Road accidents

Side impact collision - who’s at fault?

When the front of one car crashes into the side of another vehicle, we call it a side-impact collision.

Usually, this happens when the oncoming vehicle is cruising at a medium to high speed, with the driver having little or no time to slow down or hit the brakes before striking the side of the other vehicle. 

Figuring out who’s at fault in a side-impact collision is not always straightforward as either driver may be at fault. It usually depends on who had the right of way and whether either party was driving without due care.

What is a side-impact collision?

A side-impact car collision is a type of car accident that occurs when either:

  • When two vehicles collide with each other, impacting the sides of the cars, as opposed to the front or rear.
  • When a car collides with the side of another vehicle, whether it happens on roads, highways, at junctions, during left or right turns, or in locations like a car park.

These collisions can cause serious injuries for those involved and can often lead to damage to the vehicles as well. While not every side-impact collision is caused by reckless driving, some may arise from careless behaviour of one or more drivers.

What causes side impact-collisions?

Getting an idea of the possible causes of a specific side-impact collision situation might shed light on determining who’s the at-fault driver. A side-impact accident could be caused by any of these factors.

Careless driving

At high speeds, it takes longer to hit the brakes and stop the ride. Even if the driver sees a collision coming, dodging it might be a bit difficult.

Making matters worse, the force of an impact is much greater when a car is travelling at high speeds. This means more potential for serious injuries or even fatalities to the occupants of the vehicles involved.

Getting distracted behind the wheel

Distracted driving, like texting or using a mobile phone, is a common culprit for accidents. It reduces a driver’s focus on the road and slows their reaction times. Distractions aren’t limited to phone use; they can include chatting with passengers, eating, or drinking.

These distractions may lead drivers to unintentionally overlook a car approaching from the side, and braking in time to avoid a collision. They may not even notice signals, like passing through a red light or stop sign. In reversing, drivers might not notice a passing car, and when pulling out of a junction, they may fail to spot an oncoming vehicle.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Driving under the influence of any substance increases the risk of car accidents. It can have many different effects on drivers, such as difficulty judging distances and speeds, struggling to stay in the lane, causing the vehicle to drift into oncoming traffic or another lane and impacting the side of another car, and slowed reaction times, with not enough time to brake or swerve to avoid a collision.

Tailgating or driving closely to the vehicle in front

When vehicles are travelling too close to one another, it becomes more difficult for either driver to react quickly in a jam, increasing the likelihood of a side-impact collision. Those tailgaters might push other drivers into sudden lane changes or unsafe manoeuvres, and that’s a recipe for a collision.

Giving enough space during lane changes or merging is key, especially in busy traffic. It keeps the risk of car accidents on crowded roads or highways even lower.


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Who’s at fault in a side-impact collision?

When assessing who’s at fault in a side-impact collision, different factors come into play.

Damage on the driver’s side of a vehicle

This may indicate that the fault lies with the other driver, especially if their vehicle exhibits front-end damage. For instance, it could serve as evidence that a car pulled out of a junction without ensuring the road was clear, resulting in a collision with the driver's side of another vehicle.

Damage to the back of a car

Often, if there’s damage at the back of a car and the front of the other vehicle, the driver at the back is considered at fault. Courts normally rule in favour of the rear vehicle in such cases. This might happen if the driver didn’t notice the slowing or stopping of the front vehicle, leading to a rear-end collision.

Damage to a particular side of a vehicle

When both vehicles involved in a collision show specific types of damage or damage on particular sides, it provides a clear indication of the sequence of events. For instance, if a left-turning car has damage on its front end and the other vehicle displays damage on the front-right side, it implies that the left-turning car is likely at fault.

Defective car parts

If your car suddenly veers or fails to stop, it could be due to a malfunction in various parts like steering, wheels, brakes, and more. In these situations, it's crucial to figure out whether it's the car manufacturer or the mechanic who's responsible for the faulty part.

State of the Roads

If the road is icy or has large potholes, it can lead to the loss of control while driving, causing a vehicle to slide or change direction and resulting in a side-impact collision. In such instances, it's important to assess whether the entity responsible for road maintenance is at fault.

If the driver was using their turn signal

This aids in figuring out if either driver could have avoided the crash. Did one of the drivers accidentally leave their signal on?

Claimsline can help you understand your rights and options after a side-impact car collision if it wasn’t your fault.

If you’d like to speak to one of our dedicated claims handlers, give us a call now or request a callback.

What to do after a side-impact collision?

The moments right after a side-impact collision can be distressing and confusing. Those involved might be injured or shaken up. It’s important to take the following steps:

Seek medical help immediately

If you find yourself in a side-impact car collision, you should promptly seek medical attention and contact the police.

Some injuries may not manifest immediately, and a medical examination can document issues for potential injury claims against the at-fault driver.

When an accident happens, the police are often the first to respond. If you’re injured, they can arrange an ambulance and provide essential emergency care. Plus, the police can assist in gathering crucial evidence about the accident. 

Collect evidence and document the scene

After the accident, make sure to jot down notes detailing how it occurred, including:

  • Driver and vehicle details
  • The location and circumstances, including the positions of the vehicles, damages, and any relevant road signs or signals.
  • Date and time, including weather conditions (e.g., wet or icy roads)
  • A description and diagram illustrating how and where the vehicles collided
  • Details, pictures, and videos of any damage to your vehicle and the other driver’s car
  • Gather witness information, with their names and contact details. Their statements may be valuable in determining fault.

How to claim a side-impact collision

After ensuring that everyone is safe and nobody has been hurt, call the emergency services first. Try to refrain from apologising or accepting responsibility, regardless of the circumstances. Admitting fault can significantly impact your compensation claim later on. 

Call an accident management company

Don’t call your own insurance company. If the accident wasn't your fault, your initial point of contact should be an accident management company (also known as a credit hire company), such as Claimsline.

Choosing your own insurer might result in a disadvantage if the accident wasn’t your fault.

Claimsline is your go-to alternative specialised in non-fault accident services. We’re dedicated to assisting drivers throughout the UK after a non-fault incident. To speak to an advisor for guidance on getting started on a non-fault claim, call 0333 006 8262


How can you reduce the impact of a side-impact collision?

Be prepared in case of a side-impact collision: Brake or accelerate rapidly, whichever seems more likely to prevent or reduce the force of the impact. Locate an escape route, maybe in another lane or off the road.

Why are you more vulnerable in a side-impact collision?

Despite advancements in vehicle safety, the doors and side panels remain the most vulnerable and least-protected areas of a car. In a side collision, the driver or passengers often bear the brunt of the force, creating a hazardous situation that may result in severe injuries and fatalities.

Where do side-impact collisions normally happen?

Side-impact collisions frequently happen at junctions, where a driver accelerates to cross before traffic lights change or disregards a red light, resulting in their vehicle being struck from the side as it crosses the junction. Alternatively, a vehicle crossing a junction with the right-of-way may be hit by a careless or reckless driver from the side. Turning across traffic lanes can also lead to side impacts, with fault potentially lying with either involved vehicle. Additionally, parked vehicles pulling out may be struck if their drivers fail to check their mirrors properly before the manoeuvre. These collisions are also common at entrances and exits to car parks, where the absence of lights or signs indicating right of way, coupled with limited visibility, can lead to incidents. 

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