Who’s Fault Is It When a Car Makes a Left Turn?

Who’s Fault Is It When a Car Makes a Left Turn In Front of a Motorcycle?

When a car makes a left turn in front of a motorcycle, it’s rarely the fault of the motorcyclist. It’s usually, 100% the fault of the driver of the car.

In Left Turn Accidents, The Motorcycle Usually Hits The Car Turning Left

In most left-turn accidents, the motorcycle hits the car. In very few accidents, the motorcycle was struck by the car.

Most of our motorcycle accident cases involve a motorcyclist whose motorcycle hit a car making a left turn. All of these left-turn accidents were caused by the driver, even when the motorcycle hit the car first. In fact, who hit who has nothing to do with who caused the accident.

We have often been successful in obtaining Summary Judgment from the New York Supreme Court ruling that the driver is 100% at fault for causing the accident. This means the jury will never get to decide who was at fault. The jury will be told the car’s driver was 100% at fault and it also entitles you to 9% interest.

Why Is The Car Driver At Fault In Left Turn Accidents with Motorcycles?

Most left turn accidents with motorcycles are caused because the driver didn’t see your motorcycle.  Read Why drivers don’t see motorcycles.

Left-turn accidents where a car, SUV, or truck makes a left turn in front of a motorcycle are caused because:

  • The driver did not see the motorcycle.
  • The driver was trying to beat the traffic.
  • The driver saw the motorcycle but thought he/she had time to turn and later says the motorcycle was speeding.
  • The driver thought you would stop in time, Drivers of cars don’t realize motorcycles can’t stop as fast as cars.
  • In all of these instances, the driver violated the motorcyclist’s right-of-way And the motorcyclist could not have avoided the accident.

Point of Contact Between the Motorcycle and Car In Left Turn Accidents

Sometimes, insurance company claims representatives wrongly think that if the motorcycle hit the car that it is the fault of the motorcyclist. However, this is nothing to do with who was at fault. Even when the motorcycle strikes the car, the car is almost always at fault.

Insurance companies use cookie-cutter formulas to determine who’s at fault in a left-turn accident but these formulas are completely wrong. They look at the point of contact on the car where the motorcycle struck. They think the more towards the rear of the car the motorcycle struck, the more it is the fault of the motorcyclist.

In other words, insurance reps think if the motorcycle struck the front bumper, the driver is at fault but if the motorcycle struck further back towards the door, the insurance company will claim it is 20-50% the fault of the motorcycle.

If the motorcycle struck the rear of the car, the insurance company will claim it is the fault of the motorcycle. Again, this is wrong. We proved that even when the motorcycle struck the rear of the car turning left it can be 100% the fault of the driver turning left.

Insurance companies ignore basic physics and other factors. Where necessary, we retain a motorcycle accident reconstruction expert to investigate and provide a report detailing exactly how and why it was the fault of the driver of the car, even where the motorcycle hit the rear bumper of the car.

Which NYS Law Did the Driver Violate In a Left Turn Accident?

In a left-turn accident, the most important and most commonly violated law is NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1141 although there may be several other laws also violated by the driver.

NYS VTL § 1141 states, “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

How Proving the Driver Is at Fault can get You 9% Interest

We know why drivers are at fault in a motorcycle accident when the car is making a left turn and we know how to put the evidence together to prove it.

The appropriate procedure to prove the driver’s fault during a lawsuit is to file a Motion for Summary Judgment with the court.  A motion can be thought of like a mini-trial within a trial but is an argument written on paper. It asks a judge to rule as a matter of law that the car or truck is 100% at fault for causing the motorcycle accident.

If the court grants Summary Judgment, the negligence of the driver and contributory negligence of the motorcyclist will no longer be considered by a jury at trial and only the value of your injuries will be determined at a trial.  Obviously, this is a tremendous advantage.  Additionally, you will be entitled to 9% interest from the date Summary Judgment is granted.

The issues involved in obtaining Summary Judgment are complicated and are even different depending upon which county the accident occurred. For instance, the courts in Manhattan and the Bronx consider different issues than the courts in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island.  However, proving that the driver of the car was 100% negligent is not necessarily difficult.

A Motion for Summary Judgment should be filed in almost every left turn accident case.  The bigger question is whether to file for summary judgment after the deposition of the defendant driver and the motorcyclist or before the depositions.  There are accidents where it may be possible to prove the fault of the driver even before the depositions.

The driver of the SUV in this photo made a left turn directly into this Harley Davidson.  The rider broke his wrist. This photo shows why this case is an easy case to obtain summary judgment. The fact that the motorcycle was struck by the front of the SUV shows that the motorcycle could not have had time to avoid the accident. If the motorcyclist struck the rear side of the SUV while the SUV was making a left turn, the insurance company would argue that the motorcyclist may have been speeding or should have had time to see the car and avoid the accident. That wouldn’t mean that it’s not the fault of the car but is not as easy to prove as the accident in this photo.

Who's fault is it when a car makes a left turn? This photo shows an SUV that made a left turn into a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It was the car's fault.

The motorcycle in this photo was also struck by a car making a left turn. While there are many reasons that a driver doesn’t see a motorcycle, one of the most frequent is that the driver didn’t see the motorcycle and when we can prove that, we can obtain Summary Judgment. When a driver makes a left turn into a motorcycle, we will seek Summary Judgment to prove the driver of the car is 100% at fault.

Photo showing a Honda motorcycle struck by a car making a left turn

Left Turn Accident Videos

This video, from the motorcyclist’s view, shows the UK’s version of our left turn. In the UK, she’s driving on the right and made a right turn.  She never saw him!
(it’s in the UK, so she’s sitting in the right seat & the male got out the back door)

84% of drivers are at fault for causing motorcycle fatalities when turning into or across  the path of the motorcyclist

Other types of motorcycle accidents

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Motorcycle Attorney Phil Franckel talks about how motorcycle accidents are different

Philip L. Franckel, Esq. is the author of all articles and content on this website, one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York, well-known for representing motorcyclists. He has a 10 Avvo rating; Avvo Client’s Choice with all 5-star reviews; Avvo Top Contributor; and is a former Member of the Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Franckel created the motorcycle awareness campaign BE AWARE MOTORCYCLES ARE EVERYWHERE®.

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New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer and Founding Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer and Founding Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

Robert Plevy, Esq. is a motorcycle accident lawyer and one of the Personal Injury Dream Team™ Founding Partners at 1-800-HURT-911® New York. Robert began his legal career in 1993 as an Assistant Corporation Counsel defending The City of New York against personal injury lawsuits.

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