According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 96,017 traffic crashes involving a sideswipe collision occurred in 2021 alone. Like any other type of collision, sideswipe accidents can leave you and your loved ones with serious injuries and long-term consequences. 

Paint damage and a dent in a car after a sideswipe collision.

Many of these accidents are the result of negligence. Here’s how to tell who is responsible for a sideswipe accident and what to do if you experience one in Tampa.

What Is a Sideswipe Accident?

The term “sideswipe” refers to a specific type of collision in which one vehicle strikes the side of another car traveling parallel to it. The struck vehicle may be traveling in the same or opposite direction as the striking vehicle when the crash happens.

Sideswipe accidents can occur under several circumstances. The first is when one vehicle leaves its lane of travel and enters another lane occupied by another vehicle. For instance, imagine two vehicles traveling in opposing directions. As they converge, one vehicle leaves its lane and brushes against the other vehicle as it passes. This would be considered a sideswipe accident.

A sideswipe can also occur if one vehicle fails to yield the right of way to another. For example, two cars may approach the same intersection from opposing directions and want to turn. If the drivers ignore right-of-way laws, they could end up striking each other in a sideswipe crash.

How To Tell Who Sideswiped Who

When you search “how to tell who sideswiped who,” you might be surprised to find that examining the damage to the vehicles isn’t enough. Instead, a thorough investigation that considers all of the facts about the wreck is the only reliable resource for determining which vehicle struck the other.

For example, one vehicle may have damage on its left side while the other has similar damage on the right. This fact may tell you the angle at which the collision happened, but it doesn’t reveal which vehicle caused the incident. 

Who Is at Fault in a Sideswipe Accident?

As is true in any type of accident, the person at fault for causing a sideswipe crash is the one whose negligence led to the accident in the first place. This may not necessarily be the person whose vehicle was damaged the most or the driver of the striking vehicle. 

Instead, the driver who committed a careless act that directly caused the accident is the one at fault.

For example, suppose that two cars are traveling in the same direction in different lanes. One driver swerves to avoid hitting a bird in the street. The other driver sees the first driver’s erratic movement and responds by swerving. This causes them to sideswipe the first driver. In this situation, both drivers likely bear some responsibility for the accident.

How To Prove Fault in a Sideswipe Accident

You’ll need to establish liability when you suspect another driver is responsible for your sideswipe crash. Proving that another driver is responsible for your damages is necessary to obtain compensation for your injuries. To accomplish this, you will generally want to take these key steps:

Contact Law Enforcement

First, contact law enforcement to report the accident. Florida law requires that you stop after an accident and contact the police if any vehicle is damaged, someone has been injured, or someone has died. If you are ever in doubt about your legal obligation to call the police, err on the side of caution and do so.

When police respond, they will collect information about you and the other drivers, record statements, and document the accident scene. They will then produce a report containing all of this information that you can obtain a copy of later. The report will also include the officer’s impressions of who was responsible for the wreck.

Document the Accident Scene

The moment after a sideswipe happens, the accident scene begins to change. Cars may move, debris may scatter, and important details that can help tell the story of your accident may become lost. If you are physically able to do so, take photographs or notes of the scene. Pay particular attention to:

  • Where the vehicles came to a stop
  • The location of damage and any paint transfer on the vehicles
  • Debris in the roadway
  • Skid marks on the asphalt
  • Road signs, signals, and markings, if any

Do not be concerned about taking too many pictures or notes. It’s better to have an abundance of evidence than not enough.

Documenting as many details as possible is important because you cannot rely simply on your own recollections to succeed in your case. Nor does the fact that you were in the vehicle that was struck guarantee that you are entitled to compensation. Instead, the court must consider all the evidence to decide who is at fault.

Note whether any nearby businesses, intersections, or light poles have cameras on them. If your crash was caught on camera, this can provide strong and objective evidence that establishes who is at fault for the accident.

Your claim can succeed when the totality of the evidence shows the other driver’s carelessness caused the crash. The more evidence you have to prove this other driver was negligent, the stronger your injury claim will be.

Gather Statements From Witnesses

Consider speaking with any witnesses who remain on the scene. If they saw the accident occur, their statements can be immensely valuable in making sense of the accident scene. Their observations and recollections can be the key to the success of your claim.

When speaking with witnesses, take down their names, contact information, and a brief description of what they observed. This information can help your car accident lawyer better evaluate which witnesses could be the most helpful for your case and easily get in touch with them when needed.

Be cautious about engaging the other drivers in conversation, though. Make sure to avoid saying anything that could imply you are admitting fault. For example, apologizing for not watching where you were going could be construed as admitting fault.

Understand Contributory Negligence in Florida

You may be discouraged from taking these steps following a sideswipe accident if you believe you were partially responsible for it. For example, you might have made a sudden movement within your lane that caused the driver in the next lane to react and accidentally sideswipe you.

When analyzing any sideswipe accident, the judge or jury will assign each person involved a percentage of fault for causing the accident. These percentages can range from zero to 100 and will cumulatively add up to 100%. The higher the percentage, the greater the role that the person’s carelessness played in causing the accident.

In Florida, injury victims can pursue compensation for their losses as long as their level of fault is 50% or less. In this case, any fault attributable to you will reduce the amount of compensation you receive. For instance, if your severe injuries require $50,000 in compensation but are 20% at fault, you would receive $40,000.

If your negligence is the primary cause of the sideswipe accident, you likely would not be entitled to recover any compensation.

Get Assistance From an Experienced Tampa Car Accident Lawyer

A gavel in front of an open law book at a car accident lawyer's office.

Knowing whose carelessness caused a sideswipe accident is critical if you or a loved one is seriously hurt in the resulting crash. When you suffer a catastrophic severe injury like the loss of a limb or permanent damage to a body part, you may have a right to pursue damages beyond those you receive through your personal injury protection (PIP) policy. In almost every case, it is wise to get a lawyer.

Having a skilled Tampa car accident lawyer on your side can make all the difference in the success of your claim. Let the seasoned team at Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, help you with your case. 

We can determine the fault in your accident and call in accident reconstruction specialists as necessary. We handle your claim every step of the way so you can focus on recovering.

Were you injured in a car accident? Contact Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys, now.


Fla. Stat. 316.065.
Fla. Stat. 768.81.
Traffic Crash Facts Annual Report. (2021).

Tampa Car Accident + Personal Injury Lawyers

Jack Bernstein Personal Injury Attorney

For more than 40 years, personal injury lawyer Jack G. Bernstein has protected the rights of individuals who have been injured in a variety of circumstances. Throughout his career, Bernstein has been a strategist thoroughly dedicated to the idea of protecting the rights of his clients. Mr. Bernstein is a member of the Florida State Bar Association, the Hillsborough Bar Association and the Clearwater Bar Association.

Mr. Bernstein has the experience and expertise to handle a wide range of injury cases. Among the types of plaintiffs Mr. Bernstein represents are individuals involved in car accidents caused by drunk drivers or other exhibiting negligence, medical complications resulting from carelessness caused by a physician or a medical facility, including brain injury, bicycle, motorcycle, moped and truck accidents, admiralty law and cruise ship accidents, accidental drownings, all types of wrongful death lawsuits, along with most injury, catastrophic occurrences and legal malpractice issues.

Our firm handles every type of personal injury and accident case, using negotiation and litigation tactics effectively. We handle cases throughout Tampa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater, FL. With a staff of approximately 40 people, including six lawyers and 34 support personnel, we have the legal resources to get the justice you deserve and the maximum recovery for your losses. Schedule your free consultation today; we are always here to help.

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