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Sideswipe Collisions: Scrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrape!


You hate it when it happens. You’re driving through a shopping mall parking lot when someone pulls out of a stall. Their bumper hits the side of your car and by the time you are able to stop, your car has sustained serious body damage. Or, you’re driving down a three-lane road and you attempt to change into the middle lane at the same time as the car in the outer lane. You make contact and then promptly pull away, but it’s enough to leave a sizeable scratch and dent in its wake. It’s called a sideswipe collision.

A sideswipe collision occurs when two vehicles, or a single vehicle and a stationary object such as a utility pole, experience sliding contact.  They are different from typical bumper-to-bumper impacts.  Although they often occur at lower speeds, they usually result in repair costs that are greater than those for a bumper-to-bumper impact involving vehicles traveling at similar speeds.

The particular conditions of the sideswipe collision determine which questions we are asked to address. In the case of two vehicles that make contact as they attempt to change lanes, our clients often need to determine who was at fault. This can be difficult because there may be conflicting witness reports as to who initiated the lane change first. However, an assessment of witness statements, vehicle damage, roadway debris, tire marks, and point of impact can aid in reconstructing the incident.

In the case of a vehicle that pulls out of a parking stall and strikes another vehicle as it passes by, we are often asked to determine if the impact was severe enough to have injured the occupants of either vehicle. To do this, we review the extent of damage and correlate it to vehicle speeds.  We can also analyze how the vehicles shifted or rotated during the collision and compare that motion with normal driving maneuvers. Together, these findings can provide insight into the injury potential for the collision.

Sintra Engineering has extensive experience in analyzing sideswipe collisions. In order to reconstruct these incidents, our engineers need to collect certain information. The primary source of information comes from a thorough examination of the vehicles in which all damage sustained during the collision is carefully reviewed and documented.  Also, statements of the parties involved in the incident can provide insight into pre-impact directions of travel, approximate speed ranges, driver maneuvers, vehicle post-impact motion, and occupant seating positions. Finally, if the police attended the scene, their notes can be useful in describing the roadway and environmental conditions.

Sideswipe collisions can lead to significant repair costs and bodily injury claims. The analysis required to effectively reconstruct these collisions is usually more complicated than the analysis of a basic bumper-to-bumper impact. But, it may well be worth the effort, especially when significant financial recompense is at stake.


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