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Is A Car Making A Left Turn Always Found Liable In A Resulting Car Accident

As a general premise, a vehicle that makes a left turn is nearly always found responsible for causing an auto accident with a vehicle approaching from the other direction and traveling in a straight path. It is what is called the dreaded left turn accident. Why is that?

The Dynamics of Left Turn Accidents and Default Liability Rules

Traffic laws of most states mandate a vehicle making a left turn must wait until it can make the complete turn safely before it enters and moves through an area of oncoming vehicle traffic. To be deemed legally responsible or at fault for an auto accident, a driver must have been either careless and/or found to be in violation of an applicable traffic law.  In left turn accidents, fault is almost always established automatically because traffic laws attach responsibility to the driver making a left turn to yield to traffic that is approaching and oncoming, and then to turn only when it is completely safe. Additionally, often the site of property damage on vehicles involved in a car accident makes it challenging for a driver to maintain an accident occurred in any context aside from while making a left hand turn.

Are There Exceptions to the General Rule of Liability for Drivers Making Left Turns That Cause Accidents?

Yes, there are several notable exceptions to general default rules that attach liability to drivers making left turns that lead to eventual auto accidents. Those few exceptions can occur and negate or trump an otherwise nearly automatic attachment of accident liability, if any of the following is true:

  • The vehicle approaching from the opposite direction in a straight path is traveling too fast and sped through a light in excess of the speed limit. Please note this is challenging to establish.
  • The vehicle approaching from the opposite direction in a straight path drove through a red traffic light.
  • The vehicle making the left turn started its turning maneuver when it was safe to do so and traffic was clear, but during the course of turning, some unexpected event occurred that made the car slow or stop its turning maneuver.

What Should You Do if You Are Involved in a Left Turn Accident?

If you have been in an auto accident in which you hit another car making a left turn immediately in front of you, most fault considerations are irrelevant. In such cases, the other driver involved in the accident is almost always the one found to be liable. It is also significant to note in some instances, even if you are a driver who is at fault on a partial basis for a left turn accident, you may still be able to recover some of your resulting damages. Of course, there may be exceptions to these general rules. A personal injury attorney can best advise of governing traffic laws and prevailing court procedures in a particular jurisdiction.