Louisiana law contains many legal “presumptions.” Several legal presumptions apply in the context of automobile cases. Preliminarily, what is a legal presumption? A legal presumption essentially relieves a litigant of the duty of proving negligence of the adverse party in a case. Basically, the other party is presumed to be at fault and must prove that he or she is not at fault to escape liability for someone else’s injury and rebut the legal presumption.
In a case involving a motorist who changes lanes and gets into an accident in Louisiana, a legal presumption applies that the driver who was changing lanes and got into an accident is presumed to be at fault in the accident. To avoid liability, the driver changing lanes must show that he or she acted reasonably and safely in changing lanes. For example, if a driver changes lanes and winds up side-swiping another vehicle in the adjacent lane while changing lanes, the driver changing lanes is most likely going to be presumed to be at fault. A reasonably prudent driver would not change lanes and wind up side-swiping another vehicle in the adjacent lane of travel. Had the driver in this hypothetical acted with sufficient caution, he or she would have seen the other vehicle in the adjacent lane and waited until the appropriate time to change lanes, avoiding a side-swipe collision.
Whether fault will be assessed against you in a lane-change case is a fact-dependent inquiry. All facts in your case must be examined to determine who may be at fault in any given rear-end collision. If you are unsure as to whether you might be at fault, consult with a competent attorney for advice.
For any automobile collision, prevention is best. No one wins when people get seriously hurt or, even worse, killed in an accident. How can you avoid causing a potentially nightmarish scenario? To minimize your chances of getting into a lane-change collision, exercise caution and pay attention to the movement patterns of nearby vehicles. Additionally, use your blinker everytime you change lanes to signal to other potentially unsuspecting motorists that you intend to change lanes. Sometimes, you may think you are clear to change lanes and not see another vehicle because of a blind spot, so it is best to maximize caution and use your blinker no matter what you think you know about the roadway conditions. You have nothing to lose but a second or two of your time in putting on your blinker. Not doing so could cost you thousands of dollars and high stress, however, if you get in an automobile accident, and you are at fault under the lane-change presumption.
To facilitate your ability to pay attention when changing lanes, it is important to proactively avoid being distracted. Put away your cell phone before you even begin driving. Do not text message while driving. Text messaging can be as dangerous as drunk driving. If you must call, do so through the speakers in your vehicle to enable hands-free talking on the phone if you have that functionality. A collision can occur in a second or two of you looking down at a cell phone screen to send a text message. That “Lol” text may not be so funny later when an ambulance shows up to take you to a hospital. Even worse, the cost of that text may very well be your life and/or the lives of others. No text is so important that it cannot wait until you are off the road. Additionally, avoid consuming alcohol and/or drugs before and during driving. A night out at a bar may lead to some fun, but it will also lead to a ruined night if you later get in an accident while intoxicated. Drink responsibly and get an Uber ride if available, or have a friend take you home. Don’t ever drink and drive. In all of your conduct while driving, act with prudence.
If you are the victim of a lane-change collision in Louisiana, hire a competent attorney to help you obtain compensation for your damages. Detailed, strategic, and compassionate advocacy can go a long way towards helping you when you need it most.