Visitor Question

Car Accident Caused by Semi Truck – Who’s at Fault?

Submitted By: Rebecca (California)

I was stopped at an intersection in the left lane (two lanes total). I was stopped well behind the line. Just as our light turned green, a semi truck coming from the road to our right came flying through the intersection and turned left, completely running the light. He was going really fast and I could see that the body of the semi would pass through my lane.

I put my car in reverse and backed up as slowly as possible under the circumstances, but tapped the car behind me. She had only left a few feet between us and didn’t attempt to back up to give me more room. The whole thing occurred in just a couple seconds. The semi truck barely slipped past my car; I would have been hit if I hadn’t moved.

Who is at fault in this accident?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Rebecca,

You pose a very interesting question. From the facts you present it doesn’t appear the police were dispatched to the scene. If they had, their responsibility would’ve been to investigate the cause of the collision and assess liability accordingly.

Normally the vehicle behind is responsible for damages to the vehicle in front. This is because the law requires each vehicle to remain at least one car length behind the other for every 10 miles per hour. In your case though it appears the vehicle behind you was stopped as she should have been, waiting, like you for the signal to change.

The California Traffic Code Section 21803 states as follows:

Yield Signs: Intersections

21803. (a) The driver of any vehicle approaching any intersection which is controlled by a yield right-of-way sign shall, upon arriving at the sign, yield the right-of-way to any vehicles which have entered the intersection, or which are approaching on the intersecting highway close enough to constitute an immediate hazard, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to those vehicles until he or she can proceed with reasonable safety.

(b) A driver having yielded as prescribed in subdivision (a) may proceed to enter the intersection, and the drivers of all other approaching vehicles shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle entering or crossing the intersection.

Amended Ch. 623, Stats. 1988. Effective January 1, 1989.

These sections of the code seem to indicate you would be the responsible party as you failed to yield the right of way to the truck in the intersection, even if the truck driver ran the red light. The statute may seem unfair, but in most traffic codes, there is little room for grey areas. As a result people like yourself become caught up in that specific place.

Learn more here: Semi-Truck Accident Compensation

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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