Who’s At Fault? New York’s Left-Hand Turn Laws

Who’s At Fault? New York’s Left-Hand Turn Laws
Calendar icon August 31, 2023

Believe it or not, one of the maneuvers that you make on a daily basis while behind the wheel can also be one of the most dangerous ones you can make. Left-hand turns, although seemingly routine, can result in serious injuries to pedestrians and motor vehicle operators if proper caution is not exercised. 

If you were involved in an accident involving a left-hand turn, it’s important to understand New York’s laws regarding left-hand turns.

Why Are Left-Hand Turns So Dangerous?

Left-hand turns can lead to catastrophic accidents, as they often require crossing and turning into oncoming traffic. In densely populated cities like New York City, the dangers associated with left-hand turns are heightened due to the constant flow of both vehicle and foot traffic. 

Here are a few reasons why left-hand turns are considered to be highly dangerous:

  • Drivers will naturally accelerate while in the process of completing a left-hand turn, which coupled with the wide radius of their turn, can cause greater injury to pedestrians or more extensive damages to other vehicles in the event of a collision. 
  • The driver making a left-hand turn may try to “beat” an oncoming driver by turning quickly in front of them. 
  • When a driver slows down in preparation for a left-hand turn, they face a greater risk of being rear-ended by a driver behind them. 
  • Traffic moving in the oncoming direction is often traveling at a much higher rate of speed than the vehicle turning left, which can lead to a fatal collision. 
  • Obstructions are common when making a left-hand turn, so a t-bone accident can occur with an oncoming vehicle if the left-turner is not vigilant. 

All of these, along with other factors, can lead to serious accidents. Drivers should exercise caution when making left-hand turns, as they can be dangerous to vehicle operators and pedestrians alike. 

Who Is Considered At Fault For A Left-Hand Turn Accident?

Under New York State law, a driver who is waiting to make a left-hand turn at an intersection must yield to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians with the right-of-way. 

A driver may be considered at fault for a left-hand turn accident for any of the following reasons:

  • Failure to yield to oncoming traffic with right of way
  • Speeding or driving recklessly
  • Driving while distracted
  • Making an illegal u-turn into oncoming traffic

Even though New York State’s left-hand turn laws favor traffic that is flowing straight or turning right, there are some exceptions where a driver making the left-hand turn is not liable (or fully liable) for the accident and resulting injuries, as discussed below. In many circumstances in New York, the left-hand turn driver is still able to collect damages after an accident, even if they are found to be the majority at fault.

Comparative Negligence In New York

New York State is one of the few states that have adopted what’s called “pure comparative negligence” laws. Under this variant, an injured party is permitted to recover damages for their injuries regardless of what percentage at fault they are determined to be for an accident. 

For example, a driver is injured in an accident and found to be 50% at fault. As a result of the accident, the driver accumulated $100,000 in damages. Under New York’s pure comparative negligence rule, they are still able to recover $50,000 in damages, which is the amount of damages they sustained, reduced in proportion to the percentage they were found to be at fault for the accident.

When Is The Left Turner Not Liable In A Car Accident?

Determining liability in any car accident depends on several factors, and accidents involving a left-hand turn are no exception. Insurance companies and attorneys may take the following factors into account when determining fault:

  • Which driver had the right of way?
  • What speed were the vehicles going at the time of the accident?
  • Did the drivers act in a reasonable manner?
  • Where is the damage located on both vehicles?
  • Were there any witnesses to the accident?

Generally, the left-hand turner will not be found to be at fault if it can be proved that:

  • They had the right of way and obeyed traffic signals indicating they could make a left-hand turn. 
  • The other driver was speeding when approaching the intersection.
  • The other driver ran a red light.
  • The other driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The other driver was distracted, or otherwise caused the accident. 

Unforeseen Circumstances In A Left-Hand Turn Accident

In certain situations, there may be a sudden event that was not foreseeable by any drivers involved in an accident. For example, an animal, young child, or debris could suddenly enter the lane, forcing the left-hand turner or other driver to slow down or make an abrupt stop. 

In an event like this, if the left-hand turning vehicle took reasonable precautions on the roadway, the other driver may be held liable for the accident if it can be argued that they should have noticed the left-hand turning vehicle slowing or stopping completely, depending on the circumstances of the accident. 

Contact A Car Accident Attorney For Left-Hand Turn Accidents

Many people assume that a person who was making a left-hand turn at the time of an accident is at fault, but that is not always the case. Because of this assumption, the driver making the left-hand turn may be deterred from filing a personal injury lawsuit for their injuries – even if they are not totally at-fault for the accident and may still have a claim. 

Navigating the complexities of New York’s left-hand turn laws after an accident can be simplified with the assistance of an experienced legal professional. At Cellino Law, our car accident attorneys have extensive experience helping those who have been injured in left-hand turn accidents and have been able to recover over $2 Billion in damages for clients across New York State. 

If you have been injured in a left-hand turn accident, either as a pedestrian or driver, our team of attorneys are here to help. To discuss the details of your case, contact us at 888-888-8888 or online for a free and confidential case review.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.

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