driving time, 250,000 merging collisions per year is actually considerably high.

The alarming part of these statistics is that all of these accidents could have been avoided if the drivers involved had paid attention and followed some basic rules of merging to determine who had the right of way. Instead, they ignored decency and the law in order to push their way into a collision. To avoid a merging collision, take the following into consideration:

  • Decency. Merging laws dictate that drivers in both lanes of traffic are responsible for merging safety. This means that if you’re merging you must pay attention and safely judge when to move over, and if you’re in the through lane, then it’s your responsibility to help create room for the merging vehicle. Unfortunately, there are times when traffic may impede this decency. Therefore, you must rely on laws of yielding.
  • Yielding. When you’re attempting to merge onto a busy highway and the through traffic is not allowing you over, you must yield to them. Virginia law states that “No person shall stop a vehicle in such manner as to impede or render dangerous the use of the highway by others, except in the case of an emergency, an accident, or a mechanical breakdown.” Therefore, you cannot force through traffic to stop on your behalf. In addition to the law, merging traffic is better able than through traffic to slow down and wait safely, since the traffic behind them will also be slow. Through traffic is surrounded by high-speed vehicles, and if they’re forced to suddenly stop, the risk of getting rear-ended is much higher. So, slow down and yield to through traffic for both your sakes.
  • Right of Way. According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, traffic that is already on the highway has the right of way over traffic merging onto the highway. Therefore, when you’re attempting to get off the highway at the same time as another driver is attempting to get on, he should yield to you. As with most merging situations, this also depends on timing and how much space is allowed for each merger.
  • Liability. When a merging collision occurs, liability depends on several different factors: who had the right of way, timing, and circumstance. For instance, if the highway driver veered into the on-ramp lane for no apparent reason and crashed into you, he would be at fault, even though technically highway drivers have the right of way.

Veering Toward Justice

Merging accidents can be extremely confusing and resulting injuries can be catastrophic, especially considering relative speeds of impact. This is why it is important to know where to turn when you’re a victim of a convergent accident. What you need is an experienced lawyer to help explain your rights and options.

We know how frustrating and complicated car accident claims can be, especially when so many things can make or break your case. Let our experience and knowledgeable Virginia personal injury lawyers work for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Make sure your family and friends know the proper laws, etiquette, and risks of merging by sharing this information on your social network. Help keep your loved ones safe and our roads clear by clicking the familiar media icons that can be found throughout this page. You and your loved ones will be glad you did.

Andrew Thomas
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Andrew Thomas is an experienced civil litigation attorney in Virginia and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.