This article deals with California’s Left Turn/Failure to Yield law, and explains what typically happens in the event you are involved in a collision in Los Angeles where another driver makes a left turn in front of you.
California Vehicle Code Section 21801(a)
California’s Left Turn/Failure to Yield law, otherwise known as California Vehicle Code (CVC) 21801(a), states the following:
“The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left or complete a u-turn upon a highway or turn left into public or private property or alley shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching from the opposite direction which are close enough to constitute a hazard at any time during the turning movement and shall continue to yield the right of way to the approaching vehicles until the left or u-turn can be made with reasonable safety.”
So, basically the collision occurs when you are driving straight through a green or yellow light, and the driver coming from the opposite direction decides to make a left turn, or a U-turn, in front of you. Looking at the law as written above, the driver making the left-turn or U-turn in front of you would always be at fault and their insurance company should always accept 100% liability, right? Not so fast. The driver who made that turn in front of you may have defenses available to them.
Defenses to CVC 21801(a)
So typically when there is an auto collision the police will come to the scene of the accident. This is especially true when there are injuries involved as a result of the collision. Once the police are there, they will talk to all parties and witnesses involved. They will take down all the information they receive, and will make a determination as to fault. All of this information will go into a Traffic Collision Report (TCR). This report will be of use when negotiating with the insurance companies, because it will show that the police made a determination as to fault and liability involved in the collision.
Although the TCR is very important in negotiating and ultimately reaching a settlement with the liable driver’s insurance company, these reports are what is referred to as “hearsay”, and are inadmissible in a court of law.
Next, in most cases the driver who made the left turn or U-turn in front of you, or their insurance company, will say that the collision was actually your fault. They will typically assert that you were speeding, not paying attention, or that you overreacted in your vehicle. In doing so, they will cite to the language of CVC 21801(b), which states:
“A driver having yielded as prescribed in subdivision (a), and having given a signal when and as required by this code, may turn left or complete a U-turn, and the drivers of vehicles approaching the intersection or the entrance to the property or alley from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the turning vehicle.”
In other words, they will assert that they used their turn signal, that they had “control” of the intersection, and that you had sufficient time to stop or slow down and yield to them. For these drivers that made an unsafe left turn in front of you, asserting that you were speeding through the intersection trying to beat them is the most common way that they will attempt to avoid liability.
What do I do if the driver or their insurance refuses to take 100% liability?
First, it is best that you do not make any statements to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Always try to get a signed statement, even if it is on a napkin, from the at-fault driver admitting fault. If you cannot get such a statement, and if the driver or their insurance asserts that the collision was your fault, or even partially your fault, you may want to seek the advice and services of an experienced attorney. For over 30 years, The Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have helped those injured by drivers making unsafe left or U-turns and in automobile collisions of all types receive the compensation that they deserve. Call today for a free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404. experienced in left turn and U-turn collisions.