Are you always at fault if you’re making a left turn?

Left-turns can be one of the more dangerous maneuvers on the road, because a left-turning vehicle usually crosses oncoming traffic.

Traffic studies show that drivers can easily misjudge an oncoming motor vehicle, especially a motorcycle or similarly small vehicle. Bad weather conditions can make a left-turning driver’s judgment even worse.

Under Texas law, drivers making a left turn need to exercise a lot of caution and comply with certain safety requirements.

Texas Traffic Law for Auto Accidents Involving a Left Turn

Texas Transportation Code, Section 545.152 states that when making a left turn, a motor vehicle operator (driver) must yield the right-of-way to approaching vehicles that are:

  • Already in the intersection
  • Near enough to the intersection “to be an immediate hazard.”

Courts generally look to the “totality of the circumstances” to decide if it was safe for a driver to turn left under Texas law. Texas Transportation Code Section 545.152 places a burden on the left-turning vehicles to yield the right of way. So in many cases, a driver turning left will be at fault if there is a collision.

However, there are circumstances under which a driver that collides with a left-turning vehicle in Texas may be at fault:

  • If there was a green-arrow on the traffic light permitting the turn.
  • If the oncoming driver sped up past the speed limit once the driver started turning.
  • If the left-turning driver was being tail-gaited, the tail-gaiter may be partially responsible for an accident if the left-turning driver has a collision.

In some cases, if more than one driver is at fault, courts will assign different percentages of fault to each driver. Drivers who are less than 51% responsible for the accident can often receive partial payment from the more at-fault drivers for bodily injuries and property damage.