Over the years, I have handled a number of auto accident cases where one vehicle made a left-hand turn and collided with oncoming traffic. New York State law requires that the vehicle making the left-hand turn yield to oncoming traffic; therefore, it would seem that the vehicle making the left-hand turn bears the liability in these accidents. However, that is not always the case.
Determining Liability in the Left-Hand Turn Accident
A driver activates her left-hand turn signal to make a turn into her office parking lot on Long Island. As she starts her turn, an oncoming car hits her on the passenger side and pushes her into a parked car. A man eases to a stop at a stop sign in Queens. He begins to make a left-hand turn when an oncoming car crashes into his side. A woman driving a car in the Bronx approaches an intersection with a traffic signal and makes a left only to have an oncoming car strike her before she completes the turn.
Given New York State law – that says that the vehicle making the left-hand turn must yield to oncoming traffic – it would appear that each of these drivers would be fully liable for the accident. In reality, that is not the case. I have tried many cases where I was able to demonstrate that the oncoming driver bore some or even a majority of the liability for the accident. I have also handled cases where I had to work hard to push maximum liability on the driver making the left-hand turn.
What circumstances would make the oncoming driver at least partially liable for the accident? Here are three common circumstances:
- If the oncoming driver was speeding and the speed contributed to the accident, then the oncoming driver bears some liability.
- If the oncoming driver went through red light and then hit the car making a turn, the oncoming driver will bear some liability for the accident. The car making the turn might have a left-turn signal and the oncoming driver jumps the green light – meaning he starts going anticipating a green light, but before the light actually turns green. Or, the driver making the turn has waited until oncoming traffic has cleared and makes the left-turn under the yellow light, but the oncoming driver does not stop for the red light. In those instances, the oncoming driver bears some responsibility for the accident.
- If the oncoming driver sees the vehicle making the turn and continues to proceed, then the oncoming driver bears some liability. Even though New York State Law says that the vehicle making the left-hand turn must yield to oncoming traffic, the law also requires drivers to take reasonable action to avoid an accident. If a driver sees a vehicle making a left-hand turn, that driver has an obligation to avoid an accident.
The Left-Hand Turn Accident and New York’s No-Fault Auto Insurance
Under New York’s No-fault Insurance Law, an occupant of a vehicle who is injured receives No-Fault coverage for medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who caused or contributed to the accident. However, if a person believes that he or she suffered injuries that deserve compensation beyond No-Fault benefits, then it will be necessary to determine who is responsible for the accident.
New York’s No-Fault law requires that a person demonstrate that he has suffered a “serious injury” to seek compensation beyond No-Fault benefits. (You can read more about the serious injury requirement here and here. You can read more about New York No-Fault Insurance here.) If you believe you have a serious injury and want to seek compensation for those injuries, then you should contact a New York personal injury lawyer experienced with motor vehicle accidents, especially left-hand turn accidents. Your attorney will work with you to determine potential liability in the car crash and to determine the feasibility of pursuing damages, either through a settlement or a lawsuit.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about injuries suffered in a car accident or other motor vehicle accident, you may want to consult a New York personal injury attorney experienced with car accidents. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.