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Is a Driver Making a Left Turn Always at Fault for an Accident?

By Jeremy Bradford
Founding Partner

Imagine making a left turn at a busy intersection, confident in your timing. Suddenly, there’s a honk, a jolt, and confusion – you’ve been involved in an accident. This situation raises a critical question: Is the driver making the left turn always to blame? Understanding the nuances of traffic laws and fault in these accidents can be eye-opening.

Understanding Traffic Laws Related to Left Turns in North Carolina

In North Carolina, traffic laws dictate that drivers making a left turn must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic until it is safe to proceed. This rule aims to prevent collisions by ensuring that left-turning vehicles do not interfere with traffic flow. However, the application of this law can vary based on specific circumstances at the intersection. For instance, if a left-turning driver is given a green arrow signal, they have the right-of-way over oncoming traffic. It’s also important to note that while left-turning drivers typically have a higher burden of responsibility, exceptions exist. 

Common Scenarios Involving Left Turns and Liability

Several common scenarios can affect liability in left-turn accidents. One typical situation involves the left-turning driver misjudging the speed of oncoming traffic, leading to a collision. In these cases, the turning driver is often at fault for failing to yield the right-of-way. Another scenario is when a driver executes a left turn with an obstructed view, perhaps due to parked vehicles or foliage, resulting in an accident. Here, the left-turning driver might also bear most of the blame for not ensuring clear visibility before proceeding.

However, there are situations where the left-turning driver may not be held entirely responsible. If the oncoming vehicle performed an illegal or unsafe maneuver or ran a red light, contributing to the accident, liability might shift towards the oncoming driver. Additionally, if the left-turning driver had a green arrow signal, indicating a protected turn, they should not be held accountable if an oncoming driver fails to stop at a red light.

These examples illustrate how fault is not always straightforward in left-turn accidents and can depend heavily on the specific circumstances surrounding each incident.

Contributory Negligence System in North Carolina

North Carolina operates under a strict contributory negligence system, one of the few states still doing so. This means that if you are found even slightly at fault for an accident, you could be barred from recovering any compensation from the other party involved. In the context of left-turn accidents, if you’re deemed even 1% responsible, you may not receive damages for your injuries or losses. Understanding this can be critical, as it underscores the importance of gathering solid evidence and constructing a strong legal argument to prove the other party’s fault.

The Role of Evidence in Determining Fault

The role of evidence in determining fault in left-turn accidents is crucial. Key evidence includes traffic camera recordings, which can provide clear details of the incident, showing which driver had the right-of-way or if any traffic signals were disobeyed. Witness statements offer additional perspectives, potentially revealing details like the speed of the vehicles or whether a driver was distracted. Police reports will contain the responding officer’s observations and conclusions at the scene.

Furthermore, photographs of the accident site, vehicle damage, and road conditions can help reconstruct the event and establish fault. Collecting and analyzing this evidence thoroughly is essential for accurately determining which party is responsible for the accident.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

At Bradford Law, we’re committed to supporting you through the complexities of your case. Our team provides personalized legal guidance to ensure your rights are protected. If you’ve been involved in a left-turn accident, don’t hesitate to reach out. Let us help you navigate the legal landscape and work towards a favorable outcome.

About the Author
I am Jeremy Bradford, the founding and managing attorney of Bradford Law. From my offices in Charlotte, NC, I travel all across North Carolina helping injured people fight against insurance companies, in what could be life-altering circumstances. I have made a point to develop strong relationships with my clients. I take the trust my clients put in me personally and put myself into every case. If my client calls, my client will always be able to speak directly with me. You will get to know me as we work our way through the personal injury process. So when we make recommendations on whether to settle or go to trial, you will know your best interests are always at heart.