Still 10% at fault, even though other driver made an illegal left turn?

by Marianna
(Santa Monica, CA)

I was driving down the left lane of a 2 lane street going 30MPH, about 80 feet from the intersection, when a driver pulled out from a Burger King driveway from my right side, attempting to make a left turn.

She popped up in my view about 3 car lengths away from me. She was attempting to make the turn by crossing through a set of 2 double yellow lines. These yellow lines were not your typical car width lines, they were much narrower and were opening up to create the only lane in the intersection (I hope that makes sense).

The road was completely clear for her to make the left turn but she froze up and stayed still in front of me. When I originally saw her, I assumed she was going to make the turn because she was free to do so, but when I realized she wasn't, that's when I applied the brakes more firmly as opposed to just slowing down.

The left corner of my driver side bumper very, very slightly hit her driver side door - because she was parked at a diagonal angle in the street. If her car was parked straight, my car would have been able to come to a full stop.

Her insurance company placed me 20% at fault at first, but after constant arguing, reduced it to 10%. The reason they placed me at 10% is that when I first saw her I didn't slam on the breaks, instead I slowed down because as any driver would, I assumed she was going to make the left turn. But when I realized she wasn't, I slammed on the breaks.

They're saying that because I assumed she would make the turn, I "didn't take the correct evasive action, with an impeding danger in front of me."

Now, let me paint you a scenario:

Let's say you're driving down the street, going the appropriate speed limit, and you're about 50 feet from the intersection with your light being green. A car from the opposite side decides to risk the close distance of your car and make an illegal left turn in front of you. You see the car and see that the car making a left just stops.

There is absolutely no reason for him to stop. He's free to make the left turn, there are no pedestrians, no possible dangers for him, he just simply stops. In the one millisecond that it takes for you to process what is happening, you start to apply your breaks more firmly. As hard as you press on them, you still end up hitting the driver very slightly.

With that in mind, am I wrong to assume that I should be placed 0% at fault? The fact that she was cleared to make the turn even though she was making an illegal turn, should she not be placed at 100% fault?

The only thing her insurance company is hanging on is the fact that I stupidly said that I slowed down at first, then attempted to brake after I saw that she was frozen still. Her insurance company has 1,309 complaints on BBB and a 1 star on Yelp. GARBAGE company to deal with. Should I pursue them in court? Are my chances any good?

Your perspective would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Still 10% at fault, even though other driver made an illegal left turn?":

Marianna (Santa Monica, CA):

You cannot sue the driver’s insurance company. If you decide to file a lawsuit you will have to file it against the driver, and not her insurance company. Once the driver is served with the lawsuit she will turn it over to her insurance company. At that time, her insurance company will provide her a defense attorney at no cost.

This means if you are going to proceed with the lawsuit by yourself, you will be up against a seasoned insurance defense lawyer. Unless you are an attorney, that's something you do not want to do.

Unfortunately, because the issue is only property damage, it is very unlikely you will be able to find an attorney who will accept your case.

With that said, you can either:

1. Continue to argue with her insurance company in an effort to reduce the assessment of your negligence to 0% or slightly higher

2. Accept the insurance company's decision that you were 10% liable

3. File a lawsuit

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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