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LEFT TURN ACCIDENTS IN FLORIDA: WHO IS TO BLAME AND HOW TO WIN YOUR CASE starstarstarstarstar

There are over 374,000 car accidents each year in Florida with 160,000 resulting in serious injury. That’s 1,026 crashes every day. 

We know that certain types of driving are more likely to result in a crash, like speeding, drunk or impaired driving, and distracted driving. But what about left hand turns? Are they dangerous? Are they the cause of a lot of accidents?

According to the Washington Post, 53% of crossing-path crashes involve left hand turns while just 5.7% involve right turns. That’s ten times the number of crashes from that maneuver, and left hand turns are three times more likely to cause  a fatal pedestrian accident.

This is the reason why delivery giant UPS has its trucks rarely make left hand turns.  They have also found that avoiding left hand turns saves fuel.

Causes of left turn accidents:

left turn accidents - who's to blame

When a driver is turning left there is a need to view, perceive and process more information in the brain. 

In addition to watching down the road, the driver must determine what oncoming traffic is approaching, the closing speed, the availability to get the car across all lanes of traffic and into the perpendicular lane to the left, and avoid pedestrians, objects and cars, all while maintaining a green light (if controlled by a traffic control device). 

The driver also has to be able to perceive pedestrians that may be crossing the road (generally having the right-of-way) as well as bicyclists. This makes left-hand turns much more dangerous.

Left Hand Turn Accidents – WHO IS AT FAULT?

left hand turn accidents 2

The law requires that the driver wanting to make a left-hand turn must wait until they can safely cross and do so without creating a danger or obstruction.

Sometimes drivers make a left and there is traffic in the lane they are entering and they remain blocking the original oncoming lanes.

It is generally assumed that the driver who turns left against oncoming traffic is at fault in a crash. That’s because the car traveling in a straight direction generally has the right of way, as does a vehicle turning right. Florida’s law on left turns reads as follows:

Fla Statute 316.122 Vehicle turning left.—The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, or vehicles lawfully passing on the left of the turning vehicle, which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard. A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

But there are always exceptions to the rule.

Exceptions to the rule:

There are exceptions to the rule that the left-hand turn driver is at fault. There is no one-size-fits-all in traffic or car accidents, there may be circumstances when the oncoming car or another vehicle is the actual cause of a left-hand turn crash.

  • when the intersection has a left-turn only sign or signal, that driver will have the right of way.
  • Sometimes the driver of the oncoming car may be speeding. That can interfere in the left-hand driver’s ability to perceive how long they have to complete the turn. For example, in a 40 mph zone a driver making a left turn who sees the oncoming car and assumes the driver is traveling the speed limit will have much more time to complete the turn compared to when a car is coming at 65 mph. At 40 mph the oncoming car is traveling at 58 feet per second, which means it would travel thelength of a football field in 5.17 seconds.  That same car traveling 65 mph would cover that distance in 3.15 seconds.That means the left-turn driver has 2 seconds less to safely complete the turn to avoid an impact.
  • The dangers get much worse as the speed of the oncoming car increases. Keep in mind it is very difficult for the left-hand turn driver to perceive and estimate speed from oncoming cars. And they are also busy perceiving other hazards, looking to the other side of the road and calculating where the car will end up. Because of this, if it can be established that the oncoming car was speeding the left-hand driver may be found to be without fault and win the left turn accident case. Or there may be a combination of fault found, which in Florida is known as “comparative negligence.” That means the fault of each party is compared to see how much each contributed.
  • In a case where there is, for example, $100,000 of damage determined, if the oncoming driver was found to be 60% at fault and the left-hand driver 40% at fault, the left-hand driver would be entitled to 60% of his or her damages.
  • If the driver of the oncoming car or another vehicle runs a red light.
  • If the left-hand turn driver is safely proceeding across the lanes and there is an unexpected obstruction such as a darting pedestrian, animal or some other cause.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN IN A LEFT-HAND CAR CRASH

left turn crashes

It is important for you to speak with an experienced and respected trial lawyer who represents injured people. There are a lot of complexities involved in car crash litigation, investigation and development of these cases. 

Act quickly because evidence is destroyed, witnesses disappear, and the insurance companies working for the other driver will already have their team out trying to make their case. 

There is a lot of electronic evidence that can be lost or overwritten (traffic and security video, electronic data recording and “black box” data in vehicles) if it is not immediately preserved. 

Contact someone who has a history of obtaining substantial verdicts and settlements in car crash cases so you can preserve your rights before it is too late. You can often obtain a recovery even if you have contributed to the crash if there is also fault on the part of the other driver. 

That’s why Florida adopted the comparative negligence standard because it is recognized that in many accidents both parties have some fault.