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How to Determine Fault in a Michigan Left-Turn Accident

Intersections are dangerous, especially for those making a left-hand turn. Michigan has the concept of the Michigan Left, but not every intersection applies, and negligent motorists may decide to speed through an intersection and run a red light. The resulting car accidents can be truly devastating, involving not just property damage but also personal injury and disabilities that can restrict your ability to work and make ends meet. Personal injuries from these cases can cost thousands of dollars in medical bills and even take away your basic ability to enjoy life.

Were you involved in a left-hand turn car accident that wasn’t your fault? If you are facing serious personal injury and need assistance, the experienced attorneys at Matz Injury Law may be able to help.

What Is a Protected Left Turn in Michigan?

You may have heard the adage that a motor vehicle making a left-hand turn is always responsible for a car crash, but this is not always the case. Some left turns in Michigan are protected. If, for example, you are at an intersection with red lights and the signal in the left turn lane changes to give a solid green arrow, the driver turning left is protected. To be protected, the light must be a solid green arrow, not a solid green light.

What Is a Michigan Left?

Michigan Lefts are intersections where traditional left turns are restricted. If you wish to make a left turn, you must instead find a median crossover where U-turns are allowed and make a U-turn to go back and turn right. Alternatively, you may need to make a right turn and a U-turn, then proceed straight through the intersection.

This concept has been a part of Michigan traffic laws since the late 1960s and is intended to reduce the risks of making left turns for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians while also improving traffic flow. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) examines major intersections carefully based on traffic volume and crash history to determine the correct placement for Michigan Lefts.

When you make a Michigan Left, unless the lane is clearly marked otherwise, you should consider it a single-lane median crossing. This means you U-turn into the lane nearest you and then merge, and you should not try to share the lane next to another driver. Some intersections may, at a glance, appear to be multi-lane, but these extra-wide Michigan Left crossovers are designed to provide extra turning radius for tractor-trailers, RVs, and other oversized vehicles. If the intersection is not marked as multi-lane, always treat it as a single-lane crossover.

If you have been in a left turn accident and do not think you are responsible, it’s important to reach out immediately to a qualified Michigan car accident attorney. Contact Matz Injury Law at 866-226-6833 today or use our online contact form for a free case review with a member of our legal team.

What Are the Dangers of Making a Left-Hand Turn?

traffic light with a turn left signal

Left turns are uniquely dangerous because a driver making a left turn must change their focus to several different points, both before the turn and during the turn. You must watch for many different hazards like oncoming vehicles ahead, vehicles in your blind spot, traffic signs and traffic lights, and other issues. When you must deal with night driving, bad road conditions, or inclement weather, the issues are compounded.

The U.S. Department of Transportation cites left turns as among the most dangerous maneuvers for drivers, and we make them every single day. Some specific risks include a driver in front of you making a sudden stop halfway through a turn, issues with timing your turn to take advantage of an opening in traffic that can result in a T-bone, blind turns where you cannot see unexpected traffic or obstacles, poor lines of sight, and suddenly changing traffic lights.

Unfamiliar intersections are even more dangerous. We drive better in familiar situations. You can better judge the speed of traffic, for example, when you turn at an intersection you visit all the time.

Unfamiliar intersections can also provide an illusory sense of security that leads you to make mistakes. They may also have road hazards like potholes that you do not see until it is too late. Other situations that create a risk of left turn collisions include heavy traffic with lots of start-stop movement, pedestrians who dart out into crosswalks, vehicles that are much smaller than yours, or vehicles that are much larger and block your vision.

Who Is at Fault for Left-Hand Turn Accidents?

Proving fault in a Michigan left-turn car accident claim is vital. This is because unless it is a provable protected turn with a green arrow traffic signal, the driver making the left turn is often assumed to be the at-fault driver. Drivers going straight or turning right usually have the right of way in these situations, as do pedestrians.

Determining fault in these situations can be difficult and often requires witnesses. Otherwise, it becomes your word against theirs, and if you were making the left turn, the assumption of fault might fall upon you. Insurance companies will always try to push the idea that as the left-turn driver, you were at fault, and their client had the right of way.

Your best course of action in these cases is to seek legal advice and representation from experienced personal injury lawyers. The right car accident law firm can help you prove that you were not responsible and help you to fight for compensation in your accident case.

One thing you can do is call 911 after any accident to get a police officer on the scene. This will allow you to file a police report. This report cannot be used as evidence in court, but it can provide a vital touchstone as you reiterate the circumstances of your accident in the future, and it can be of use to accident reconstruction experts as they work to rebuild what happened.

When Is the Left-Turning Car Not at Fault?

Certain specific situations may help support your car accident case. A good example of a left-turn driver not being responsible involves protected left turns.

Perhaps you are at an intersection with your turn signal on, and the red light turns to a green arrow. The driver in oncoming traffic may not be paying proper attention. They see movement out of the corner of their eye and step on the gas. Suddenly, you are struck as you turn. Again, you will need witnesses to determine what happened, and your car accident lawyer can help you gather the necessary statements. Situations where the other driver is at fault can involve several of the following circumstances:

  • If the vehicle going the opposite direction ignored red traffic lights or stop signs, they may be at fault.
  • If the other vehicle was not paying attention, or the driver of the vehicle was doing something illegal like driving under the influence or driving distracted while reading, eating, or using a cell phone, they could be at fault. Witnesses, again, may be able to testify to this situation.
  • Third, if the car going straight from oncoming traffic was greatly exceeding the speed limit as they went through the intersection, they can be found at fault. However, without witnesses, this can be difficult to prove. You may need help from an accident reconstructionist to support your claim, and qualified car accident attorneys may be able to help with this.
  • Finally, unforeseen circumstances can sometimes remove fault from the driver making a left turn. If, for example, a multi-vehicle auto accident occurs right in front of you at the accident scene, you may not be entirely at fault. If the other car ran a red light, but it was because of their brakes going out or some other mechanical problem with their vehicle, both accident victims may have a claim against the parts manufacturer or their mechanic.

Types of Compensation After a Left Turn Accident in Michigan

The value of your car accident case will vary widely from one case to another. It depends on the circumstances of the accident and the specific injuries and damages you sustain. Some of the general types of damages you may be able to collect, however, are common in many cases. These include medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of income, and property damage.

Medical Expenses

Medical expenses include all of the costs and bills you accrue as the result of your injury. They include your doctor’s bills, medication costs, and medical procedure costs, naturally. They can also, however, include the costs of your transportation to and from medical appointments, the costs of replacement services, visits to specialist providers, in-home nursing costs, the costs of medical equipment, and any other expenses that arise as the result of the medical difficulties you experience.

Pain and Suffering

Pain and suffering is a blanket term for all of the non-economic damages you suffer from your injury. These damages are also sometimes referred to as general damages, as opposed to economic damages, which are sometimes called special damages. Pain and suffering can include your physical pain, but it also covers all of the individual, subjective harm you suffer. This includes emotional trauma, PTSD, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties.

Pain and suffering also covers your lost comfort and ability to enjoy life. This includes the loss of consortium, loss of support, loss of enjoyment in hobbies and pursuits that used to bring you joy, and the other practical, but subjective, losses you suffer. Pain and suffering are the most difficult part of your case to value, but your Michigan personal injury attorney can help you seek appropriate damages.

Loss of Income

Loss of income includes more than just the wages you have lost from being unable to work after your accident. It also covers the wages you may have earned in the future but now will not because you are out of work for some time (possibly permanently, depending on your injury). It also covers things like lost retirement income if you are unable to contribute to your 401(k), 403(b), IRA, or another retirement account.

Property Damage

You may be able to recover damages for the harm to your property. This can include your car repairs, obviously, but it also can cover damage to the property in your car. If you had an expensive computer in your car, for example, that you rely on for work, and it gets smashed as the result of your collision, you may be able to collect compensation to cover the loss.

The tricky part about property damage is that the insurance company will almost always try to lowball you on what your vehicle and property are worth. Never sign anything without first speaking to an attorney. If you sign their offer, you may end up signing away your rights to future compensation.

For the most part, only property of significant individual value can be part of your car accident claim. Your car accident attorney will be able to help you determine the value of property damage in your case.

Why Hire an Attorney After a Left Turn Accident in Michigan?

miniature car next to a judge's gavel

The most important reason to hire an attorney after any car accident in Michigan is to even things out between you and the insurance company. The insurance company knows the law and how to use it against you. Insurance companies also have powerful attorneys in their corner. Having an attorney of your own allows you to more effectively fight back.

Your attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove that the other driver was negligent. They can help you meet all legal deadlines and make sure that your paperwork is completed and filed properly. They can guide you through the complexities of the case, and they can take on the fight with the bullying insurance adjuster so you can focus on the important task of getting well again.

Are You Blaming the Right Person After a Michigan Left Turn Accident?

Most of the time, people assume that a driver turning left is at fault for a car accident. This is not always the case. If you have any doubt about whether you were at fault, it’s important that you reach out to speak to the car accident lawyers at Matz Injury Law right away. We have decades of experience representing people all over Michigan and are ready to stand up and fight for you.

Get in touch with us today for a free consultation about your case. Just call 866-226-6833 or fill out our online form to speak with a member of our legal team.