Last Updated: 4/11/2023

People have different names for what is commonly called a sideswipe car accident.  Generally, a sideswipe means that two or more motor vehicles are traveling in the same direction and one vehicle strikes another one.  Often the accidents occur when one vehicle enters the other vehicle's lane or both drivers attempt to merge into the same lane.   


Often these collisions occur at highway speed on interstates with 2 or more lanes of travel.  Sideswipe car accidents can be minor with property damage only or devastating if the impact is severe enough and/or one of the drivers loses control of their vehicle.  Losing control of a vehicle at highway speed is a very scary situation.  The vehicle can go into the ditch and may even roll.  Roll-over car crashes cause more deaths and serious injuries than almost any other type of wreck.  Wearing your seat-belt is very important if you are involved in a roll-over because without it your head may strike the roof causing a devastating spinal cord injury or you may be ejected from the vehicle. 


How can sideswipe car accidents be prevented? 

            1. We have probably all started to merge into the next lane and suddenly realized that there was another vehicle in the lane.  One of the best ways to prevent a sideswipe is to check your mirrors and also look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.

            2. If you are driving faster than other vehicles it is always a good idea to pass them in the left-hand fast lane.  In many states, it is actually illegal to pass on the right because of the safety concerns it creates.  Therefore, if you pull up behind a slower moving vehicle give them a little time to hopefully see you behind them and pull over into the right hand slower lane.  Passing a vehicle on the right can be unexpected and result in a serious collision.  Here in Iowa, our rules of the road in Iowa Code Section 321.299 and the uniform jury instruction states:

600.14  Overtaking A Vehicle.  The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle going in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance, and shall not drive to the right side of the road until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.  A violation of this law is negligence.

That is right, you could be found at fault for passing another vehicle on the right even if they sideswipe you.  There is an exception to the above law for multi-lane highways such as Interstate 80, but it is still a good idea to always try to pass on the left first. 

            3. Many newer cars and trucks have lane change warning systems.  They use radar systems to detect vehicles that are in your path on either side of you.  Most systems give you a warning light on your mirror so you know there is a vehicle next to you.  Some vehicles provide you with an audible warning sounds if you turn on your turn signal and move towards the vehicle.  This technology has prevented hundreds if not thousands of serious car accident from happening and has probably also saved many lives. 


Who is at fault in a sideswipe car accident?  This is a tricky question that usually will involve eye witness testimony from drivers behind the collision to describe what they saw and heard.  Further, under Iowa law, we have what is called comparative fault which basically means the judge or jury will determine the percentage of fault for each driver involved.  In order to recover any damages, you have to prove the other driver was at least 50% at fault.  Failing to prove this will result in you receiving no compensation.  Likewise, if you are found to be 20% at fault then the amount of damages you are able to recover are reduced by your percentage of fault which in this example would be 20%.  So if your damages were found to be $10,000, then it would only be ordered that you are owed $8,000. 


Iowa Code Section 321.306 and the uniform jury instruction state the following:

600.23  Roads Laned For Traffic.  Whenever any road has been divided into three or more clearly marked lanes for traffic, the following rules in addition to all other consistent rules shall apply:

  1.  A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as possible entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until the driver has seen that the movement can be made with safety.

  2.  On a road which is divided into three lanes, a vehicle shall be driven in the center lane only when overtaking and passing another vehicle where the road is clearly visible and the center lane is clear of traffic within a safe distance, or in preparation for a left turn, or where the center lane is assigned exclusively to traffic moving in the direction the vehicle is going and is signed accordingly.

  3.  Official signs may be posted directing slow-moving traffic to use a designated lane, or assigning specific lanes to traffic moving in the same direction.  Drivers of vehicles shall obey the directions of the sign.

A violation of this law is negligence.


So basically a driver shall not drive his/her vehicle into another lane until it is safe to do so.  The determination of who was at fault, and what percentage of fault they are, will come back to the testimony of the car drivers and the witnesses who saw the crash.  If you or a loved one have been in a sideswipe car accident causing injuries then it is important that you have someone on your side looking out for your best interests.  Some people think that their own insurance company will help prove that the other driver is at fault.  While your insurance company may make their own determination of fault, they will only pursue the money that they have paid on your own automobile insurance policy.  They will not pursue your medical bills, lost wages, loss of quality of life, pain and suffering or other damages you have sustained. 


We offer Iowans injured in a car accident a no-cost Car Accident Evaluation at (641) 792-3595.  We will even give you our opinion if you even need an attorney or not and if the case is worth pursuing or not.  If you prefer not to talk to a car accident attorney now, but want to learn about your rights first then request our book at Our book gives you tips about how to find the best Iowa car accident and personal injury attorney for your case, exposes 7 Secretes to Not Wreck Your Iowa Car Accident case and much more.

Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.