November 15, 2006 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Was I at fault when I got hit by another car?

I was in the left turn lane facing north (Car 1). Another car was in the left turn lane facing south (Car 2). A third car (Car 3) was coming straight south bound but decided to get into the left turn lane behind Car 2.

The intersection was clear so I proceeded to turn left. Just then, Car 3 changes his mind and pulls out of the left turn lane (from behind Car 2) a dashes into the intersection and hits the rear panel of my car. He was going so fast his airbags deployed.

There was a lady in Car 4 directly behind me who says she saw everything -- but I don't think she could see the intersection when I turned because she was behind me. She completely insists it was my fault just because I was turning left. She also said she used to work for an insurance company (but I have no idea in what capacity) so I fear she may have a point.

I don't think I'm at fault because the intersection was clear when I started my turn. Who is right?

(Yes, IAMAL, but not that kind of lawyer so I don't know the answer). And it just happened like 10 minutes ago so I have no info from the insurance companies yet.
posted by GIRLesq to Law & Government (31 answers total)
You're at fault; you have to yield to traffic going straight through an intersection while turning even if they're doing stupid things meanwhile or immediately prior.
posted by moift at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2006

If Car 3 factually was in his left-turn lane and then changes his mind and suddenly goes straight through the intersection you are not at fault. As a driver you have a right to expect other drivers to drive properly. He didn't do that. I do hope you have a witness that saw the Car 3 go into the left lane and then suddenly go straight through the intersection. I'd find it hard to believe you are in the wrong.
posted by JayRwv at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2006

Most states have a law that says you are only allowed to proceed into an intersection if it is clear and safe to do so. This is important for two reasons: first, it was clear and safe when you proceeded to make your turn, and second, it was decidedly NOT clear and safe when car #3 decided to switch lanes and go straight.

My opinion (IANAL): you've got a good case.
posted by aberrant at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2006

I know that, in a lot of states, a driver must wait until an intersection is clear before entering it. If you were making what I would assume was a legal left turn when traffic was clear, and Car #2 dashed out into the intersection as you describe, I would think Car #2 would be at fault.

Were the police notified? It's not up to the lady in Car #4 to determine who was at fault... that's the responsibility of the police and the involved insurance companies.
posted by jal0021 at 3:53 PM on November 15, 2006

And by Car #2, I mean Car #3. My mistake.
posted by jal0021 at 3:54 PM on November 15, 2006

Response by poster: Moift: I did yeild. When I started my turn nobody was coming (he was in the left hand turn lane).

Jayrwv: The guy who hit me was actually the second car waiting to turn left. So he changed lanes in the intersection (or inches prior) into the straight lane. I suspect the car that was ahead of him blocked his view of the intersection and that's why pulled into the intersection.

Aberrant: oh sweet fancy moses, I hope you are right. I certainly don't want a trial. I hope the insurance companies just settle. But I fear for my insurance rates and my deductible. :-(
posted by GIRLesq at 3:56 PM on November 15, 2006

IANAL, but I think you may have a case, for a couple of reasons. First, the person hit the rear of your car. Did the person hit the brakes at all? Having the right of way doesn't give a person a license to wilfully disregard potential alternatives to an accident. Second, you know how there's a solid white line between a turn lane and a straight lane? Solid white lines mean that you cannot "pass" between those two lanes. I think the other driver essentially broke the law by leaving that lane. Sure, people do it all the time, but that doesn't make it legal, and the reason it's not legal is for incidents like the one you were involved in.

Did you get a police report, at the scene? If not, this whole situation becomes a bit more tenuous. Good luck.
posted by Brak at 3:56 PM on November 15, 2006

Response by poster: And, yes, we called the police but they refused to come because nobody was injured. Let's hope he stays "not injured" because I don't want this getting out of control.
posted by GIRLesq at 3:57 PM on November 15, 2006

Response by poster: He did hit the breaks. I heard the screaching. But I guess it was pretty late because the airbags still went off.
posted by GIRLesq at 3:59 PM on November 15, 2006

Do you reside in a no-fault jurisdiction? Otherwise I'm surprised the cops didn't come and give you a ticket.

Every time I hear about situations like this the left-turner is always held responsible. It's not always fair, but I guess it makes things easier for the police, courts and insurance companies.

It's also possible that both you and car #3 could be cited for violations. You for making an unsafe left and car #3 for making an improper lane change (presumably by crossing a solid line out of the left-turn lane).

I've only heard one anecdote that was an exception, it was a case where car #2 waved on car #1, which was then involved in a collision with car #3. Car #2 was held responsible in that case.
posted by mullacc at 4:01 PM on November 15, 2006

Did you contact the police? Or at least take pictures? When there is serious damage to a car it is best to have the authorities there to document the scene, and will make determining fault much easier. If they cannot determine fault, you will both be 50% liable.

You say Car 3 was in the left turn lane, but then changed their mind and sped into the intersection... how is it possible they were going as fast as you describe if they had just pulled out from behind Car 2?

That being said:

13. (1) This section applies with respect to an incident that occurs at an intersection that does not have traffic signals or traffic signs. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668, s. 13 (1).

(2) If automobile "A" enters the intersection before automobile "B", the driver of automobile "A" is not at fault and the driver of automobile "B" is 100 per cent at fault for the incident. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668, s. 13 (2).

(3) If automobiles "A" and "B" enter the intersection at the same time and automobile "A" is to the right of automobile "B" when in the intersection, the driver of automobile "A" is not at fault and the driver of automobile "B" is 100 per cent at fault for the incident. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668, s. 13 (3).

(4) If it cannot be established whether automobile "A" or "B" entered the intersection first, the driver of each automobile shall be deemed to be 50 per cent at fault for the incident. R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 668, s. 13 (4).

Your Laws May Vary.
posted by sophist at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2006

IANAL, but logically, if he hit your rear quarter panel, you had entered the intersection before he did. Refer now to section (2) of what sophist posted.
posted by The Michael The at 4:14 PM on November 15, 2006

FWIW, air bags can go off at very moderate speeds - a friend of mine was in an accident where he was behind someone at a yield, the person in front started to go, then stopped suddenly. My friend couldn't have been going more than 5 mph - his foot wasn't even on the gas - and his air bags deployed.
posted by muddgirl at 4:20 PM on November 15, 2006

Best answer: Another potentially mitigating factor would be if the lane divider between the straight and left-turn lanes is solid white, which is legally tantamount to a curb and is not supposed to be crossed over. If the other car committed an illegal lane-change in order to go straight through the intersection you may have additional angles to work in your case.
posted by rhizome at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2006

Response by poster: There was a light at this intersection and it was green.

The more I think about it, I suspect he was looking in his rear view mirror to see if any traffic was coming from behind him, then dashed out to beat anybody that was coming from behind him, and sped into the intersection.

Also, the more I think about it, I think he'll just lie. He's just going to say that he was going straight and I lunged out in front of him.

I guess it will just matter what the witness says (even though she couldn't see anything because she was directly behind me).
posted by GIRLesq at 4:34 PM on November 15, 2006

First, relax, it'll be fine. Have you been with your company a long time? Do they have accident foregiveness? Ever filed a claim before? It all matters.
posted by fixedgear at 4:34 PM on November 15, 2006

I am an insurance agent, but I am not your insurance agent. That said, you are at fault for this accident, but the percentage of your negligence may come into question here depending on the laws in your state.

Technically, it's your job to make sure that the lane is clear when you attempt a left hand turn; however, the fact that your rear quarter panel was hit may put most of the negligence on the other party, since you were clearly in the intersection to be seen.

Call your insurance company and tell them everything. The claims adjuster should be able to determine your negligence and will be able to subrogate the other person's insurance company for the percentage that you are not found at fault for, if any.
posted by mewithoutyou at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2006

And I meant to add that you're more than welcome to contact me by email if you'd like me to explain any of this in greater detail, or if you need advice at any point (email is in the profile).
posted by mewithoutyou at 4:52 PM on November 15, 2006

I'm confused. If the intersection is clear and there is no oncoming traffic when she starts her unprotected turn, and then someone switches lanes and jumps into the intersection, hitting the REAR of her car, she's at fault? That makes no sense to me.
posted by aberrant at 4:54 PM on November 15, 2006

Response by poster: Yeah! What aberrant said! :-)

Aberrant = new best friend.
posted by GIRLesq at 4:59 PM on November 15, 2006

(I may be your best friend and on your side, but my opinion is not worth much, especially when compared with an insurance agent. That said, if my insurance company wanted to hold me at fault for this, I'd be shopping for a new company as soon as the dust settled and they paid the claim.)
posted by aberrant at 5:02 PM on November 15, 2006

Best answer: If she had turned left with a green arrow, then she would not have been at fault, because the green arrow would have established her right of way.

If, however, she made the left hand turn with a green light (but she did not have an arrow), then the party traveling straight in the opposite direction with a green light had the right of way, it's as simple as that. They were essentially within their legal rights to travel through the intersection. It doesn't matter that the intersection appeared to be clear at the time, because there is always the chance that someone might be passing through the light, legally, outside of her field of vision.

The fact that you were able to complete at least 50% of your turn before you were struck is what helps you out here, because again, you were there to be seen. Unfortunately, your adjuster will not be able to prove speed, so the speed of the other driver will not really come into play here. Again, please keep in mind that the laws in your state may vary, so please call your insurance company. You may have an adjuster who will want to fight for little or zero negligence on your part - to be honest, it's up to the adjuster (who can work within the boundaries of claims law/standards), and they will be most interested in getting whatever they can. Good luck to you.
posted by mewithoutyou at 5:16 PM on November 15, 2006

The problem here is that you have no one to back up your side of the story.

The one witness who came forward thinks it is your fault. She may or may not be able to provide facts that would make a court think otherwise, but that sounds unlikely, and her memory is going to favor her previous judgment when remembering what she saw, or thought she saw. The driver of the other car in the turn lane would have seen the accident, but they haven't come forward and they probably weren't aware of the behavior of the car that hit you until it drove past them and hit you.

Good luck.
posted by Good Brain at 5:21 PM on November 15, 2006

Response by poster: Good Brain:

That is exactly the problem. I just hope the witness remembers that we discussed that very point after the accident.
posted by GIRLesq at 5:25 PM on November 15, 2006

Where did this happen? Being able to dig up the appropriate laws would help.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:27 PM on November 15, 2006

You were turning left so therefore the oncoming traffic has the right of way and it implies you're responsible. However, he struck the *rear* of your car head-on which implies he was not alert and driving safely. There is no police report which is fantastic for you as they probably would have found you at fault. The two insurance companies will most likely agree to handle their own clients with little chance of subrogation since there's no "authoritative" police report. You will probably have to pay your deductible to get your car fixed. I doubt your rates will go up too much for something like this.
posted by dendrite at 6:23 PM on November 15, 2006

Striking the rear doesn't make a difference, IMO. She admits he braked. As a result of his braking, he hit her in the back instead of the front.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:41 PM on November 15, 2006

Man, in Michigan, when there's over $500 worth of damage, a police report is required. You should, in the future, insist on having the police come out. If for no other reason than to compell car 2 to give a statement.
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 AM on November 16, 2006

I thought changing lanes was prohibited within 100 feet of an intersection.

It has been a long time since I have even LOOKED at a driving book, and even if this particular traffic rule is true, may not help in this particular situation.
posted by Chickenjack at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2006

Why can't you get Car #2 to tell the police that Car #3 was behind #2, and then changed lanes? It seems that would help.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:42 PM on November 16, 2006

This exact situation happened to me ten years ago. I was driving someone else's car at the time.

The policeman at the scene listened to both of our stories (the other driver denied having moved out of the turn lane, and there were no witnesses), and ended up writing a report stating I was at fault, but issued no citations (relating to the accident -- the other driver had no insurance, and was cited for that). I was allowed to attach a statement to his report with my side of the story.

The other driver filled a claim against the policy belong to the owner of the car I was driving. I believe that after litigation, the insurance complany avoided paying based on the lack of citations, my offical statement, and the other driver's lack of insurance.
posted by ewagoner at 7:07 PM on November 16, 2006

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