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Who Is At Fault in a Left-Hand Turn Accident?

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Posted on November 1, 2022

If a left-hand turn results in a motor vehicle collision, the driver turning left is typically at fault. It is this driver’s responsibility to yield to oncoming vehicles under Florida’s traffic laws. However, if the left-turning driver had the right-of-way, the oncoming driver may be at fault instead. Explore how fault works in a left-hand turn accident to determine if you are eligible for compensation after this type of car accident in Tampa.

Why Are Left Turns Dangerous?

Left turns are the most dangerous type of turn on Florida’s roads. When making a left-hand turn, a driver has to cross one or more lanes of oncoming traffic. The driver must look at the destination road and check for pedestrians in the crosswalk before completing the turn, as well. Many factors make left-hand turns dangerous, including:

  • Disturbing the flow of traffic in the driver’s current lane
  • Having to cross at least one lane of oncoming traffic
  • Having a blocked or limited view of oncoming traffic
  • Estimating the speed and distance of oncoming cars
  • Driving across bicycle lanes and pedestrian crosswalks
  • Being aware of traffic flowing from three different directions
  • Making more of a mental effort than other types of turns

If a driver is drowsy, distracted or intoxicated, this increases the odds of a left-hand turn accident. If an accident does take place while one driver is making a left-hand turn, it is often catastrophic in nature. Intersection accidents often take the form of T-bone or head-on collisions, which put drivers and passengers at risk of serious injuries.

Who Has the Right-of-Way When Making a Left-Hand Turn?

In 2020, the Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported 341,399 total traffic collisions. Improper turns caused over 17,000 of these accidents (32 of which were fatal). An improper turn means that a driver broke the law or drove negligently, resulting in an illegal or dangerous turn that causes an accident. This can include improper or illegal left-hand turns at an intersection, alley, private road or driveway.

According to Florida Statutes Section 316.122, the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left must yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, as well as vehicles lawfully passing on the left of the turning vehicle that are close enough to constitute an immediate hazard. A violation of this law is a noncriminal traffic infraction that is punished as a moving violation. This means while it is not a crime, it can result in a ticket for the driver.

When turning left and faced with a steady green light at a controlled intersection, the turning driver must yield the right-of-way to approaching vehicles. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure there are no oncoming cars that are close enough to constitute a hazard before turning. The driver must also yield to crossing pedestrians or bicyclists. If the driver is given a green turn arrow, however, he or she does not have to yield to oncoming traffic.

How Is Fault Determined in a Left-Hand Turn Accident?

If a car accident takes place when one driver was making a left-hand turn, an investigation may be necessary to determine fault and liability. In Florida, under the no-fault insurance law, the at-fault driver must pay for an accident that causes serious bodily injuries. If the injuries don’t meet Florida’s threshold, all injured parties seek compensation from their own car insurance companies, regardless of fault.

If fault needs to be determined to file a claim, an insurance company will investigate to find out who had the right-of-way, who broke a traffic law and who is to blame for the crash. While this is often the driver making the left turn, it could be an oncoming driver if he or she ran a red light, rolled through a stop sign, or was speeding or driving dangerously. If you get involved in a left-turn accident in Tampa, contact a personal injury attorney for assistance.