I had a semi/car accident recently. Who would be at fault?
August 29, 2014 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm in a tricky situation with a car accident.

We were at a red light on a two lane one-way street. I was behind a semi with a left turn signal on. The light changes and he completely changed into the right lane (in which you can only go straight, or turn right) and I had a completely clear left lane within seconds. He appeared to be heading straight ahead and I decided I was free to go straight. I take this route to work every single day.

Just seconds before I am about to clear the intersection, I see the cab coming right at me with no choice but to hit it in the left lane. I was about a foot away when the front of his cab rams into the front corner of the passenger side of my vehicle. This was my first ever accident and the shock drove me to tears in an instant. I understand he had a turn signal, but him completely clearing my lane lead me to believe he decided to go a different route (straight). I was basing this on what I knew about how the lanes worked in town.

When the police arrived, I barely saw them. The officer spoke to everyone else before speaking to me. When I spoke, he shushed me and told me he had control of my lane even though he left it, that I "shot at him" while my speed was under the limit and I had a completely clear lane. I told him he appeared to be going straight and the appearance of how he was driving for several feet looked to be straight ahead until he turned the cab right in front of me out of nowhere. I understand trucks make wide right turns, but this was a left and he could have looked out of the window and saw me there.

I was cited for passing on the left when the tail of the truck was in the right lane and this was a looong truck. In fact, he was very far over and not angled into the left lane whatsoever. Now I may have judged the situation too quickly, but he did not yield to a completely clear traffic lane. So while I can acknowledge my defensive driving was off, he did some things that weren't right either. The sign posted says you can't turn left in that lane. He didn't yield to the right of way, while I simply drove forward at a green light under the limit.

I want to believe I have a case and I am frustrated about this whole thing. I don't believe this person who nearly killed me and totaled my car should get away scot-free. My accident made front page news and I talked to a lawyer in town who said he didn't get it at all and he said it could clearly be seen what had occurred. Everyone is so divided on opinion but only I know what my intent was and it was not to pass him.
posted by Chelsaroo650 to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Please have this question anonymized by speaking with the mods if your name is at all a part of your profile or user history. A traffic lawyer in your jurisdiction is the only really good option. I'm sorry you were in a bad accident and I'm glad you're okay, but you will need local legal help to get any resolution.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:24 PM on August 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I know what my intent was and it was not to pass him.

I second what jetlagaddict has said. You should anonymize this and get a lawyer familiar with your specifics and your location. I understand that your intent matters very much to you but it may not matter very much in an accident situation like the one you have described where the drivers-ed-ish answer is not favorable to your interpretation.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on August 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


When you say you "have a case", a case to do what? The truck driver is "getting away scot-free" of what? Getting charged with a moving violation? A crime of some sort? What does your insurance company say? Are you in a no fault state? Do you have pictures of where all the vehicles were at the time of the accident? Cited for passing on the left? If this is a two lane one way street, where are you supposed to pass? Seems like left or right is fine.
posted by 724A at 7:40 PM on August 29, 2014


Some info about why trucks do that. It's a common way bicyclists are injured or killed, which is the perspective of that page. But cyclists are fooled just like you were, by the fact the the truck swings so wide in one direction that it looks like the truck has changed lanes, when in fact the truck is just preparing to make a wide turn the other way.

I've almost been sucked into bicycling up into that perfectly clear-looking lane myself, despite knowing about this issue very well.

This is definitely lawyer-up time for several different reasons. I know in our state they use the system where they apportion percentages of the blame to different drivers involved. Just from your description I can say pretty certainly that in our state, in a situation like this, some percentage of the responsibility would be apportioned to each driver. But how much to each, I couldn't say. But a good lawyer will be able to make sure you don't end up accepting more of the fault/blame/cost/fines/license points/etc than necessary.
posted by flug at 7:42 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Car crashes freak me out too and leave me confused. Car crashes are also rarely 100% the responsibility of a single party.

A legal advocate is the wise thing to do. It's just a car anyway.
posted by vapidave at 7:43 PM on August 29, 2014


Well I suppose in this case, I don't want all of the fault for this. The perspective I had was tricky and I had never been in such a situation before with a semi. The thing is, he was going to turn left and there was no real "swinging out" like you see with semis typically. It looked like he just completely scooted over and drove forward. I was on his driver's side. I will see what I can do about anonymity.
posted by Chelsaroo650 at 7:50 PM on August 29, 2014


I understand trucks make wide right turns

Trucks make wide turns in both directions. They don't turn better one way or the other. They usually don't get known for making wide left turns because there is another lane for them to use (the oncoming traffic lane) when they turn left. When there is no oncoming traffic lane (as in your example) they make wide turns that way too. This should be obvious.

One of the truck drivers I know had the exact same accident (but turning right on a one way street) a couple of weeks ago. The guy that tried to shoot up his inside as he tried to turn got his Range Rover scraped up pretty badly and the cop told that guy he was entirely at fault. But that was in Canada, not where you are. That all matters.

The left turn indicator puts you pretty squarely in the wrong, to me. He was in he correct lane and indicating correctly and should have been (to you) obviously swinging wide to make a turn. Yes, he may have been over-compensating, but he was indicating. He had made his intentions clear.

BUT. This is a personal opinion of someone who knows very well how much room trucks take up. Legally it may be an entirely different matter, so cover your arse. Get yourself a lawyer. While I think you are logically totally in the wrong, that's not any reason to assume you are legally totally in the wrong, so make sure you ask a legal professional conversant with traffic law in your area, not some people on the internet, or you may convince yourself to act in a way that may not be in your best interests.
posted by Brockles at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


Oh dude, you are totally at fault here. Your account is kinda garbled, and I had to read a few times, but it sounds like you ignored a turn signal and then attempted to overtake a turning truck. I understand it's really upsetting for you to be in an accident, and knowing it was your own inattention/mistake makes it even harder to take solace, but there's a reason trucks and buses in Australia have this sign on the back.

That all said, get a lawyer. You never know what they will say.
posted by smoke at 11:21 PM on August 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


You have car insurance, yes? Talk to them. They have lawyers and they don't want to pay out to the truck driver/company if they don't have to. If there is a way for you to avoid fault they will figure it out.

Of course they'd just as soon throw you under the bus if it was cheaper, but in that case you would want to really think about how much you want to spend fighting this.
posted by shihchiun at 3:45 AM on August 30, 2014


I don't think your intent makes one damn bit of difference legally. Most drunk drivers didn't intend to drive drunk. You passed a truck on the left that was signaling a left hand turn. Maybe a traffic attorney can lessen the blow financially a bit, but to this internet stranger with absolutely no legal training, this appears to be mostly your fault.
posted by COD at 5:15 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Accept that you were at fault. It sucks because sometimes we just make bad driving decisions. The good news is that no one was hurt and you have insurance that will compensate you for your losses.

I just had an accident where I sideswiped a person in my blind-spot. Totally my fault. Did I mean to do it? Of course not! You've learned to let trucks do what they do, and to not try to anticipate what other drivers are doing.

You may firmly believe that you had done nothing wrong, but in the end it doesn't really matter. Start putting it behind you. Your insurance will handle it all, and you should let them. Pay the ticket or do driving school in lieu of doing so. Chalk it up to a shitty thing that happened.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:00 AM on August 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


I agree with the posters above, you are totally at fault here. The truck signaled it's turn and began the process and you drove right into its path. I know the way seemed clear to you but a truck makes a wide turn radius and you entered that.

Fortunately no one was hurt and it's okay to make a mistake. This one might be a bit expensive but everyone walked away. Car accidents are upsetting regardless of who is at fault. Be good to yourself and do a couple things to cheer yourself up and help you let go (I like a long hot bath or a trip to the movies, YMMV).
posted by saradarlin at 12:40 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


You have car insurance, yes? Talk to them. They have lawyers and they don't want to pay out to the truck driver/company if they don't have to. If there is a way for you to avoid fault they will figure it out.

Yes, exactly.

All car accidents are scary, especially your first, especially especially if it involves a semi, so I understand how shaken up you must be. But you should be communicating with your insurance company, who has all the actual evidence involved, including your statement denying fault. I'm not really sure what answers you are looking for here that your insurance company doesn't have. Good luck.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:05 PM on August 30, 2014


Nowhere in your account do you say his turn signal was no longer flashing when you moved to overtake him.
posted by spitbull at 2:47 PM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was cited for passing on the left ....

When you say you "have a case", a case to do what? The truck driver is "getting away scot-free" of what? Getting charged with a moving violation? A crime of some sort? What does your insurance company say? Are you in a no fault state? Do you have pictures of where all the vehicles were at the time of the accident? Cited for passing on the left? If this is a two lane one way street, where are you supposed to pass? Seems like left or right is fine.
posted by 724A at 7:40 PM on August 29


You seem very confused about the whole situation. Do you want to sue the trucker? Or are you in a no-fault state? "Passing on the left" doesn't sound like a plausible violation. Maybe the officer was trying to give you a break with a minor charge. Nthing the need for legal counsel. Reading between the lines, I'm guessing you haven't actually retained that lawyer "who said he didn't get it at all" and that if you do retain him to check into this and represent you on the ticket, he will be able to figure it out and advise you.

Or just leave it to the insurance and move on with your life.
posted by JimN2TAW at 4:05 PM on August 30, 2014


It may be useful to know that trucks have a blind spot directly behind the trailer, which can extend perhaps two or three car lengths, maybe more, depending on whether the tractor has begun its turn. The general rule of thumb is that if you can't see the truck driver's mirror, then he can't see you. This may not be relevant to this situation, but it's something to think about.

It sounds as though the driver made a quick move to the right, in order to make sure his trailer would be in the proper lane of the street onto which he was making his turn. This is a typical maneuver for a semi-truck to make. I say quick, but it requires the driver to move a distance that's almost equal to the length of the truck--perhaps 60 feet--in first gear. It would take about five seconds for his trailer to clear the lane, at which point he would have already begun to turn left. Most trucks carrying a load will slow down slightly just as the driver begins his turn.

In order for him to hit you the way you described, you would have pretty much had to zoom ahead--his cab was in the middle of the intersection, and the back of his trailer was some 60 feet behind him. You would not have been able to move ahead until his trailer was out of the way.

I understand your urge to move ahead into the lane the truck seemed to have vacated, but it seems obvious to me that you misread the driver's intention. It's possible that the driver didn't have his left turn-signal on, or that the turn-signal bulb in his trailer was inoperative. If that was the case, the cops would have noted this in their report. Otherwise, the officer's statement that the truck driver had control of the lane was correct, and you made an error in judgment when you decided to pass him before he cleared the intersection.

I have had similar incidents happen to me (as a driver of a big truck), but I was lucky enough to have never collided with the auto. You can learn from this experience.
posted by mule98J at 11:29 AM on August 31, 2014


We know the signal was on and working when OP first approached the light, as described.
posted by spitbull at 2:06 PM on August 31, 2014


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