You may have heard this odd fact at some point: UPS trucks rarely make left turns. In addition to being a fun bit of trivia, there is a good reason why UPS drivers avoid left turns: they are both dangerous and they waste fuel. But unless you drive a UPS truck, you probably make left-hand turns when driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that left-hand turns are a leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Yet the reality is that we all have to make these turns from time to time, as it often is not practical (or even possible) to get to a destination without making a left turn.
In most cases, the driver making a left turn will be held responsible for any accident that occurs as a result of the turn. However, there are exceptions to this broad rule. Read on to learn more about Florida law on left turns and when another party may be held liable.
Florida Law on Left Turn Accidents
In Florida, there is a presumption that left-hand turn accidents are caused by the driver who turned left. Under Florida statute 316.151(1)(b), a driver who wants to turn left must do so from the extreme left hand lane lawfully available for making a turn, and should make the turn in a way that leaves the lane available to the traffic moving in the road being crossed. A violation of this law is a traffic infraction for a moving violation.
Under this law, drivers cannot make left turns from the middle lane or from the right lane. They are required to go to the furthest left lane to make a left turn.
More importantly, any driver making a left-hand turn in Florida must yield right-of-way to drivers who are approaching in the opposite direction. If the driver making the turn across traffic or an intersection does not do so, then that driver will generally be held responsible for any accident that may happen as a result.
Finally, drivers making a turn (right or left) must use their turn signal. A turn signal must be given continuously for at least 100 feet before turning. Failure to do so may result in an accident — and a citation for a moving violation.
While a traffic infraction is a noncriminal offense, it can be important in analyzing liability for an accident. If a person makes a left-hand turn at an intersection without signaling or from a middle lane, you could get cited for a moving violation. In addition, the fact that you did not follow Florida law may be considered in the overall determination of who was at fault for an accident.
Determining Responsibility for Left-Hand Turn Crash
In most cases, drivers making left turns will be crossing traffic and must yield right-of-way to oncoming traffic under Florida law, as described above. If there is a collision, the motorist who made the left-hand turn will usually be liable for any damage that results.
There are exceptions to this general rule. For example, assume that a driver is waiting to make a left-hand turn and proceeds once the coast is clear. If a car is speeding in the opposite direction and strikes the turning car, then the driver making the left turn may not be found responsible for the crash — because it was the speeding car’s traffic violation that caused the accident, and not the driver who carefully waited until it was safe to cross the road.
Alternatively, a driver making a left turn may not be able to see the road because of an obstructed view; in that situation, the government agency who designed and maintained the road may be responsible for any accident that occurred at the intersection. In some cases, a passing motorist may wave a driver through, indicating that it is safe to make a left turn where the driver’s view is obstructed. If the driver makes the turn, trusting the other motorist’s view, any accident that occurs could be the fault of the motorist that waved the driver through — not the driver.
Crashes involving left-hand turns can often lead to serious or even fatal injuries. In 2017, motor vehicle accidents involving improper turns led to 40 fatalities, 346 incapacitating injuries and 1,024 non-incapacitating injuries. These injuries are often sustained by those in the car making the turn — which is usually moving at a much slower rate than the vehicle traveling on the road being crossed.
An accident report can often paint a picture of how a left turn accident occurred. After a thorough investigation, your lawyer can make a claim for compensation — whether you were the driver making the left turn or the other vehicle in the accident.
How a Personal Injury Attorney in Miami Can Help
While left-hand turn car accidents may seem straightforward, they often involve complex fact patterns. Even if you were the driver in a left turn accident, you may be able to recover for your injuries. An experienced personal injury attorney in Miami can help.
At Kaire & Heffernan, we are dedicated to working with victims of car accidents. Based in Miami, we offer services in both English and Spanish to our clients — and never charge a fee unless we recover compensation for you. Contact our office today at 305-372-0123 or online to schedule a free initial consultation.