Who is At Fault in a Left-Hand Turn Accident? Is the Turning Driver Always Liable?

Fault is usually put on the left-turning driver in a car accident, but not always. Fight back if the insurance company tries to shift blame to you.

As many as 60% of accidents occurring at intersections involve a car making a left turn.¹

At the same time, nearly 42% of fatal motorcycle accidents are caused by a vehicle making a left turn into the path of the motorcycle.²

Read below about how to prove the driver who hit you did not have the right of way, and how to fight back if the adjuster tries to shift the blame to you.

Fault for Left-Hand Turn Accidents

Drivers making a left turn across a lane of oncoming traffic must wait until the cars driving in the opposite direction have safely passed.

Even when traffic in both directions has a green light, the driver turning left must yield to oncoming vehicles.  There are few excuses for a driver to turn across a lane of oncoming cars.

Because traffic laws in most states require left-turn drivers to be sure the intersection or oncoming lane is clear, the left-turning driver is presumed to be at fault if a side-impact collision occurs.

Left-turning drivers are presumed to be at fault unless:

  • The driver was legally turning left at a traffic light with a green left-turn arrow
  • The oncoming driver ran a red light or stop sign
  • The oncoming driver was exceeding the speed limit
  • Distracted driving caused the oncoming car to hit the turning car
  • The oncoming driver was driving under the influence

Traffic cameras, eyewitnesses, and the damage pattern of the vehicles may verify if the turning driver had the green arrow or the oncoming driver was negligent.

Proving the Left-Turning Driver’s Liability

You might think the other driver’s fault for the accident is so completely obvious that the insurance company will just write you a check.

Unfortunately, the insurance claim process is adversarial. The adjuster will always make you prove their insured was at fault for the accident.

Your burden of proof might not be as heavy in a left-turn collision, but you still must show the adjuster evidence of the other driver’s fault.

Using Police Reports and Traffic Citations

One of the best sources of evidence for establishing fault is a car accident police report. The investigating officer’s report will include diagrams of the accident, each driver’s report of what happened, and the officer’s official opinion as to the cause of the accident and who was at fault.

Police officers are trained to evaluate auto accidents without bias. They receive continuing education in accident reconstruction and state traffic laws. Their opinions can make or break an insurance claim.

If a driver violates local traffic laws, the investigating officer will issue a citation. Traffic citations for failing to yield, failing to use a turn signal, or an improper left turn make it very difficult for the at-fault driver to deny liability.

Claims adjusters know that if they don’t settle your auto insurance claim for a reasonable amount, it could turn into a lawsuit against their insured. That’s the last thing an insurance adjuster wants, especially when you have authoritative evidence of fault, like a police report.

Gathering Evidence Support Your Claim

The more evidence you have proving the other driver caused the accident, the stronger your case will be. In addition to the police report, try to gather:

  • Witness Statements: Independent witness statements are the most convincing, but you can submit statements from anyone who saw the other driver cause the accident.
  • Photographs and Videos: You can collect photographic evidence on your own by taking pictures at the accident scene, or your attorney can obtain footage from traffic cams or nearby businesses’ security cameras.

Predetermined Fault Is Not Guaranteed

If you’re injured in a car accident in a no-fault insurance state, you won’t have to prove who caused the accident for most injury claims. You’ll settle the claim under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage.

However, in no-fault states you are allowed to file a claim with the at-fault driver for your vehicle damages. So you’ll still have to prove the other driver caused the car crash.

Even if fault is clear, there is no guarantee that the other driver’s insurance company will pay the full value of your injury claim. Adjusters are trained to find reasons to reduce or deny compensation for side-impact collisions.

Blaming the Victim for a Left-Turn Car Accident

The first thing an adjuster will look for is shared liability. The legal term for shared liability is contributory fault or comparative fault, depending on where the accident takes place.

In Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, the adjuster can use pure contributory fault laws to flatly deny your claim if you share as little as one percent of the blame for the accident.

At the other extreme, in California, New York, and ten other states with pure comparative fault rules, you still have the right to seek compensation from the other driver even if you’re 99 percent at fault.

Most states use modified comparative fault rules, meaning the insurance company can’t deny your claim unless you’re equally to blame (50% rule) or more to blame (51% rule) than the other driver.

Under modified comparative fault rules, if your claim isn’t denied, your compensation can be reduced in proportion to your share of the blame.

Fighting the Adjuster’s Allocation of Fault

You don’t have to accept the insurance adjuster’s decision to reduce or deny your claim, but you will need help to fight back.

Serious injury claims need an experienced personal injury attorney to get anywhere near the amount of compensation you deserve. Severe, potentially permanent injuries are high-dollar claims. Insurance companies are notorious for offering far less money to seriously injured claimants who are not represented by an attorney.

You’ll need an attorney when the insurance company is trying to reduce your claim because of shared blame, a pre-existing medical condition, or arguing that you should have tried to swerve to avoid a collision.

Case Example: Judge Awards $23.7 Million to Left-Turn Accident Victim

On December 5, 2017, Steeve Rojas was driving his motorcycle through an intersection in Los Angeles County when he was broadsided by a company-owned Dodge Ram pickup driven by Hajoca Corporation employee Kevin Henderson.

Rojas was rushed by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with multiple serious injuries, including a severely mangled right foot. Despite several operations, eight days later Mr. Rojas’ lower right leg had to be amputated below the knee.

In 2018, through his personal injury lawyers, Rojas filed suit against Defendants Henderson and Hajoca Corporation, who alleged that Rojas was 50 percent to blame for the crash because he was speeding. Defendants further alleged that Rojas could have avoided the crash if he had been paying better attention.

The case went to trial in February 2021. Mr. Rojas had elected a bench trial with no jury. It was up to Judge Stephen J. Czuleger to decide the verdict.

After a nine-day trial, Judge Czuleger decided that Mr. Rojas shared no blame for the accident and awarded $23,720,996 to Mr. Rojas and his wife, Sandra Acevedo.

The award was broken down as follows:

  • Rojas Past and Future Medical Bills and Lost Wages: $4,520,996
  • Steeve Rojas Pain and Suffering: $18,000,000
  • Sandra Acevedo Loss of Consortium: $1,200,000

You don’t have to settle for less. A reputable car accident attorney will have the skills and experience to fight the insurance company on your behalf.

Most car accident lawyers offer a free consultation to car accident victims. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to seek the legal advice you need to win your personal injury case.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>