If you're a pedestrian who has been hit by a car making a left turn, you're not alone. According to crash stats, left turn strikes represent a full 25% of all pedestrian accidents (involving automobiles) in The United States. Indeed, when you consider only accidents that occur at intersections, left turns represent a whopping 61% of all intersection automobile collisions.
In many instances, these types of collisions happen at intersections with marked and signaled crosswalks. They occur because both parties have the signal (meaning the car turning has a green light and the pedestrian sees a "walk" signal). So, the person steps into the crosswalk and the car makes or continues its left turn.
Does that mean that nobody is at fault? Hardly. Under the California Vehicle Code, drivers must always yield the right of way to pedestrians in crosswalks—regardless of whether they are painted, signed, or signaled or not. If a driver fails to yield the right of way—even if they have a green light—and hits a pedestrian while making a left turn, they are automatically at fault.
There are very few exceptions to this rule. However, one is that a pedestrian may be deemed (at least partially liable) for a collision if they fail to give a driver enough time to spot them and stop before entering the crosswalk.
In addition to the confusing lights at an intersection, there are a number of other factors which could increase a person's risk of being struck by a car making a left turn. However, it's important to keep in mind that drivers are legally required to always operate their vehicles in a safe and prudent manner. That includes adjusting their speed and being extra cautious during situations in which they may come into close contact with foot traffic.
When a driver is making a left turn, their visibility is greatly reduced. Not only is the front left "post" of the car (the bit that supports the roof) blocking their field of view, other obstructions like other automobiles, signage, and even pedestrians and cyclists could potentially be masking a potential collision.
If an intersection is especially busy and cars are not able to get completely through a turn before the signal changes, they may be forced to slow or even stop while blocking a portion of the roadway. This traffic then becomes an obstacle that left turning drivers may try to weave through. In the meantime, pedestrians waiting on the sidewalk may have been given a "walk" signal and have stepped into the path of the oncoming car. However, it's important to note, California traffic law would still place the liability for such a pedestrian accident on the shoulders of the driver—regardless of traffic conditions.
If there is any construction underway at an intersection, flaggers may not always stop pedestrians like they do automobile traffic. In such cases, the person on foot may think (or know) they have the right of way but if a vehicle is flagged ahead to make a left turn, there may be little or no opportunity to stop in time. In such cases, the flagger (or the company they work for) could actually be held at least partially liable for the accident.
Distracted driving (or even distracted walking) contributes to an estimated half-million accidents in The United States. Common distractions for drivers and pedestrians include:
Even something as seemingly harmless as walking with headphones can keep a pedestrian from noticing a left-turning vehicle. In fact, the danger of driving while your hearing is impaired by headphones or earbuds is so high that California law forbids drivers (but not pedestrians) from using pairs of such devices (the use of one earbud is still legal, though controversial) while driving.
A recent study (reported on by CNN) researchers found that left turn accidents represent a disproportionate percentage of fatal pedestrian accidents. Indeed, the study found that people who were hit by cars making left turns were three times more likely to die than those struck by cars making right turns.
Left-turning vehicles have the distance to gain a significant amount of momentum in speed before crossing an intersection when compared to right-turning vehicles—who usually only travel a few feet before coming into contact with a crosswalk. That increased momentum imparts a much higher amount of force on pedestrians who are struck. That increased impact velocity results in much more serious injuries including:
California is a comparative negligence state. That means that each party involved in an accident—including the pedestrian—can be assigned a portion of the liability (a legal term that generally equates to fault).
While the law is fairly clear in cases involving a pedestrian hit by a car making left turns, insurance companies and attorneys working for the driver may use comparative negligence to try and dump some of the blame on the victim pedestrian.
For example, the driver could argue that the pedestrian stepped into the crosswalk or roadway without a walk signal or that they failed to give the drivers ample time (and space) to stop their vehicle in time to avoid a collision. Drivers could also argue (if the crash occurred at night or in poor weather conditions) that the pedestrian's failure to wear bright clothing or use a flashlight made them next to invisible.
Unfortunately for victims, California law does allow for liability to be adjusted in pedestrian accident cases in which these allegations prove true and are shown to have contributed to the cause of the accident.
That's why it's always a good idea for an injured individual to seek the advice (if the not the services) of an experienced pedestrian accident attorney. If a pedestrian is hit by a car making a left turn, it should not be up to the victim to pay for their own recovery.
In most cases, a pedestrian hit by a car making a left turn will have a solid case against the driver. Not only does California traffic law specifically state that pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, but it also states that drivers have a legal obligation to operate their vehicle in a safe manner—which includes reducing speed during situations in which they will come into close contact with foot traffic.
Seeking financial compensation in the form of an insurance settlement is often your first (and sometimes best) option for getting reimbursed for:
California law requires drivers to carry liability insurance in the amounts of:
This insurance is designed to pay out in the event of an accident; however, the victims may not always receive the maximum amount. Further, where your damages exceed these minimum limits, you may need to delve into other sources of financial recovery to get a full and fair settlement.
In cases where the driver doesn't have insurance or their insurance policy's limit is too low to cover all of your expenses you can:
In any case, you shouldn't have to pay accident-related expenses out of pocket. Speak with an experienced California pedestrian accident attorney today in order to learn about all the recovery options available to you.