Who is at Fault in a Left Turn or Intersection Accident?

When most people think of a traffic accident, they envision a high-speed collision on a freeway or a rear-end incident due to an abrupt stop.  Most people don’t realize that a huge number of accidents occur at intersections—about 40%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  In 2017, there were 927 deaths in California related to intersection accidents, down slightly from the previous year.  However, the general trend over the last five years has been a gradual increase in intersection-related fatalities.left turn accident

Why are intersections so dangerous?  Because intersections occur when two or more roads cross each other and traffic moves in multiple opposing directions, intersections present multiple opportunities for driver or vehicle failure to cause an accident or collision.  In particular, turning left at an intersection poses a significant risk to drivers.  According to the above-referenced NHTSA study, 22.2% of intersection accidents occurred as a result of incidents arising from a vehicle turning left—almost twice the number of incidents relating to crossing over the intersection, and twenty times the number of incidents relating to right turns.  Here’s what you need to know about intersection accidents, left turns, and legal liability.

What Causes Intersection Accidents?

Intersection accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, most of which (96%) are driver-related (with recognition errors and decision errors being the most frequent causes).  According to the NHTSA, the following are the most frequent driver-attributed reasons for intersection accidents:

  • Inattentiveness (44%)
  • False assumption of other’s actions (8%)
  • Turning with an obstructed view (8%)
  • Illegal maneuver (7%)
  • Distraction (6%)
  • Misjudgment of timing or another vehicle’s speed (6%)

These reasons differ considerably from those that account for non-intersection accidents, which are more likely to be caused by driving too fast for road conditions, aggressive driving, and performance errors.

In short, intersection accidents are most often caused by drivers who are inattentive or unobservant to the movements and location of other vehicles on the road or make poor driving judgments or decisions.

Determining Fault in an Intersection Accident

The determination of fault in an intersection accident is dependent on the specific facts of a given case.  However, a few general trends can be observed.

In most cases involving person A, who is making a left-hand turn, colliding with person B, who is driving straight through the intersection (either in the same or the opposite direction), will find person A at fault for the accident.  In other words, if you are involved in an accident in which you were turning left while the other party was driving straight through the intersection, you will be found at least partially liable.  This is because the rules of the road dictate that drivers seeking to make a left-hand turn must yield to all other traffic and wait until the intersection is completely clear before taking their turn—the burden to ensure a safe turn is largely on the turning vehicle and if an accident occurs it may be assumed that they acted negligently.

This does not mean that the turning vehicle will always be found to have caused the accident, or that they necessarily will have to bear full liability.  In some cases, if you can demonstrate that the straight-driver was driving too fast through the intersection, you may be able to make the case that they caused the accident.  Likewise, if the straight-driver was driving through a red light or stop sign and failed to observe the traffic signal, they may be found at fault for the accident.  A good intersection accident attorney will be able to negotiate at least shared liability between both parties to the accident.

Contact an Accident Lawyer

If you have been involved in an intersection accident or left turn accident, you may be entitled to compensation under the law.  The accident attorney team at The Dominguez Firm has extensive experience assisting thousands of car accident victims in the Greater Los Angeles area to win settlements and judgments to the tune of millions of dollars.  Call our offices today for a free consultation about your case at 800-818-1818.

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