Accidents that occur when one driver fails to yield to oncoming traffic while turning left are some of the most common in Arizona. In order to understand the issues that arise as a result of left turn accidents, it is important to understand that Arizona is a comparative fault state.
Arizona is a comparative fault state, so this means that a defendant is only liable for the portion of a plaintiff’s damages that they actually caused. To see this in action, consider a typical case that arises as a result of a left-turning driver’s failure to yield to oncoming traffic. In that case, if a jury thinks the driver who failed to yield while making a left turn is 75% at fault for the accident, and that the driver in the oncoming vehicle is 25% at fault. This will result in a judgment whereby the oncoming driver collects 75% of their total damages from the left-turning driver who failed to yield.
Note that juries can allocate fault however they see fit and that the numbers above are provided simply to demonstrate how Arizona’s comparative fault system works.
In Arizona, left turns at intersections without left turn arrows are controlled by A.R.S. § 28-772, which states:
“The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and that is within the intersection or so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
Note that there is no mention of traffic lights in the foregoing statute. That is because a violation of the statute can occur regardless of the color of the light.
In a typical scenario, someone intending to turn left has pulled out into the middle of the intersection and is waiting for traffic to clear. As they are waiting, they watch the light turn from green to yellow, and at that point, someone coming from the opposite direction tries to beat the light. Not realizing that the oncoming vehicle is not going to stop, the person turning left attempts their turn, and a collision ensues.
In this situation, the person who turned left violated A.R.S. § 28-772 because they failed to yield the right-of-way to a vehicle so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard. Violating a statute such as this is considered negligence per se and gives rise to liability on the part of the driver who was attempting to turn left. However, that does not resolve the issue of comparative fault, which a jury can allocate against the oncoming vehicle driver.
Suppose you have been injured due to someone’s failure to yield while attempting a left turn. In that case, you need an experienced and aggressive trial attorney to defeat the insurance company’s comparative fault arguments.
An insurance company will often attempt to collect time, distance, and speed information from a plaintiff injured by a left-turning driver who failed to yield so that they can give it to a paid accident reconstructionist. The accident reconstructionist will then attempt to use that information to support an opinion that the oncoming driver/plaintiff was traveling at X m.p.h. and was Y feet away from the left-turning vehicle when it first initiated its turning movement. The goal of this analysis will be to demonstrate that the oncoming driver/plaintiff had time to avoid a collision if he had been paying attention and seen the left-turning vehicle when it began its turn.
The foregoing argument is based on estimates, not precise speeds, as well as faulty assumptions. For instance, most people do not know how fast they were actually going. That fact notwithstanding, if in a deposition a person says they were going “about 35 miles per hour,” that will be taken as gospel and repeated as “they were going 35 miles per hour.” In reality, the person could have been going 30 miles per hour, 35 miles per hour, or maybe even 40 to 45 miles per hour. However, assuming it allows them to express the opinion they are being paid to provide; the defense expert will cling to the approximate number as if it was gospel. Further, the accident reconstructionist’ s opinion that an oncoming driver would have had time to avoid a collision with a left-turning driver who failed to yield if they had been paying attention falsely assumes that any reasonably diligent driver will see the left-turning driver’s movement the instant it begins.
Driving is a dynamic endeavor. A motor vehicle operator must constantly shift their attention to several different things to properly operate their vehicle. Indeed, they must monitor their speed, traffic in all four directions, their position on the roadway, their vehicle’s status, and a host of other factors.
When someone is required to monitor all these different variables, it is unreasonable to expect them to see the left-turning vehicle and recognize what it is doing at the very instant it begins to move. Furthermore, it ignores the fact that often the driver attempting a left turn will “inch” their way out without fully committing to the turn. Thus, an oncoming driver requires additional time in order to determine if the other vehicle is turning or just getting into a better position to turn at some point in the future. The experienced Chandler car accident lawyers at Stone Rose Law can effectively explain this to a jury so that it can see through the smoke and mirrors thrown up the defense in an attempt to blame the person injured by their insured. We can help you defeat the comparative fault argument so that you can recover every dollar in compensation you are owed.
Cases that seem simple, such as those involving left turn accidents, can quickly become complex. Do not go it alone, call Stone Rose Law at (480) 498-8998 now for a FREE consultation. Our car accident lawyers in Scottsdale have the experience and know-how you need to cut through the insurance company’s smoke screen, so that you can maximize your recovery.