LEFT TURN CAR ACCIDENTS - WHO IS AT FAULT?

If you are driving straight through an intersection and someone turns left in front of you, it may seem the other driver is certainly going to be found at fault.  After all, violating someone else's right of way during a turn is a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 21801(a).  However, that is not always the case.  Insurance companies and defense attorneys may attempt to blame you (the straight-traveling driver) for the accident.  Determining fault in most left-turn car accidents is relatively simple, but it sometimes depends on what defenses the other party claims.

Reconstructing a Left-Turn Accident

As mentioned above, the law in California requires drivers to make a left turn only when vehicles coming the opposite direction are not "close enough to constitute a hazard", and the turn can be completed with "reasonable safety."  Consequently, speed, ability to see traffic and what is known as "perception-reaction" time are critical factors.  What you don't want are these factors being used against you when you were doing nothing more than driving straight ahead.

For example, if the left-turning vehicle manages to cross almost completely through the intersection before your vehicle strikes the rear of theirs the argument from the defense will be that you had enough time to see the danger and avoid it.  This scenario is not uncommon, and the determination of fault often rests with a reconstruction of the collision.  Insurance companies and their lawyers know what to look for, and they will do what they can to lay the blame at your feet.  This is one of the reasons insurance carriers for the other driver will want to take your recorded statement shortly after an accident, at a time when they know (and you don't) what they're looking for.  Absent other compelling factors, you should avoid giving a recorded statement to an adverse party's insurance carrier unless your attorney has prepared you first and is on the phone with you at the time.

Timing is Critical to Success

In a left-turn accident, timing is everything - from the amount of time you may have had to see the turning vehicle to the amount of time you take before hiring a lawyer to help you.  The sooner the better.  You can't know what the other side is going to argue unless you have handled dozens of similar cases.  Retaining an experienced attorney is a must if you want to protect your rights.


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