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Left-turn Car Accident – Determining Fault

When you need to make a left turn, you cross the path of oncoming traffic that can be travelling in multiple directions, which leaves you more vulnerable to being injured in a traffic accident. While motorists are required to exercise due caution when making left turns – as with every other driving manoeuvre – not all left-turn accidents are caused by negligence on the part of the driver who is turning left. Determining fault in left-turn accidents requires considerable experience, skill, and legal insight, and a seasoned personal injury lawyer Hamilton can help.

What Are the Rules for Left Turns in Ontario?

Before a driver can make a left turn in Ontario – or can make any turn – they must establish that it is safe to do so. This includes yielding to any oncoming traffic in all the lanes they are preparing to cross and waiting to proceed only when each of these lanes is free of both traffic and other driving obstacles.

When there is traffic that impedes a left turn, the driver must wait until this is no longer the case. Motorists are also responsible for making their intentions to turn left known to other drivers on the road by using their turn signals ahead of time, which allows those other motorists the time necessary to adjust their own driving.

It’s important to note that geographical variables, such as visibility and sightlines, can play an important role in left-turn accidents. This makes taking every precaution prior to making a left turn paramount. 

Fault Determination Rules: Ontario Left Turn

Often the motorist who is making the left turn is determined to be at fault, and this is based on the fact that those who make left turns are responsible for evaluating their safety in the first place. In other words, motorists accept a considerable amount of responsibility when they make left turns.

In Ontario, once the traffic light turns yellow, motorists have the right to proceed if stopping would prove dangerous. The problem is that determining what constitutes danger in this context is tricky – and different drivers tend to interpret things differently.

Determining who is at fault in left-turn claims generally comes down to carefully gathering and interpreting the relevant evidence, which can include all the following:

  • The testimony of eyewitnesses
  • Police reports and any tickets written
  • Photos, videos, and dash cam footage captured at the scene or in the course of the accident
  • Physical evidence, such as damage to the vehicles and marks left on the road

When the Other Driver May Be at Fault

Liability in left-turn accidents can hinge on many different factors, and the person turning left – contrary to popular belief – is not automatically at fault for an ensuing collision. Matters such as which driver had the right of way, the speed at which the motorists were travelling, and the duty that the circumstances involved place on each driver can all play a role. Situations in which the person who is turning left is not found liable can include the following:

  • The oncoming driver was speeding as they entered the intersection.
  • The other driver ran a red light, failed to stop at a stop sign, or disregarded another traffic sign or signal.
  • The other driver was engaged in another form of negligence, such as exhaustion or impairment, that caused the accident.
  • The other driver was distracted to the point that they rear-ended the motorist turning left.

Colliding with a Car that Is Passing from Behind

Who is at fault when a car turns left – colliding with a car that is trying to pass from behind? This scenario is far too common. A rear motorist will attempt to overtake a forward vehicle with little concern about what driving manoeuvre that forward driver is attempting. For example, when two cars are both turning left but the rear vehicle attempts to pass the forward vehicle in the process, it increases the risk that a dangerous accident will happen. Ultimately, a motorist can’t intentionally interrupt another driver’s attempt to safely turn left.

Left-Turn Accident Defence

When it comes to left-turn accidents in Ontario, it’s important to recognize that if you took the precautions necessary to take the left turn safely, the fault may lie with another driver, and bringing your strongest defence is always well advised. Your trusted personal injury lawyer will take on all the following important roles in defence of your rights and in pursuit of the compensation to which you’re entitled:

  • Compiling and organizing all the available evidence
  • Pinpointing the other driver’s negligence in the matter and lining up the evidence to prove their negligence
  • Helping you successfully navigate the challenging legal process
  • Helping to ensure that you avoid the pitfalls common to accident victims, which include posting on social media and making statements to insurance agents
  • Skilfully negotiating with the insurance company for a settlement that fairly covers your physical, financial, and emotional losses
  • Ensuring that your claim proceeds smoothly forward and that it does not get mired in the insurance company’s attempts to slow the process to a crawl
  • Being well prepared to take your case to court if the insurance company is not willing to engage in robust negotiations 

Left-Turn Rules Ontario

The primary rule when it comes to making a left turn in Ontario is first ensuring that it is safe to proceed with the left turn – while continuing to follow all the rules of the road. This entails all the following:

  • Putting on your turn signal prior to reaching the intersection or entrance where you’ll be making your left turn – allowing other motorists the time they need to respond safely
  • Responding appropriately to any traffic signals or signs at the intersection in question
  • When you have a green light, checking for any risk factors prior to proceeding
  • When you have a stop sign, coming to a complete stop and proceeding only after you check every lane that you’ll be crossing – as well as the road you’re entering – for traffic and obstacles
  • Making sure that you have a clear sightline before proceeding with any left turn – taking a hope for the best approach can prove deadly when it comes to making left turns

When you’re making a left turn, you need to pay careful attention to all the traffic around you, and every left turn you make should be approached with care. The basics of a safe left turn include:

  • Signalling ahead of time
  • Coming to a stop behind the limit line
  • Looking to the left, to the right, and to the left again as you prepare to make your turn
  • Remembering that there are hazards other than traffic to consider and scanning for those
  • Being careful not to cut the corners off any lanes of oncoming traffic that you cross – flowing in a smooth, careful arc from the lane you’re in into the lane you’re entering
  • Always joining the left-most lane of the road you’re entering

When You Have a Green Light but No Green Arrow

Just because you have a green light does not mean that it’s safe to make a left turn. If the traffic light guiding your lane is a green circle, it is letting you know that this is your opportunity to make a left turn – but only when it’s safe to do so. This is called an unprotected left turn. If, on the other hand, the light directing you is a green arrow, it means that it’s your opportunity to turn left, but it’s important to scan the intersection for any signs of danger before moving forward with that turn. 

I Was Turning Left, and Someone Hit Me

As noted, left turns come with increased risk, and the driver making the turn is often responsible for any accident that happens. This does not, however, alter the fact that you can be injured by the negligence of another driver while you are taking a left turn that you made after ensuring that it was safe to do so. If you’re hit while making a left turn, it’s likely because the driver who strikes you flew through the intersection at a dangerously high speed, because the driver failed to stop at a red light, because the driver jumped a green light, or because the driver ignored a stop sign. Proving that the other driver was responsible for the losses you sustained while making a left turn is challenging, which makes working with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your best interest – contact the Derek Wilson Personal Injury Law for more information about what we can do to help you today.

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