Who Is At fault In A Car Accident When A Vehicle Makes A Left-Turn On A Green Light?
More than 1/3 of our recent cases have been car accidents involving a driver making a left-turn on a green light. These accidents can be life-threatening and/or deadly. Also, they are completely avoidable.
There is a misconception that a driver is legally permitted to turn left on a green light. A green light (or “green signal”) is different than a green arrow. A driver is legally permitted to turn on a green light or green signal ONLY IF it is safe to do so. Vehicles turning left SHALL yield the right of way to other vehicles. Stated another way, if another vehicle is traveling STRAIGHT through a green light, the driver going straight has the right of way.
Florida Statute 316.075 states:
Vehicular traffic facing a circular green signal may proceed cautiously straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either such turn. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.
In this (very common fact pattern), the white car has the right of way. The yellow car is at-fault, despite turning on a green light.
Why is it dangerous to turn on a green light?
Turning on a green light is very dangerous as it requires several judgment calls that must be made in a short period of time: Some of the judgment calls are:
- Calculating the speed of oncoming traffic;
- Seeing around (or through) other vehicles that are also attempting to turn left from the opposite direction;
- Pressure from (impatient) vehicles that are behind you trying to “beat the light”.
- Calculating the time it takes for a light to turn from green, to yellow, to red; and/or
- Accounting for pedestrians crossing the street.
In our opinion, limited view is the #1 reason for “left hand turn” accidents.
If you choose to make a left-hand turn on a green light, please follow these safety tips:
- Turn on your signal approximately 100 feet before you get to the point where you’ll make the left-hand turn;
- Stop your vehicle behind the limit line (not on or over it);
- When you are at a complete stop, look to the left, then right, then to the left one more time;
- Make the turn when you are completely sure there is no oncoming traffic or other hazards (i.e. pedestrians) that may result in an accident – do NOT try to see around (or through) other vehicles.
- When turning, do not try to cut the corner of the lane where ongoing traffic is.
If you were injured in a car crash where someone turns left into your lane of traffic, you should immediately contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
In the large majority of cases, the at-fault driver (driver turning on a green light) will tell the police something to effect of, “they carefully looked both ways and did not see any oncoming traffic before proceeding into the intersection on a green light – the other driver MUST have “ran the light”, “been speeding”, “illegally switched lanes”, etc.”
In many cases, the police officer will not write the “at-fault” driver a citation due to “conflicting stories”. They will, however, place the at-fault driver as “vehicle 1” on the crash report. Vehicle 1 is normally assigned to the at-fault driver.
The officer’s opinion on the crash report is mostly irrelevant. Pursuant to Florida Statute §316.075 the driver turning left on green is the at-fault party. They should be deemed 100% responsible for the crash. In rare cases, the insurance company will apportion liability between the drivers (i.e. if the driver going straight was traveling at a very high rate of speed). This can be difficult to prove, however.
An experienced personally injury attorney will fight to ensure that the insurance company places 100% liability on the “at-fault” party. An experienced personal injury attorney will also be on the phone with you if/when you give a sworn statement to the insurance adjuster.
We have represented hundreds of individuals who were involved in car crashes as a result of a driver who negligently made a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic. Some of these individuals suffered life-threatening injuries, requiring cervical and lumbar fusions and disc replacements. Sadly, some have died on scene. If you are involved in a crash where someone negligently turns into your lane of travel, you should immediately seek medical care and contract our office for a free consultation. Do NOT speak to the insurance company without legal representation. They will try to lock you into a statement against your interests. Let us protect your rights.