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Proving Fault for a Left-Turn Auto Accident

Left turns are among the most dangerous maneuvers for drivers. Unless the turn is a protected left (in a left-turn lane with a left-turn signal) the chances of an accident are relatively high. One may occur as a cross-path accident, in which a car making a left turn collides with an oncoming vehicle, or as a linear-path accident, in which a car crashes into the rear of a vehicle making a left. In either case, it can take careful analysis and investigation to prove which driver was at fault.

Cross-path accidents represent a significant percentage of all motor vehicle collisions. The car turning left must cross at least one lane of oncoming traffic, requiring the driver to gauge the distance and speed of oncoming vehicles. The driver must also be aware of any traffic or obstacle in or near the turn path. Other cars, cyclists and pedestrians can quickly appear and block the route. The worst cross-path accidents are head-on collisions.

Linear-path accidents can result from a left-hand turn that is not expected by other drivers. The turning driver may have failed to signal. If the turning car stops suddenly to wait for traffic to clear, it may be rear-ended by the vehicle behind. Another situation is when a driver turning left hurries to clear oncoming traffic and smashes into another car or obstacle in the pathway of the turn. 

It can be difficult to assess what happened and who was at fault for left-turn collisions. In most cross-path accidents, the driver making the turn is responsible. However, oncoming drivers can be liable if they engage in illegal conduct, such as speeding, disobeying a traffic signal or driving while impaired. In most linear-path accidents, the driver of the car hitting another vehicle from behind is deemed at fault. On the other hand, the turning driver may be liable for his or her own negligence.

Experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers and their hired experts use a variety of tools and evidence to investigate left-turn accidents and to evaluate fault. These include:

  • Fixed cameras — Many traffic signals and surrounding structures are equipped with cameras that may show part or all of the accident.
  • Mobile cameras —There is a chance that the accident was recorded on a dashboard-mounted camera in the car of one of the motorists involved.
  • Physical evidence — Damage to the automobiles, skid marks and vehicle internal computer data can provide useful evidence as to the circumstances of a collision.
  • Witness statements — Witnesses can often provide helpful information through written statements given at the scene of the accident or shortly thereafter.
  • Police reports — The findings recounted in a police report can be very valuable in assessing what occurred.

At Patterson Law in Santa Barbara, we work diligently to obtain fair compensation for victims of motor vehicle accidents. If you or a family member has been injured in a crash, please feel free to contact us online or call 888-479-4589 for a free initial consultation.