Who Is At Fault for My Accident?

Learn What the Law Says About Left Turns, Changing Lanes, Red Lights, and Rear-End Crashes

In Los Angeles, car accidents are a part of daily life, whether you get in a fender bender on your way to work or the 405 is moving at a snail’s pace because of a serious collision. When you get into an accident, big or small, you’re probably wondering who is at fault?

California vehicle code and civil jury instructions can lend some clarity.

Red Lights

According to California Vehicle Code Section 21453, a driver at a red light must stop before entering the crosswalk or the intersection. They must remain stopped until the light changes unless they are turning right on red or left from on a one-way street to a one-way street. If a driver turns against a red light, they must yield the right of way to pedestrians, oncoming vehicles, and other immediate hazards.

If there is a red arrow, the driver may not make the movement indicated by the arrow and must wait for the light to change.

When a driver disregards a red light or red arrow, or fails to yield the right of way, there is a good chance they will be at fault, at least partially, for the accident.

Right of Way

When it comes to the rules of road, the right of way is an important concept. Simply put, the driver who does not have the right of way must let the other driver (or pedestrian) go first. However, even if you have the right of way, you must still take reasonable care to avoid an accident.

We can use left turns as an example:

Left Turns

Vehicles rarely have the right of way when they are turning left. This means a driver who is turning left must let oncoming traffic go first unless they are protected by a green arrow or another traffic signal.

If a driver disregards right of way and turns left into the path of another vehicle or an “immediate hazard,” they will likely be at fault, at least partially, for the accident. Nevertheless, if the oncoming vehicle has the opportunity to slow down and avoid a collision, they must take reasonable care to do so. Additionally, if the car driving straight is going 100 miles per hour, that driver may also be at fault, at least partially, for the accident.

Unless you were distracted, speeding, or running a red light, the driver turning left is likely to bear more responsibility for the car accident.

Changing Lanes

Similarly, California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) No. 705 emphasizes that drivers must use reasonable care when turning or moving to the right or left. Essentially, drivers must ensure their path is safe before changing lanes.

If one vehicle is moving straight within their lane and another vehicle is changing lanes, the driver who is changing lanes will almost always be at fault for the collision.

Rear-End Accidents

Most rear-end accidents are caused by the rear driver. If you are paying full attention to the road and driving at a reasonable speed, you should have time to stop when the car ahead of you stops. There are rare cases where the lead vehicle is at fault, but they usually relate to the lead vehicle reversing at a traffic signal.

If you are driving carefully and someone rear-ends you, they are most likely at fault.

Special Cases: Speeding and DUIs

When it comes to car accident claims, the most important rule of the road is reasonable care. If you can prevent an accident, you should. Because they are known to cause accidents, some behaviors are automatically considered careless, or negligent.

For example, speeding and driving under the influence cause or contribute to the majority of fatal car accidents each year.

If the other driver is speeding or driving drunk, additional rules may apply in the evaluation of who is at fault?

We can return to the left turn scenario to better understand this concept. If you are making a left turn, for instance, a car that is doubling the speed limit could quickly become an immediate hazard, even if the hazard was not so immediate when you started your turn. Thus, the person who was speeding could be at least partially responsible for your accident. On a similar note, you may not be held responsible for a rear-end accident if a drunk person stopped abruptly, at night, in the middle of a freeway because they were intoxicated.

Proving Liability

For help proving liability after a car accident, look no further than Reed & Garcia Law, PC. You may have been injured in a straightforward situation or involved in a more complex car crash. No matter what, we can help you.

When you file a lawsuit or even make an insurance claim against someone else, the burden of proof rests on your shoulders – don’t handle it alone!

Instead, call our firm at (310) 242-8933 today or request a free case evaluation online

We know the law in Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Inland Empire and surrounding areas, and we look forward to making it work for you!