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How is Fault Determined in a Left Hand Turn Accident?

man driving behind the wheel of a motor vehicle
Home > Blog > How is Fault Determined in a Left Hand Turn Accident?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 40% of all crashes in the United States occur at intersections. Most of these crashes involve a vehicle making a left-hand turn. These left-turn crashes happen all the time, and the injuries they cause can be truly catastrophic. Left-turn collisions may leave victims with debilitating damage from serious injuries, including neck and back injuries, broken bones, and even traumatic brain injury (TBI).

If you were in a car crash or other accident involving a car making a left turn in South Carolina, our car accident attorneys can help you get the compensation you need to recover from your injuries. Contact HawkLaw, P.A., at 888-HAWKLAW for advice and representation today. HawkLaw fights to win. Let us fight for you.

Who is at Fault in a Left-Turn Car Accident in South Carolina?

man looking out his window while driving

In most instances, fault goes to the left-hand turning driver. This is because the laws require those turning left to yield to oncoming cars. When motorists make a left turn, they must be absolutely certain that the roadway is free and clear of traffic, pedestrians, cyclists, and other obstacles before they go.

In South Carolina, we also have a concept called modified comparative negligence. This means that even if someone else caused the accident, the left-turn driver may still be held partially liable, which can reduce the amount of compensation offered. Under modified comparative negligence, if the plaintiff in a personal injury case has any responsibility for an accident, their award will be reduced accordingly.

Thus, if you are 15% responsible, you will only collect 85% of the settlement value. Further, if you are more than 50% responsible, you can be barred from collecting any compensation. Insurance companies will always seek reasons to shift blame onto the plaintiff from the at-fault driver as a result. This is why having an experienced law firm in your corner is important if you are hurt in a car accident case.

When is the Left-Turn Driver Not at Fault?

Several scenarios exist where the left-turn driver is not at fault for the accident. They are rare and tricky to prove in court, but they do occur. These include drivers running a red light, speeding, or reckless driving.

Other Driver Ran a Red Light or Stop Sign

If another driver coming from the opposite direction runs a red light and collides with a motorist making a legal left turn, the motorist who ran the red light can be held at fault for the accident. This is the most common reason why a left-turn driver may not be at fault for an accident.


Exceeding the speed limit is among the most common forms of dangerous driving. Speeding is also a common cause of these accidents. You may not be at fault if you make a legal left turn and have an auto accident because another vehicle collides with you while going significantly over the speed limit. However, this can be tricky because you must prove how fast the oncoming car was going during the collision.

Reckless Driving

Any circumstance in a car accident case where one driver made negligent decisions, such as ignoring traffic signs, talking on a cell phone, reading, eating, drinking, or driving under the influence, can remove liability from the driver making the left turn. Again, however, you must prove that the other driver was responsible.

If you or a loved one was involved in a left-turn accident and may have a car accident case, it is vital to speak with an experienced attorney. The car accident lawyers at HawkLaw are ready to listen. Call us for legal advice at 888-HAWKLAW or use our online contact form to ask about a free case evaluation today.*

Why Are Left Turns So Dangerous?

Making a left turn is extremely dangerous, far more than turning right. The reason is that a left-hand turning driver must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. When the left-turning driver misjudges the speed or distance of oncoming cars or simply ignores the rules of the road, such as disobeying traffic signals or failing to use a turn signal, catastrophic accidents can occur. Sometimes, a simple inability to adapt quickly enough to unforeseen circumstances like someone’s brake slamming can lead to these accidents.

What Are South Carolina’s Laws Regarding Left Turns?

Like most states, South Carolina requires the driver who makes the left-hand turn to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Traffic laws dictate when and where drivers are permitted to turn left. Drivers who violate these laws will be considered negligent for accidents that occur.

Drivers who wish to turn left in SC must use the far left lane (if available), traveling in the same direction as traffic. In roads with multiple lanes of traffic, drivers may not initiate left turns from the middle lane if a left-turn-designated lane is available. Those making a left turn must turn whenever is practical, prudent, and safe. They may not impede traffic and must turn to the left of the center of the intersection.

At an intersection with a traffic light, drivers must wait for a green arrow if there is one. If there is no green arrow, they may only turn on a green light when it is prudent and safe. Drivers at an intersection with no stoplight may only turn when they have the right-of-way, which defaults to whoever arrived at the intersection first, then to the driver on the right if multiple drivers arrived simultaneously.

How to Prove Fault After in a Left-Hand Turn Accident

a man taking pictures of a car accident

In South Carolina, you need to prove, after an accident, that the other driver’s negligence caused the crash to receive compensation. If you made the left turn, this could be exceedingly difficult and complex. You will need to take the proper steps to gather evidence and start the process.

File a Police Report

After an accident, always call 911 and get a police officer or other first responder on site. While the officer is there, file your police report. You cannot use a police report as evidence in court. It can, however, become a vital resource to keep the details of the incident clear in your mind. It can also serve as a tool to help you and your attorney build a case for compensation.

Photograph Evidence

If you can photograph evidence, do so. The more photos you can take from as many angles as possible, the better off you are. In some cases, you may be able to recover evidence from an intersection camera. However, this requires help from an experienced car accident attorney. It is essential to act fast in these cases before the footage is deleted. This is why contacting a lawyer quickly after your accident is crucial.

Gather Witnesses

Eyewitness testimony can be some of the most important evidence you gather. When you can, speak to anyone who saw the accident. Ask if they are willing to testify to what they have seen, and if they are, be sure to get their name and contact number. Your attorney can contact them to discuss what they may have seen.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

Because so many elements of the accident may be time-sensitive, you must contact an injury attorney as soon as possible. The right attorney can help take over communication with a bullying insurance company. They can gather evidence for your case and talk with witnesses. They can represent your interests and help you fight back against the insurance companies and their legal teams who intend to shift the blame to you.

What Are Some Ways to Prevent Left-Turn Car Accidents in South Carolina?

Preventing a left-turn crash mostly comes down to keeping your wits about you, paying attention, and staying calm. If you obey the laws, you are less likely to have such an accident. Specifically, watch traffic signals, drive defensively, and always use your turn signal. These three tips alone can go a long way toward keeping you and other drivers safe on the road.

Slow Down During Yellow Lights

Many drivers reflexively step on the gas when a light turns yellow. Never assume that oncoming traffic will yield in these cases. Slow down when the light turns yellow and prepare to stop.

Drive Defensively

Defensive driving means always assuming the other driver will make a bad decision. Give yourself plenty of time to react, and strictly obey all traffic laws, including stop signs, traffic signals, and speed limits.

Always Use Your Turn Signal

Turning without a signal opens you up to a collision. Put your signal on before you turn so other drivers know your intentions. That simple act can prevent a lot of car crashes.

Get Left with More Compensation

Involved in a car crash that was someone else’s fault? You could be entitled to significant compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. However, securing this compensation can be difficult and fraught with legal pitfalls. Having a lawyer in your corner can be vital to receiving the compensation you deserve.

According to the Insurance Research Council, plaintiffs in an injury case who have the services of a personal injury attorney receive an average of 3.5 times the amount of compensation. HawkLaw attorneys treat every client with respect and care. We value an honest, open, and compassionate attorney-client relationship. Learn how our accident lawyers can help you with your left-hand turn car accident case by contacting our law office at 888-HAWKLAW or using our online contact form. Read our disclaimer, and do not forget to ask about a free consultation.* HawkLaw fights to win. Let us fight for you.

John D. Hawkins

Founder and CEO

John Hawkins is the Founder and CEO of HawkLaw He has been licensed to practice law in South Carolina since his graduation with honors in 1994 from the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he was on the Law Review and Order of Wig and Robe.

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