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Left-Turn Accidents and Legal Liability in California

One of the very important things to know about auto accidents – and auto accident liability – is that there are actually relatively few absolutes. You may have heard that “in a rear-end accident, the rear driver is always at fault,” but that’s not true. The same goes for left-turn accidents in which one driver turns in front of an oncoming vehicle. While it’s true the turning driver is usually the at-fault driver, it is false that the turning driver is always the one to blame. If you’ve been hurt in a left-turn accident, don’t let others tell you there’s no way you can recover damages through a lawsuit. Instead, get the competent advice you need from a skilled San Mateo injury attorney.

A terrible accident that took place about 50 miles east of Stockton recently is a good example. According to the Union Democrat, D.T. turned his Ford Mustang left onto Highway 4 in front of an oncoming Chevrolet Camaro that was moving “at an unknown speed.” The Camaro slammed into the Mustang and D.T. died at the scene.

In many scenarios like this one, the turning driver would be the driver at fault. The law generally says that a driver traveling straight has the right of way against a driver turning into that lane, and that the turning driver has the legal obligation to yield the right of way.


There are circumstances, however, where liability in a left-turn accident is not so cut and dried. All drivers have an obligation to see what should be seen and take reasonable steps to avoid colliding with other vehicles. In some situations, a driver who would normally have the right of way may still be liable because he did not act reasonably in response to the vehicle turning in front of him.

This can happen, for example, if the driver with the right of way was speeding, was driving drunk (or on drugs,) or was driving while distracted. If you are hurt while turning left and are suing the other driver for your damages, one of the key pieces of evidence that may greatly empower your case is proof that the other driver was cited or was criminally charged in the accident. Citations for speeding and/or reckless driving — or charges for DUI — can be massively important components to a successful negligence case.

D.T.’s fatal crash was one of the atypical left-turn scenarios. Following “a lengthy investigation involving the CHP Valley Division Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team,” it was determined that M.S., the driver of the Camaro, was driving “in a reckless manner,” according to the Union Democrat report. The district attorney later charged M.S. with felony vehicular manslaughter.

California’s comparative negligence rules and your left-turn accident

Another thing you should keep in mind is that, even if you were the one primarily to blame in your left-turn accident, that doesn’t mean you cannot recover compensation. California’s rules about negligence say that, if you suffered damages as a result of an accident for which you were less than 100% at fault, then you can seek recovery from any others who were partly to blame. So, for example, if you improperly failed to yield the right of way to an oncoming driver but that driver was speeding, then you may still have a case. If the jury finds that you suffered $400,000 in damages, that you were 75% at fault and the other driver was 25% to blame, then you may still receive a damages award of $100,000.

While it is unlikely that anyone in your left-turn crash will end up being charged with homicide, there are still many ways that you potentially can prove that, even though you were the left-turning driver, you weren’t the person legally to blame. To do that, you’ll need the right evidence and the right presentation in court. Count on the skilled San Mateo injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos to get you the positive results you deserve. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

Auto Accidents

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