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Left-Turn Accidents in New Jersey

Is the Person Turning Left Always at Fault?

Left-Turn Accidents in New JerseyA motorist making a left turn must wait until the traffic is clear, and the turn can be safely completed, before proceeding through an intersection. Unfortunately, many motorists get impatient and pull in front of an oncoming vehicle. Is the driver making the turn always responsible for the accident? If not, under what circumstances might the other driver have some liability?

The Legal Principle of Negligence as Applied to Left-Turn Accidents

Under New Jersey law, the person turning left is not always responsible for the accident. Instead, liability is determined based on the legal principle of negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that a person’s behavior or actions were not consistent with what a reasonable person would have done under the circumstances. With a left-turn accident, a court determines whether attempting to complete the left turn was reasonable, given the distance between the two cars, the speed they were traveling, weather conditions, and other relevant factors.

In the vast majority of left-turn accidents, the person making the turn is found liable. There are, however, a few limited exceptions:

  • When the oncoming car is speeding—This can be difficult to prove. Furthermore, if the driving making the left turn could tell that the other driver was speeding, a jury may determine that it was unreasonable to make the left turn.
  • When the oncoming car runs a red light or stop sign
  • When it appears the turn can be safely completed at the time the driver begins the left turn—This exception involves an intervening circumstance that forces the driver to stop or slow down, e.g., an animal or pedestrian veers into the path of the car turning left.

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