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  • Writer's pictureMuammar Reed

Is the Person Turning Left Always at Fault?

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Left turn accidents in California are a common occurrence on our roads, often sparking debates about who is responsible. Many assume that the driver making the left turn is always at fault, but the reality is more nuanced. In this article, we will explore the complex issue of fault in left turn accidents, including right of way rules, circumstances when the left-turning driver may not be at fault, and the possibility of recovering compensation when partially liable.

1) Who Has the Right of Way During a Left Turn Crash?

To understand fault in left turn accidents, it's crucial to be familiar with right of way rules:

a) Oncoming Traffic: Generally, vehicles traveling straight through the intersection have the right of way over those making left turns.

b) Pedestrians and Cyclists: Always yield to pedestrians and cyclists in the crosswalk.

c) Special Cases: Traffic signals or signs may specify different right of way rules, which should be followed.

2) Is the Car Making a Left Turn Always at Fault for the Accident?

Contrary to the common belief that the left-turning driver is always at fault, liability is determined by examining various factors:

a) Violation of Right of Way: If the left-turn driver fails to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic or disobeys traffic signals, they may be found at fault.

b) Contributory Negligence: In some cases, the driver traveling straight may share some responsibility if they were speeding, running a red light, or distracted.

3) Factors that Can Shift Liability

Several factors can influence the assignment of fault in left turn accidents:

a) Comparative Negligence: If both drivers share some degree of fault, liability may be apportioned based on each driver's negligence.

b) Sudden Emergencies: If the left-turning driver had to make a sudden, unexpected left turn due to an emergency or to avoid a collision, this might reduce their liability.

c) Misleading Actions: If the other driver involved engaged in reckless behavior or violated traffic laws, it may shift liability.

4) When Is the Driver Turning Left Not at Fault for an Accident?

There are instances when the driver making the left turn is not at fault:

a) Oncoming Driver's Violation: If the driver traveling straight through the intersection violates traffic laws, such as speeding or running a red light, they may bear primary responsibility.

b) Failure to Yield: If the driver traveling straight fails to yield the right of way to the left-turning vehicle, they may be at fault.

c) Poor Road Conditions: If road conditions, such as poorly marked intersections or obstructions, contribute to the accident, liability may shift to the entity responsible for road maintenance.

5) Can I Still Recover Compensation if I am Found Partially Liable?

In California, you can still recover compensation even if you are found partially liable for an accident. The amount you receive may be reduced based on your degree of fault, but it is still possible to seek damages for your injuries and losses.


The assumption that the driver making a left turn is always at fault is an oversimplification of the complex issue of liability in left turn accidents. Determining fault requires a careful examination of various factors, including right of way rules, traffic violations, and the actions of both drivers involved. Understanding the nuances of liability in these situations is crucial for all drivers, as it can impact the outcome of legal claims and insurance settlements.

This article is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Each case is different and it is recommended that you consult a licensed attorney in your area if you have been injured or have a potential personal injury case.

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