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Who Is at Fault in a Left-Hand Turn Accident?

March 13, 2019

Left-hand turns are one of the most common causes of car accidents in the United States. The traffic laws exist to assist drivers in anticipating the actions of other drivers, and it is crucial for all drivers to understand the right-of-way laws and how they pertain to different types of accidents.

If you execute a left-hand turn incorrectly or when you do not have the right-of-way, you will be liable for any resulting damages if you cause an accident. Similarly, if another driver injures you while making an illegal left-hand turn or violating your right-of-way while turning left, you should know how to prove liability.

Right-of-Way in Left-Hand Turn Accidents

The right-of-way refers to a driver’s right to make a maneuver before other drivers make theirs. For example, in most areas of the country, it is legal to make a right-hand turn on a red light as long as no sign indicates otherwise, and the turning driver makes a complete stop before turning. In such a situation, the vehicles passing the turning driver still have the right-of-way, so the right-turning driver would need to wait until the path was clear to make the turn.

When vehicles coming from different directions arrive at a four-way intersection with stop signs in each direction, the generally accepted rule for determining right-of-way is first come, first served. The first driver to reach the intersection must come to a complete stop and then proceed through the intersection, followed by the second driver to reach the intersection and stop, and so on.

Defenses for Left-Turning Drivers

Left-hand turns are precarious due to the fact they require designated turning lanes in most areas, and a left-hand driver almost never has the right-of-way without a green left turn arrow for his or her lane. Unless a left-turning driver has a green turn arrow and the right-of-way, the left-turning driver must yield to all other traffic. If another driver hits a driver executing a legal left-hand turn with the right-of-way, the left-turning driver should avoid liability, but proving fault may be difficult.

Another driver may cause an accident with a left-turning driver by proceeding into the intersection when the light is red, but the adjacent lane has a green left turn arrow. If the driver is not paying attention, driving under the influence, or speeding, he or she may simply coast through the intersection and strike a driver turning left from the opposite direction. This is one of the few times the left-turning driver would clearly not be at fault.

Proving Fault in a Left-Hand Turn Accident

Any driver involved in a left-hand turn accident should know how to prove fault. Unless traffic camera or CCTV data clearly shows the entire incident from a solid angle, determining liability may require witness testimony from other drivers and passersby near the accident site, recovering crash data from the vehicles’ computers, or securing the phone records of the drivers involved in the crash.

A driver who must prove another driver’s fault for a left-hand turn accident must either prove the driver failed to execute an acceptable left-hand turn or interfered with his or her own left-hand turn illegally, such as by committing a moving violation or driving while distracted. The claimant must prove that he or she had the right-of-way or the other driver was negligent in some way that directly resulted in the accident.

If you recently experienced a car accident involving a left-hand turn and are unsure about your potential liability for the damages, speak with a car accident attorney in Denver as soon as possible.

Your Denver personal injury attorney can review the available evidence and the associated police report to look for any indicators of liability for the accident. Even if you were partially at fault for a left turn accident, you may still have grounds for recovery if the other driver’s fault exceeds your own.