Who’s at fault in a sideswipe accident?

12 minute read Published on May 27, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

Broken side view mirror on old car. Close-up.

If you’ve ever been involved in a sideswipe accident, then you know how scary they can be. After the shock wears off, you may be left wondering: “Who’s at fault for the accident?” and “How will fault be determined?” These are the questions that we answer below. To learn more about how an insurance company determines fault and how shared fault works in a sideswipe car accident, keep reading.

What are sideswipe accidents?

First, let’s explain what sideswipe accidents are. A sideswipe accident is a specific type of car accident that usually occurs when two cars travelling in the same direction collide with one another from the side. They usually occur because one vehicle accidentally veered out of its lane and into the vehicle in the lane beside it. While rarer, sideswipe accidents can also be near-miss, head-on collisions between two vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. Again, the primary cause would be one or both vehicles veering out of their lanes.

Although you might not think that a sideswipe accident does not sound particularly serious, they can have very serious consequences. Even though the physical impact of the collision might be small, the direction that it’s coming from and the context of the accident make it extremely dangerous.

Since the majority of sideswipe accidents occur between cars travelling in the same direction, most of them happen on multi-lane roads or highways. Since motorists tend to drive fast on highways, most sideswipe accidents happen at very high speeds. As we all know, these types of accidents tend to result in more severe damage, both in terms of physical damage to the vehicles involved, as well as bodily harm to the drivers and passengers in the vehicles at the time of the accident.

Further, since the force in a sideswipe collision comes from the side, it can be difficult for drivers to retain control of their car immediately following the collision. This might cause them to spin out of control, veer into another lane, hitting another car or a grounded object, such as a median or lamppost, cross the rest of the highway, or even flip and roll over. Thus, it’s not uncommon for sideswipe accidents to evolve into other types of accidents, like rollover accidents, fatal accidents or head-on collisions.

Who is at fault for a sideswipe collision?

If your car was recently side swiped while driving, then you might be wondering which driver is at fault for the accident. In most cases, the driver who failed to adhere to the rules, e.g. veering outside of their lane, will be found at fault. Ultimately, it is up to the insurance company to determine fault, which is why calling your insurance provider is one of the first things you should do if you’re in a car accident. Your insurance company can provide further instructions on how to file an insurance claim and how to report the car accident.

It is important to remember that Ontario uses a no-fault insurance insurance system, which means that any claim you file will be with your own provider. You will only deal with your insurance provider, not the other driver’s, even if the other driver is found to be at fault.

A few examples of how fault might be determined after a sideswipe collision are as follows:

Scenario 1

You are driving on a two-lane highway with a solid line, and another driver sideswipes you while trying to pass you illegally. In this scenario, the other driver would be held liable for the accident since they broke the rules of the road by trying to pass you illegally.

Scenario 2

You are driving on a two-lane highway and make the decision to send a text to your friend. While texting and driving, you accidentally veer into the opposite lane. As you do so, you side-swipe an oncoming car. In this scenario, you would be found at fault for the accident since you were engaging in illegal driving behaviour - texting and driving, which is what caused you to swerve out of your lane and into oncoming traffic.

What should you do after you get into a sideswipe car accident?

If you are involved in an accident after you accidentally side-swipe another car or they side-swipe you, you should pull over as quickly and safely as possible. Remain calm and check yourself for injuries. Only if it is safe to do so should you step out of your vehicle. At this time, you can evaluate the severity of the damage.

If the other driver pulls over, which they should ask them if they are injured. If they are, call 9-1-1 immediately. If they aren’t injured, you should exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes their name, home address, phone number, the name of their insurance company, and their insurance policy number.

Next, you should report the accident to the police. Call your local law enforcement agency to inform them about the accident so that they can file a police report. Remember that not reporting a car accident can have serious consequences and is illegal in certain circumstances, such as if someone is injured. In addition, having a police report will help you, as it will serve as a key piece of evidence when you file an insurance claim.

Before leaving the scene of the accident, make sure that you take photos and videos. You should have recorded footage of the damage to your car and the other driver’s car, as well as general photos of the scene and the road conditions.

If your car is safe to drive, you can make your way home, though you will need to call an auto body shop to take care of any necessary repairs. It is also recommended that you get yourself checked out by a medical professional, even if you don’t think you are injured.

Lastly, once you are home safe and sound, call your insurance broker to notify them of the accident. Your insurance company can help you file a claim to cover the cost of the damages. They will also launch an investigation into the incident to determine fault.

Determining fault in a sideswipe collision

With any collision, including a sideswipe collision, the insurance companies for the parties involved will conduct independent investigations into the accident to determine who is at fault. Fault Determine Rules are clearly laid out in the Insurance Act of Ontario. Under Regulation 668, Section 10 (Rules for Automobiles Travelling in the Same Direction in Adjacent Lane), if a driver sideswipes another car, the fault is determined according to where the cars were and how they were travelling in relation to the lines on the road.

For example, one driver will likely be found liable if they crossed a centre line or lane division, which caused the collision. Meanwhile, if both drivers are found to have crossed the centre lane, then shared fault might be determined.

Common injuries resulting from sideswipe car accidents

As mentioned, sideswipe accidents can have severe repercussions, and one of these repercussions is injuries. In extreme cases, sideswipe collisions can even be fatal. In less extreme situations, they can still cause injuries. A few of the most common types of bodily injuries that drivers and passengers involved in sideswipe accidents may suffer include:


Whiplash is one of the most common types of car accident injuries. It occurs when your neck is jolted forward and backward with force. It can lead to neck sprains ranging in severity and can be very painful. Whiplash can even make it difficult to move your head or neck. If you get into a sideswipe accident and feel neck stiffness, dizziness, or headaches, this could be a sign that you are suffering from whiplash. The bad news is that the effects of whiplash can last for months following an injury, but the good news is that there is medication to treat it. So, if you are struggling with pain in your neck or head after a car accident, speak with a medical professional as soon as possible.

Back and neck injuries

Speaking of your neck, back and neck injuries are all too common after sideswipe car accidents, and these types of injuries are often more severe than whiplash. Since sideswipe collisions can cause your body to jolt or jerk forward suddenly, it’s no surprise that this can cause damage to your back or neck. A herniated disc is an all too common example of a back injury that can occur after a car accident. Herniated discs often come with symptoms like pain, numbness, or weakness in your legs, arms, or back. They can significantly interfere with mobility and cause stiffness. Depending on the severity of your back or neck injury, you might require physical therapy or even surgery to fix it.

Broken bones

Broken bones are another common type of injury that arises from sideswipe car accidents. Breaking a bone can mean anything from a minor fracture to a more serious break, so it’s possible for a broken bone injury to be mild or severe. That said, in the case of minor fractures, you may not realize that your bone is broken until you get an X-ray, which is why seeking medical attention following an accident is so important, even if you don’t believe that you suffered a serious injury.

Soft tissue injuries

Soft tissue injuries are another very common type of injury following a sideswipe collision. This term encompasses bruises, stress fractures, strains, and sprains. However, this might seem like a minor category of injury. Soft tissue injuries can cause a lot of pain and discomfort and can get worse over time if not treated. Rest and elevation are usually crucial parts of the treatment plan for soft tissue injuries, but physical therapy and seeing a chiropractor might also be included.

Traumatic brain injuries

Traumatic brain injuries, also known as TBI injuries, can also result from sideswipe accidents. These types of injuries can be fatal. Even in their mildest version, they are still to be taken seriously since they involve your brain. A concussion is an example of a milder traumatic brain injury. TBI can lead to long-term impairment, so it’s crucial that you watch out for the telltale signs of an injury, such as dizziness, headaches, memory loss, and loss of consciousness. Anytime your head is impacted in a collision, it’s always a good idea to be checked out by a doctor.

The most common causes of sideswipe car accidents

Knowing the most common causes of sideswipe car accidents in Canada can help you avoid them. Below, we provide some insight into the most common causes of collisions and how to avoid them.

Distracted driving

Distracted driving is the most common cause of nearly every type of car accident in Canada. If your focus isn’t 100% on the road, it makes it easy for an accident to occur. For example, if you are eating a snack, drinking a beverage, applying makeup, setting your GPS, or texting on your cell phone, then you aren’t paying attention to the road. If you want to avoid a collision, including a sideswipe collision, keep your eyes on the road at all times.

Drunk driving

Drunk driving or driving while impaired by drugs is one of the leading causes of collisions in Canada. When you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your ability to react to situations on the road and your capacity to drive effectively is diminished. You might even experience blurred vision. This can lead to speeding and swerving, which increases your odds of getting into a sideswipe collision.


Speeding is a common reason that sideswipe accidents occur. When you are speeding, you are less likely to lose control of your car. Not only that, but speeding can significantly exacerbate the consequences of a sideswipe accident. In most cases, the faster your car is travelling, the greater the impact of the accident. So always be sure to abide by the posted speed limit in your area. If you don’t, you could get into an accident or even receive a speeding ticket, both of which could increase your car insurance rates. You can find more safe driving tips here.

Unsafe or reckless lane change

Reckless driving is a general cause of accidents, but in the case of sideswipe accidents, it is specifically reckless or unsafe lane changes that can result in them. For instance, if one driver merges into another lane without signalling or without checking their blind spot, a sideswipe accident can occur. Oftentimes, there are other elements involved in reckless lane changes, such as distracted driving, speeding, or road rage.

Road rage

Road rage is another common cause of sideswipe accidents. How does anger play into collisions? When you get angry behind the wheel, it can cause you to engage in unsafe or reckless driving behaviours, such as speeding or changing lanes without signalling. All of this increases your odds of getting into an accident.

Bad weather

Driving in bad weather can increase the likelihood of any type of car accident, including sideswipe collisions. Adverse weather conditions can cause the roads to become slick and slippery. They might also reduce visibility. All of this can increase the odds of an accident. For example, if you’re driving in heavy rain, you might not be able to see the cars around you. Your brake time would also be much slower. In a worst-case scenario, slamming on the brakes could even lead to hydroplaning. Thus, it’s important to avoid driving in inclement weather when possible. If you must get behind the wheel, drive slowly and proceed with extra caution.

Will my insurance rates go up after a sideswipe car accident?

It depends. Did your insurance company determine that you were at fault for the sideswipe car accident? If so, then your insurance rates are likely to increase. At-fault accidents of any kind will almost certainly raise your rates unless you have accident forgiveness coverage. Accident forgiveness is additional coverage that can be added to your car insurance policy as an endorsement to protect your driving record and to help prevent your insurance premium from increasing if you have an at-fault accident claim.

That said, in most cases if you are found to be responsible for a sideswipe collision, your rates are likely to go up. You will notice this premium increase the next time that your car insurance policy is renewed. Your rates are likely to remain higher until the at-fault accident is no longer on your record, which can take up to six years in Ontario.

Why do at-fault accidents increase insurance rates? They increase your risk as a driver, and as such, you are required to pay more for coverage.

The good news is that if the insurance companies determine that the sideswipe collision was not your fault, then your rates may not be impacted at all. Typically, it is only at-fault accidents that affect car insurance premiums. For more information on how accidents affect car insurance rates and how you can save money on car insurance after getting into a sideswipe car accident, reach out to BrokerLink.

Get in touch with BrokerLink for more information

Whether you still have questions about sideswipe accidents, another type of car accident, or how fault determination works in the world of car insurance, BrokerLink can help. We have a team of licensed insurance brokers ready to answer your questions and help you navigate the world of auto insurance.

With help from one of our insurance advisors, we can help you file a claim after a sideswipe accident and receive a payout. We can also help you reduce your premium if your rates are raised following an at-fault collision. We can do this by helping you qualify for different insurance discounts, shopping around and comparing quotes on your behalf.

If you decide to buy a new policy, BrokerLink can help with that too. A few of the types of auto insurance we can help you find include:

Reach out to BrokerLink today to request your free car insurance quote. This way, you can find out exactly how much a policy will cost you. It only takes minutes, and there are no strings attached.

Get an auto insurance quote [phone]