Many people believe that if a car that is making a left-hand turn is involved in an automobile accident, the driver of that vehicle is always at fault for the accident. However, a detailed analysis of the facts and circumstances is required to determine whether or not any driver contributed to the cause of an automobile accident. Regardless of whether you are the driver of the left-turning vehicle or another vehicle involved in the accident, you should consult an experienced attorney to protect your rights.
One major consideration your attorney can help you analyze is the concept of “right-of-way.” In the context of an automobile accident, right of way refers to the legal concept that one driver or pedestrian has the right to proceed first and has precedence over other drivers and pedestrians. For instance, at a signalized intersection with a left-hand turning arrow, when the left-hand turning arrow is lit green, the driver making a left-hand turn has the right of way, and therefore, has precedence over other drivers on the road. If during the exercise of that right of way the left-turning vehicle is struck by another vehicle, the left-turning driver may very likely be without any fault in the collision. Likewise, right of way at a four-way stop typically belongs to the driver that arrives at the stop first. So, in that situation, if the left-turning driver arrives first, the right of way belongs to that driver and other drivers are required to yield to that driver. Again, if an accident occurs in that setting, the left-turning driver had no legal responsibility to yield to non-turning drivers and may not bear any responsibility for the accident. Again, determining which driver had the right of way and whether individual drivers contributed to the cause of the accident requires careful analysis of both the facts and the law, and the analysis should be undertaken by an experienced attorney.
When drivers are not at a controlled intersection, such as a stoplight or four-way stop, typically the drivers who are proceeding along a route maintain the right of way, and drivers turning left across traffic must yield to those drivers. In these situations, oftentimes the driver turning left may be the at-fault party in an accident. This is true whether the party turning left is already on the roadway or entering the roadway from a private access.
While an analysis of which driver had the right of way and whether other drivers properly yielded to that right of way may typically help determine where the fault for an accident lies, there are exceptions. For instance, even if a driver has the right of way, other factors may come in to play that can impact the question of whether the right of way driver was actually at fault. For instance, if the right of way driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may be determined per se at fault for the accident. Likewise, violation of relevant traffic laws, such as exceeding the speed limit or driving without proper lights after dusk, may cause the driver with the right of way to be determined at fault in the accident.
If you have been involved in an accident with a left-turning driver, or were the driver in a left-turning accident, you should not assume fault lies with the driver turning left automatically. If you or a loved one have incurred damages or injuries, it is important to get an attorney involved very early in the process.