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I live in Minnesota (USA). I have only had my Driver's License for about a year now, and I recently had a bad experience. I was moving into a turn lane, and someone revved their engine, sped up, and cut me off before I was able to move into it. If I hadn't been watching carefully, it could have been a crash.

I think normally the one who is at fault in these situations is the person who's changing lanes, but the special circumstance confuses me.

I am glad that nothing else happened. However, if we had crashed, who would've been legally at fault? Would it have mattered if I could've provided evidence that they sped up, or that I had my turn-signal on? What other factors may be considered?

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    What country are you in? The answer could differ depending where you are. – CJ Dennis Jun 1 '19 at 0:08
  • @CJDennis Good point. I live in The United States. I will edit my question to make that clear. – LuminousNutria Jun 1 '19 at 16:34
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    Traffic laws are state-specfic, what state were you driving in? – George White Jun 1 '19 at 23:30
  • @GeorgeWhite I was in Minnesota. I will mention this in the question too. – LuminousNutria Jun 2 '19 at 0:33
  • I don't like it when you are entering a highway and nobody in the slow lane will make room for you to enter that lane, so you are forced to either stop or travel on the berm/shoulder until someone feels guilty or merciful enough to make room for you. – user22280 Jun 4 '19 at 19:55
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Everyone has the duty to avoid accidents, at all times.

When you change lanes, you have more than the normal duty: You have to check that the other lane is empty, that there is no slow traffic in front of you in that lane that you would bump into, and that there is no fast traffic behind you in that lane that would bump into you. You even have to check the next lane if there is one, because if there is a good gap that you can enter, someone might try to enter that gap from the other side just as you want to change lanes.

On the other hand, that doesn't give others free license to run into you when you try to change lanes. If you set your indicator to switch into a sufficient gap in my lane, and I accelerate intentionally to stop you from entering that gap, an accident may very well be my fault. Even if I don't do it intentionally, if I see you entering my lane I cannot just continue and drive into you, I have to brake instead. (If you set your indicator to switch into an insufficient gap, I also have to try to avoid an accident, but it would likely be your fault if I fail).

So it's not automatic who is at fault, it depends on the situation.

In Germany, the rule is that if you drive fast (faster than 80mph on the motorway), you must expect other drivers to make mistakes. For example, if you see a car close behind a lorry, you must expect that the car might start overtaking and drive into your lane, even though you are approaching at high speed and this is dangerous. You have to be prepared for this, and if you're not, an accident is at least partially your fault.

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The person who is changing lanes has the responsibility to make sure that they have space to move into. Suppose there was a person in front of you in the destination lane who hit the brakes suddenly - if you change lanes and rear-end them, that's your fault, because you failed to leave enough distance. I don't see how it's any different in this case, where the person is behind you and accelerates suddenly. A turn signal doesn't give you the right to change lanes at will, you are responsible for making the maneuver safely. It's poor driving etiquette for the other guy to cut you off like that, but it's up to you to ensure there's space as you move over.

From your description of the incident, it sounds like your actions initiated the sequence of events, and it was also your actions that prevented the accident. From that, it seems highly likely you'd be found at fault if the accident had happened - in that scenario, your actions would have created the situation, and you also would have failed to take action to avoid the accident.

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  • Alright, I was only curious. Thank you. – LuminousNutria May 31 '19 at 15:56
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    I wouldn't agree that it is so clear cut. There is a responsibility not to try to hit other drivers as well. It used to be called the "last clear chance" doctrine although now it doesn't have such a well defined name. If there was a crash, a jury could easily go either way. – ohwilleke May 31 '19 at 23:26
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    @ohwilleke is correct. The driver that sped up would be ticketed for failure to reduce speed is what would happen if the cops were called. – Putvi Jun 1 '19 at 18:38
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    A cop might just add easily say the front of the car already in the lane hit the back of the ops car and is at fault. I don't think we're can know for sure which way things would go. – Andy Jun 1 '19 at 20:07
  • Agree, this could go either way depending on the exact specifics. If the car changing lanes hits the rear car's front corner, it's may be more their fault, but if the car in the back just rear-ends the car changing lanes, it could go the other way. Unlikely that the car changing lanes could escape all fault, however - the changing lanes causes the accident, and they have a responsibility to anticipate and allow for other cars' movement. From the OP's description, they had a final opportunity to avoid the accident and took it, so they'd likely be at fault if they ignore that opportunity. – Nuclear Wang Jun 3 '19 at 13:22
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The other answer is technically incorrect, as Ohwilleke pointed out.

None of us were there, but the police would look at the situation and if the person really did hit you because they sped up that person would be cited for failure to reduce speed.

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    Well the op says the other driver sped up. The other driver might deny that. There's no certainty here, because you're not supposed you change lanes cutting it that close either. – Andy Jun 1 '19 at 20:08
  • From a quick search "failure to reduce speed" is a specific thing in IL and NC. – George White Jun 1 '19 at 23:29
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    What "other answer"? When you write an answer it should read unequivocally no matter how many other answers are there. – Greendrake Jun 2 '19 at 2:58
  • @GeorgeWhite I worked for a Sherriff's Dept. in IL for over 10 years. It's not specific to IL. IN and at least all the other midwestern states do it. – Putvi Jun 3 '19 at 15:57
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    Determining what happened depends on the damage. It's possible the front car created a situation where it was impossible for the following car to slow down in time. That's actually the basis of an insurance scam. So no, it's not always as simple and clear cut as you make it. – Andy Jun 3 '19 at 23:21

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