Who's To Blame In A Left-Hand Turn Accident?

Posted on: 13 December 2016

Imagine waiting for what feels like an eternity to make a left-hand turn. You finally see an opportunity to make your turn, only for it to be cut short by a collision with an oncoming vehicle. In an accident like this, you're probably wondering who'll be found at fault. The answer depends mainly on the circumstances surrounding the crash, as explained below.

It's the Left-Turning Driver's Fault, in Most Cases

Under most circumstances, it's the left-turning driver who ends up with the majority of the blame. The reasoning for this is a relatively simple one that's enshrined in nearly every motor vehicle code in the U.S. As far as the law is concerned, any driver turning to the left must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle that's traveling in the opposite direction.

This means that if you want to make a left-hand turn, you'll have to wait your turn until you receive a green turn arrow at the next light cycle or there's sufficient distance between yourself and oncoming traffic. Disregarding this rule means you could be found at fault if an accident occurs due to your actions.

Unfortunately, many left-hand turn accidents occur because the left-turning driver either misjudged the distance between themselves and oncoming vehicles or was simply too impatient to stop and let oncoming traffic through. If either scenario applies to you, it's likely that the investigating officials will find you completely at fault for the accident.

Exceptions to the Rule

Not every left-hand turn accident ends with the left-turning driver being found at fault. There are plenty of scenarios where the oncoming driver is the one who's found at fault. An all-too-common scenario is when the driver turning left has a green arrow allowing them to make the turn, only for the driver of the approaching vehicle to ignore the red light and collide with the turning vehicle. Another scenario involves the driver of the approaching vehicle attempting to beat a yellow traffic light, only to collide with a left-turning vehicle.

Speeding can also play an overwhelming role in left-hand turn accident. A left-turning driver may assume there's sufficient distance to safely make a left-hand turn, only for the approaching vehicle to close the gap quicker than estimated due to that driver's excessive speed.

Malfunctioning traffic control equipment may lead a left-turning driver to believe they have the right-of-way when the opposite is true. For instance, a faulty traffic light that shows the green arrow at the wrong time can put the left-turning driver at risk of an accident. Although a malfunctioning traffic light may relieve the left-turning driver of liability, a complete traffic light outage will revert the intersection into a four-way stop, with all of the rules that apply.

There's also a scenario where neither the left-turning driver nor approaching driver are held at fault. In this scenario, the driver of the left-turning vehicle is rear-ended while waiting for the green arrow (or a sufficient opening during a green light), causing the vehicle to enter the intersection unexpectedly and collide with oncoming traffic. In this case, the driver who rear-ended the left-turning vehicle will be the one found at fault.

What to Do If You're Involved

Whether you're the left-turning driver or the approaching driver in a left-hand turn accident, seeking medical assistance should be your primary concern. Law enforcement officials and claims adjusters from the insurance companies will investigate the accident and determine who's at fault. If you believe the findings of the investigation to be in error, you'll have an opportunity to state your case as you set forth your personal injury claim with the help of an auto accident lawyer.


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During a long road trip, we made an emergency stop at a motel that I wasn't completely comfortable with. Unfortunately, that was the only motel in the area, and we couldn't drive any further safely. While leaving the motel in the morning, the handrail on the steps broke, and my son and husband tumbled down the stairs and got hurt. They were taken by ambulance to a hospital where we spent the next four days. While there, I contacted a few personal injury lawyers to find out what I should do. Find out what you should do in a situation such as this.

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