After a car accident involving a driver making a left turn, most people tend to assume the driver making the left turn is always at fault. However, determining fault in a car accident is complex and often not straightforward. This discussion of left-hand turn accidents will outline some instances in which the turning driver bears responsibility for the accident, as well as some in which the opposite is true.
Left Turn Accidents in West Virginia
Typically, left turn accidents occur when one driver is traveling straight, and another driver makes a left turn into the path of the oncoming car. Usually, a driver turning left should yield to oncoming traffic. However, it is dependent on the intersection and the traffic laws in the area. The turning driver may not need to yield, making determining fault a bit more difficult.
Illegal Left-Hand Turns
In intersections controlled by a stoplight, a green light or flashing yellow left turn light means the driver must yield the right of way to the oncoming traffic traveling straight. If a driver rushes into the intersection in an attempt to cut off or beat out oncoming traffic, the driver has made an illegal left turn. The turning driver must accept liability for accidents that occur as the result of cutting off oncoming traffic.
Similarly, in left-hand turns from a turning lane and not controlled by a stoplight, the driver assumes that he or she may only turn if no oncoming traffic is in sight. If the driver rushes to turn and cuts off traffic, resulting in an accident, the driver is liable. The same applies if the driver simply failed to notice oncoming traffic approaching.
Legal Left-Hand Turns
Intersections controlled by a stoplight only assign the right of way to left-turning drivers with a green arrow, shown in conjunction with a red light for straight traffic and often a green arrow for opposing left-turning traffic. If a turning driver has the right of way via the green arrow, another driver may cause an accident by running the red light. In particular, if the opposing driver was speeding, drowsy, or intoxicated, which caused the running of the red light, the turning driver is not liable for the accident.
However, if a green turn arrow signifies the driver’s right of way, he or she must first check for pedestrians still in the intersection. If a driver carelessly hits a pedestrian finishing a crossing, liability may still fall on the driver. Similarly, if an opposing car is still crossing the intersection without running the red light, liability may still belong to the turning driver. In either case, however, drivers and pedestrians illegally entering the intersection once the green turn arrow appears, are likely liable for the accident if the turning driver is not reasonably able to stop.
When a driver makes a left-hand turn from a turning lane not controlled by a traffic signal, if the driver turning left has time to turn but encounters a reckless driver, liability may be on the part of the reckless driver. For example, if the oncoming driver was speeding, driving while intoxicated, or driving in a turn lane, he or she may accept liability for the accident.
Modified Comparative Negligence in West Virginia
West Virginia is a modified comparative fault state. Even if you are partially at fault for a left-turn accident, if the other driver is more than 50% at fault, you may pursue a personal injury lawsuit. However, the amount of damages you can receive depends on your percentage of fault. For example, if you were speeding and hit a left-turning driver who was trying to make a hasty turn, a jury may find you partially at fault. If your damages are $10,000 but you were 40% at fault, you will only receive $6,000 in compensation for your expenses.
To learn more about left-hand turns resulting in car accidents, talk to our West Virginia car accident attorneys. Our law firm offers free consultations to discuss your legal options. Contact us today!