Visitor Question

Who’s at fault if distracted driver on phone had right of way?

Submitted By: Rodney (Victorville, California)

While making a left turn in an industrial side street zone, I saw a car about a block ahead of me coming my way. I saw that I had plenty of time to make my left turn, but as soon as I crossed the middle of the road into his lane, I looked his way again and saw a car barreling at me. I new at that moment I was not going to clear his path.

My passenger was looking right at the driver and noticed that he was on the phone with his head down and did not look up at the road until impact. He never tried to slow down or hit the breaks, just plowed right through me, hitting my rear wheel without even a swerve to try and avoid the incident.

I know he had the right of way but he was speeding as he hit me at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone, and was distracted from taking on the phone. Since he was speeding, which through off my judgement, I feel he still could have swerved to avoid hitting me if he would have been watching the road.

Am I still at fault? Thanks for any perspective you can give.

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.

Answer

Dear Rodney,

The State of California follows the “Pure Comparative Fault” rule. In a car accident in California the amount of compensation a driver may be entitled to will be reduced by the driver’s percentage of fault in the accident.

Under the Pure Comparative Fault rule, as long as you were not 100% at fault, you can bring a personal injury claim against the person who was partially responsible for causing your injuries. This is true even if you were 99% at fault and the other driver was only 1% at fault. This applies equally to the other driver.

The statute applicable in your case is California Vehicle Code Section 21801, which states:

“(a) The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left or to complete a U-turn upon a highway, or to turn left into public or private property, or an alley, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to the approaching vehicles until the left turn or U-turn can be made with reasonable safety.”

While it appears you were at fault, you can be confident the insurance company adjuster in this claim will take a close look at the accident before determining the percentages of fault and appropriate payouts. Be sure when speaking to the claims adjuster you make clear the other driver was distracted on his cell phone.

Learn more here: Cell Phone Distractions

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) 647-2490.

Best of luck with your claim.

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