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Left Turn Accidents: Who is Liable?

Making a left turn in countries like the United States where we drive on the right side of the road is among the more dangerous driving maneuvers. In fact, UPS, one of the world’s largest transportation services, plans their routes so their drivers almost never make left turns. One major reason for doing this is to save fuel – one report shows that UPS saves millions of gallons of fuel each year and avoids emissions equivalent to over 20,000 passenger cars by avoiding left turns. The other major reason is driver safety.

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), turning left is a factor in 61% of all crashes that occur while turning or crossing an intersection, while turning right is a factor in only 3.1% of these types of crashes. Overall, left turns are a contributor to 22.2% of all vehicle crashes, while right turns contribute to just 1.2%. It is numbers like these that drive a major shipping carrier like UPS to use longer routes in many cases just to avoid making a left turn.

There are several reasons why turning left can be hazardous, these include:

  • Turning left (in a country where you drive on the right side of the road) goes against the natural flow of traffic, which greatly increases the chances of encountering traffic that is coming the opposite way;
  • With many types of vehicles, the view is more obstructed when turning left, which means the driver does not get as clear a view of oncoming traffic;
  • Drivers who are turning left sometimes forget to use their turn signals, failing to alert other vehicle drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians of their intentions;
  • Increased vehicle acceleration is required to complete a left turn. This makes it is easy to misjudge the speed of an approaching vehicle, which could result in a crash. This is especially true at intersections that the driver is less familiar with.

Who is Responsible for a Left-Turn Accident?

When there is a left-turn accident, it is often assumed that the driver who is turning left is the one at fault. This is not necessarily the case, however. Although left turn maneuvers have been shown to be dangerous, this does not automatically mean the driver doing so is at fault for any accident that may occur. There are numerous factors that need to be looked at, and liability in each case always depends on the specific circumstances.

Left turn crashes typically happen when one driver is turning left into oncoming traffic while another car is going straight through the intersection. When this occurs, the driver turning left is usually supposed to yield to the other vehicle, but this also depends on the intersection, the traffic laws in the area, and other factors.

Here are some instances when another driver (other than the left turn driver) may be at least partially at fault or a left turn accident:

  • The left turn driver had a green turn arrow and the other driver ran a red light;
  • The driver of the other vehicle was exceeding the speed limit;
  • The driver of the other vehicle was legally intoxicated;
  • The driver of the other vehicle was sending or receiving texts or other electronic messages on their cell phone;
  • The driver of the other vehicle was eating, grooming, reading a GPS navigation map, or otherwise distracted when the accident occurred.

South Carolina Modified Comparative Negligence

When someone is injured in a left-turn accident in South Carolina, they may be able to recover damages even if they are partially responsible for the crash under the state’s modified comparative negligence laws. This is true as long as the injured driver is less than 50% at fault for the underlying accident.

That said, the amount of compensation that can be recovered is reduced in proportion with the percentage of fault a driver shares in the accident. For example, if their total losses added up to $150,000 and they are found to be 20% at fault for the accident, their damage award would be reduced by $30,000 (down to $120,000).

Injured in Left-Turn Accident in South Carolina? Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one got injured in a left-turn accident or any other type of traffic-related crash in South Carolina, there is a good chance that the others involved will try to pin at least some of the blame on you in order to mitigate their losses. For this reason, it is very important to retain strong legal counsel, so your right to recover full and fair compensation can be preserved.

At Peake & Fowler, we have extensive experience successfully representing clients who have been injured in all types of motor vehicle accidents. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our Columbia, SC office today at 803-788-4370.