Is a Car Making a Left-Hand Turn Always at Fault in an Accident in Arizona?
By Zachary Mushkatel on June 1, 2018
Drivers involved in left-hand turn accidents are routinely found to be at-fault under Arizona traffic laws. This is because drivers who are turning left must yield to oncoming traffic under Arizona law. In fact, existing right-of-way laws are written broadly to protect other motorists and make liability more likely for drivers who were making left-hand turns.
However, as with most driving scenarios, there are always exceptions.
Understanding Arizona Right-of-Way Laws
According to section 28-772 of Arizona’s right-of-way laws, left-hand turning drivers at intersections must yield to vehicles approaching from the other direction. More specifically, this law requires yielding to any vehicle that could pose an “immediate hazard.” The wording of these traffic laws clearly put a greater burden on drivers who are turning left.
Some exceptions may exist for when a left-hand turning driver has a green left arrow signal, or when there are other applicable laws that protect the driver turning left.
Examples of Cases Where Left-Hand Turns Aren’t the Cause of the Accident
Of course, there could be a number of different factors in a left-hand turn accident. These external factors could mean that the driver who was turning left is not the primary cause of the accident. Cases where the other driver was primarily responsible may result from human conditions, including:
- Driver fatigue or exhaustion
- Driver distraction
- Driver intoxication
As a consequence of these human conditions, a left-hand turning driver may suffer an injury or be struck by oncoming traffic. For example, a distracted driver could fail to notice when another driver turning left has the right-of-way. An intoxicated driver is also more likely to make a reckless decision, such as speeding or ignoring traffic signals, while driving.
Other cases where left-hand turns aren’t the cause of the accident may involve non-human conditions. Examples include:
- Poor weather conditions
- Mechanical or equipment failures
- Road obstructions or debris
In these circumstances, an accident may occur even when the driver who is turning left is being careful or following all traffic laws. For these reasons, it is important to identify all of the factors that contributed to a left-hand turn accident.
Proving Fault in a Left-Hand Turn Accident
Liability in a left-hand turn accident may depend on both where the accident occurred and how the parties were driving. When you hire a skilled auto accident attorney, he or she will conduct a thorough investigation. This will likely involve:
- Reviewing any written documentation from the accident such as police reports, witness statements, insurance claims, or other documents
- Re-creating the scene of the accident by examining things like video footage from before and after the collision, debris collected from the scene, and pictures of vehicle damage and injuries
- Documenting external factors such as weather conditions
- Gathering expert testimony or other evidence to prove that something else, or someone else, is to blame for a left-hand turn accident
It’s important to note that Arizona is a comparative negligence state. This means that each person involved in an accident will be held liable to the extent of their negligence or level of responsibility. Even if the other driver was mostly responsible, you could still face liability for any portion of the accident that was your fault.
For this reason, having a skilled attorney on your side is very important to proving fault in left-hand turn accidents.
What to Do If You’ve Been Involved in a Left-Hand Turn Accident
Due to the comparative negligence and right-of-way laws in Arizona, it is important to carefully document everything after a left-hand turn accident. Regardless of whether you were the driver turning left or the driver travelling in the opposite direction, there are some common safeguards that you should follow:
- At the scene of a left-hand turn accident, it is important to remain calm and wait for help to arrive.
- Getting medical attention and police support is critical, and you should call 911 as soon as possible.
- If you are able to safely exit the vehicle, you should also document everything about the accident that you can. This could include taking pictures of your vehicle, the other driver’s vehicle, any damaged property, and any injuries.
- Additionally, you need to obtain the other driver’s insurance and contact information.
- When you are able to do so, you should also write down anything you remember about the accident and your sensations immediately afterward. You may be, understandably, in shock or unable to remember anything at first. However, the details will be harder to remember with the passage of time. Documenting everything as soon as possible after a left-hand turn accident will help you in the long run. This includes keeping track of any later medical treatment, insurance claims, or other paperwork.
Drivers turning left are not always held 100 percent liable, so protect your rights and do not apologize or admit fault after a crash.
Talk to a Knowledgeable Car Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one has been involved in a left-hand turn accident, you should hire an experienced attorney who can explain your options and protect your rights. Determining liability can be complicated, especially because of current Arizona right-of-way laws.
The Arizona personal injury attorneys at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, have almost 100 years of combined experience and know how to handle left-hand turn accident cases. Our attorneys have fought for clients in Surprise, Peoria, Glendale, Phoenix and the West Valley against unscrupulous insurance companies, and we will aggressively advocate for your legal rights. Contact us today at (480) 428-0992 or fill out an online form to schedule your free consultation.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.