Is the Person Making a Left Always at Fault?

Last Updated on August 8, 2020

Many car accidents happen when a driver turning left at an intersection hits a driver passing straight through. In this situation, the person making a left turn is almost always found at fault, although there are some unique exceptions. Because of this, it’s important to be very careful when making any left turn. Here’s why the driver making a left turn is almost always found at fault, and how you can avoid these accidents.

Is the Person Making a Left Always at Fault?

How Does the Right of Way Work?

In the US and many other countries, the person going straight through an intersection has the legal right of way. This means that anyone turning left needs to yield to traffic moving through the intersection. This also applies to anyone turning left who strikes a pedestrian or a person on a bike. You’ll need to wait for the road to clear completely before making a turn.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Rule?

Just like with any other traffic rules, there are some instances where the driver making a left turn wouldn’t be at fault in an accident. Specifically, if there is a left turn arrow light or a sign giving the left turn lane the right of way, then the driver making the left turn is not at fault in an accident. However, these types of accidents are far less common, so it’s very rare that a driver going straight through an intersection would be found at fault.

How Can I Avoid These Types of Accidents?

There are plenty of good driving practices you can use to avoid accidents when making a left turn. Here’s what to keep in mind every time you come to an intersection.

  • Check your blind spots. When you’re in heavy traffic, it’s easy to miss vehicles moving behind you. You’ll also want to look for any blind spots ahead of you in the road, like a sharp turn, and double-check to make sure there are no vehicles there before moving. You should never assume that you’re safe to go unless there’s no traffic in your way at all.
  • Check for bikes and pedestrians. They both have the right of way, no matter which way you are going. If you hit either a bike or a pedestrian in any situation, your chances of being found at fault in the accident are very high. You should also never make assumptions that a bike or a pedestrian will maintain their speed and get out of the way – wait and confirm they are out of the street before making your turn.
  • Know how large your vehicle is and how big the turn radius is. If you’re driving a new vehicle, you may not be familiar with how the car handles and how much space it takes up, making you more likely to get into an accident. If you’re driving a new car, take a few minutes to drive around a parking lot and learn how it handles before heading out on the road.

What Should I Do If I’m Involved in a Left Turn Accident?

If you’re involved in a left-turn accident, stop and pull your car out of traffic. Take a deep breath to see if you, the other party, or any passengers are hurt. If so, call 911, or get out of the car and ask someone nearby to call 911 for you. If no one is hurt, you should still get in contact with the police quickly to file a report. Then, get out and take pictures to document the accident if you can. Trade insurance information with the other party involved in the accident as well (if the police are on-site, they can help facilitate this process). Even if you believe the accident was your fault, do not admit to it. Instead, you’ll want to let the insurance company figure things out independently. If you live in one of the 12 no-fault states, your own insurance company will pay for your medical bills, but you could still be held responsible for any property damage. You should prepare for your car insurance premiums to increase significantly if you are involved in an accident, particularly if you are found at fault. If you have accident forgiveness with your car insurance, this may mitigate some of the damage.

You should always be careful while driving, but particular caution is necessary when making a left turn without a green arrow. No matter how many times you’ve driven through an intersection, you should check to make sure that you’re safe to go every single time. While there are some instances where turning left will give you the right of way, you will normally be found at fault, so be careful.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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