Who Is at Fault in an Unprotected Left-Turn Accident?

Jan 25, 2022

In many cases it’s the driver making the left turn who is determined to be primarily at fault, not the oncoming driver who hit them. However, the oncoming driver might be fully or partially at fault if they were speeding or otherwise did something illegal that led to the accident.

These car or truck crashes can get complicated, and law enforcement and insurance companies often have to carefully analyze evidence to determine who is responsible.

What Makes a Left Turn Unprotected?

The adjective “unprotected” is used if a driver is turning left at an intersection or into a street or driveway that doesn’t have a left-turn light. This could be at a stop light where there’s no arrow, turning left into a business’s parking lot along a street, turning left into a residential neighborhood, etc.

Many Atlanta lights are now equipped with multiple potential arrow options. A green left arrow is relatively easy to interpret – you have the right of way. A red arrow means you can’t turn left, even if there is no oncoming traffic. A flashing yellow arrow is essentially an unprotected left-turn arrow – you can go if there’s no oncoming traffic or pedestrians. If you have a flashing yellow arrow and you turn in front of an oncoming vehicle, you will likely be at fault.

What If the Oncoming Driver Was Speeding?

People hit in left-turn accidents frequently claim the oncoming driver was going way over the speed limit – and in some cases that’s true. You might assume the car down the street is plenty far away for you to turn safely, but if that car is going twice the speed limit it may get to you much faster than you realize.

Order of Right of Way

Left-turn drivers are frequently last in line for right of way:

  1. Pedestrians always have the right of way in these scenarios – the left-turn driver must wait for walkers and cyclists to clear the street or driveway the driver is turning into
  2. Oncoming traffic – if the light is still green or there’s no stop sign, oncoming vehicles have the right of way
  3. The left-turn driver who is pulled into the intersection or waiting in the street can go after oncoming traffic is clear

What if a Pedestrian Is Illegally Crossing Against Stop Signal?

Every driver has likely experienced a situation where a pedestrian is illegally crossing a street they want to turn into. Under no circumstances do you have a legal right to turn into a pedestrian. Even if they’re crossing illegally, you’ll likely still bear the brunt of the fault.

Your insurance company may be able to successfully argue you’re not entirely responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries, but it’s unlikely the pedestrian will be determined to be solely at fault for getting hit.

Modified Comparative Negligence Doctrines

If your left-turn car crash or truck wreck case does go to trial, it’s likely the defense will make use of comparative negligence doctrines. If the insurance company can prove their policyholder wasn’t entirely at fault for the accident, the plaintiff will only receive a reduced verdict. The ultimate compensation the insurance company will have to pay the injured party will match the defendant’s fault.

Left-Turn Accident Comparative Negligence Example

An oncoming driver hits a car or truck that was turning left. It’s determined the oncoming driver was going 15 miles over the speed limit. The left-turn driver still shouldn’t have turned in front of an oncoming car. In that scenario a jury might decide the left-turn driver was 75 percent at fault and the oncoming driver was 25 percent at fault.

In that case the oncoming driver who was injured in the crash would only receive 75 percent of the verdict. If the verdict was $100,000, the injured driver would only receive $75,000.

Although the insurance company might not view that case as a win, the result is better than having to pay the full $100,000. That’s why comparative negligence strategies are particularly popular in personal injury cases, especially when the facts of the case are undisputed, and the defense doesn’t have a clear path to victory.

Have You Been Injured in an Unprotected Left-Turn Crash in Atlanta?

Left-turn accidents are particularly common, and they frequently result in serious injuries. If you were injured in a left-turn accident and you’re confident the other driver was at fault, you should strongly consider speaking with a car wreck lawyer in Atlanta.

You can expect the insurance company to spin the accident to make it seem like you share most or all the blame. Our auto accident injury lawyers at the Dressie Law Firm are familiar with insurance company negotiating strategies. We tirelessly pursue the compensation our clients need to recover after car wrecks.


Request a free case evaluation by calling 770-756-6333.