Left-turn accidents happen much too often. No matter who the participants in the accident are, the accident is usually caused by left-turning drivers. Left turns are so challenging that many drivers try to avoid them, and UPS drivers are under orders to prevent them.
Dangerous Long Island Left-Turn Intersections
The following are some of the intersections on Long Island that are particularly dangerous for left turns.
- New Hyde Park Road and Northern State Parkway – In this confusing intersection, drivers headed north on New Hyde Park who want to go west on Northern State Parkway must cross traffic when turning left to get to the entrance ramp.
- Old Country Road and Wantagh Parkway – Similar to the intersection at New Hyde Park Road and Northern State Parkway, drivers headed east on Old Country Road who want to go south on Wantagh must make a left at the intersection and cross traffic to get to the entrance ramp of the parkway.
New York Law on Left-Hand Turns
Generally, New York law expects that a driver turning left will yield to oncoming traffic before making a left-hand turn. The law requires that, for any left turn, you must yield to any traffic headed toward you that is close enough to present a hazard. If you can’t make up your mind on any given turn, you should wait for the traffic to pass before turning.
If the intersection you are in has a left-turn arrow, it is called a protected left turn signal. You can turn left on the green and amber, but you may not turn left on the red arrow, even without any oncoming traffic.
Is the Driver Turning Left at Fault?
Because New York law requires the left-turning driver to yield to oncoming traffic, the accident is essentially proof on its face that the driver violated the law. This standard is why the left-turning drive is usually at fault in a left-turn accident. Under state law, this failure to yield when required is evidence of negligence.
Nonetheless, there are circumstances where the left-turning driver will not be at fault. One of these could be swerving to avoid wildlife. Road hazards and bad weather can also contribute to left-turn accidents.
Usually, an inspection of the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident will make the fault reasonably obvious. Damage to the driver’s side of the oncoming vehicle is generally evidence of the left-turner’s responsibility. In contrast, if the vehicle going straight shows damage at the front, that driver may have caused the crash.
Examples of Left Turner Not at Fault
One example of the left-turner not being liable is when that individual turned at a green left-turn arrow. If another driver passes or otherwise tries to seize the right of way from the left turner, that driver will be liable.
Another example, not uncommon on Long Island, is when the traffic that the left-turning driver must cross is traveling at an excessively high rate of speed. Long Island is famous for the consistency with which its drivers speed over the posted limits. If the driver striking the left-turner was going at a high rate of speed, the left-turning driver may not be 100 percent liable.
Likewise, if the car coming straight ran a red light or stop sign while hitting the left-turner, the driver striking the left-turner will almost certainly be liable. Generally, a violation of the law is conclusive evidence of negligence.
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Who has the Right of Way in a Left Turn?
The vehicles in the traffic you must turn across to turn left usually have the right of way under New York law. The driver turning left within an intersection or into a private road, driveway, or alley must yield to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.
The left-turner is not required to wait at the light if there is no oncoming traffic. However, if there is a left-turn arrow marking the intersection as protected for left turns, the driver must turn only a yellow or green arrow. The law prohibits drivers from turning on a red left-turn area even if no traffic is coming from the opposite direction.
Why Left-Turn Accidents Are so Dangerous?
A large percentage of the left-turn car accidents that involve catastrophic injuries or deaths occur at or near intersections.
Here are some suggestions for why that is true and the factors that make it so.
- When you’re making a left turn, you are going across oncoming traffic, increasing the risk of an accident with those cars; there is a substantial risk that the turning driver may underestimate the speed or distance of the oncoming traffic.
- The risk of a rear-end crash increases if the car behind you does not realize you have stopped to wait for clearance to make the left turn; drivers behind you may be on autopilot and simply not notice that you have stopped even though the light is green.
- Drivers making left turns often try to race the other drivers, creating a tremendous risk of a collision.
- The oncoming traffic breaks the speed limit, going much higher than the vehicle turning left; if the car turning left gets hit, it will be a severe collision.
- Misjudging the speed or distance of the oncoming traffic
- By misjudging the length of the red light (if there is one), drivers will think they have more time to make the turn than they do; when the light changes, the opposite traffic suddenly becomes a dangerous problem.
- Forgetting that there may be pedestrians in the crosswalk; drivers may have to suddenly stop or swerve to avoid a pedestrian in the crosswalk; other drivers may not notice and then strike either the turning vehicle or the pedestrian.
- The number of lanes in the intersection; a greater number of lanes simply provides more opportunities to misjudge all the various parties
- The driver turning left may have an obstructed view during the turn.
- The driver turning left may have failed to signal the turn; this leaves those around you mystified about your intentions and guessing what you will do.
Common Injuries in a Left-Turn Accident
Left-hand turn accidents are usually high-impact T-bone accidents. They often hit the passenger side of the vehicle where there is little built-in safety equipment at high speeds. Injuries can be severe, and some of them are listed below.
Indeed, almost one of every five fatalities occurs in a T-bone accident.
- Head and Body Trauma – When people seated on the passenger side of the car receive injuries in a T-bone accident, the injuries to the head and body can be catastrophic. There is little protection built into the passenger side door in many cars, and the vehicle striking the door is likely traveling at full speed. Injuries at this level can be life-threatening.
- Spine and Neck Injuries – Again, tremendous force is involved in these accidents. But the twisting and jolting that the violence of the impact can cause can bruise or tear the spinal cord. That tear or bruise determines where any resulting paralysis will develop. The higher the injury, the worse the paralysis.
- Broken Bones – Again, the violence of the impact can lead to a large number of severe fractures and even crushing injuries that can require amputation. Some car accident victims require emergency surgery for compound fractures or similar high-risk injuries.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries – The intense impact on the passenger can toss them around the vehicle’s interior, leading to the brain making contact with the skull’s interior. This violent brain movement can tear and bruise tissues causing concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury. Even seemingly mild brain trauma can result in potentially fatal complications. The “mild TBI” designation assigned by a healthcare professional relates only to the initial presentation of symptoms and not to your overall prognosis. TBIs that medical professionals initially deem mild can still be severe injuries resulting in lasting effects and complications. If you are diagnosed with any TBI, you should remain on watch for any complications or lingering effects.
- Disfigurement – T-bone accidents involve massive forces and can lead to explosions of the struck vehicle, with fires being a likely result. Whether scarring relates to burns or other injuries that lead to disfigurement, the change in your appearance can have catastrophic consequences for your life.
- Burns and Scars – Cars don’t frequently catch on fire, but in a left-turn T-bone accident, the forces can be sufficient to cause an explosion, leading to a fire. Burns are painful and slow to heal. Often requiring prolonged hospitalizations, multiple surgeries, and other exotic treatments, they can also leave life-altering scars, changing your appearance and mobility.
- Internal Injuries and Bleeding – High-speed T-bone accidents produce severe injuries, including damage to internal organs, some of which are life-threatening. Moreover, even if not in and of itself life-threatening, the damage can lead to internal bleeding, which, if heavy and undetected, can be fatal in just a few short hours.
- Damage to Major Organs – Some of the organs damaged are more crucial than others. Punctured lungs, bruises to the heart muscle, and damage to kidneys and liver can be life-altering and potentially fatal.
- Soft Tissue Injuries – Soft tissue injuries such as whiplash frequently occur in left-turn accidents because of the force the striking car impacts the turning vehicle. Whatever jokes you may hear about whiplash, it can seriously limit mobility and leave its victims with life-long chronic pain.
- Death – T-bone accidents, which are what most left-turn accidents are, are responsible for roughly one-fourth of all traffic deaths in the country, making them among the deadliest kinds of crashes.
Common Damages in a Left-Turn Accident
If you were a passenger or another victim of a left-turn accident, you can recover damages intended to make you whole. Among the damages you can recover are:
Economic damages are readily determinable costs represented by a paid invoice or similar financial document.
The damages for which you can receive economic damages include:
- Medical and Hospital Expenses – These include any surgeries, your room cost, medications, your hospital doctor’s fees, other health care professionals’ fees, and any additional expense related to your accident.
- Lost Wages or Earnings – Best demonstrated by old timesheets or 1099s, you can show what you will likely have made absent the accident.
- Property Damage – If your car got T-boned in a left-turn accident, not your fault, you are entitled to recover for the damage to your property. Given the cost of new and used cars these days, this replacement could take a significant amount of money.
Non-economic damages are less easy to categorize and prove.
They include things like:
- Pain and suffering
- The emotional impact of disability
- Injured reputation
- Loss of companionship or affection
- Loss of sexual intimacy or function
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Punitive damages are available in New York, but only if you meet a very high standard. The defendant’s conduct must be so outrageous as to shock the court and show a complete disregard for the safety of others.
New York does not cap any of the three damages available in a personal injury case.
Contact a Long Island Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a left-turn accident, you should not try to resolve your case by yourself. Insurance companies will hit you with lowball offers when you are already under high stress.
Let a skilled and experienced lawyer step in and be your financial recovery advocate, understanding cases like yours. Then, you will have time and energy to focus on your emotional and physical recovery without stressing over lost income and unpaid medical bills. Contact a car accident attorney today.