left turn accident

Driving on the congested streets of New York can be a huge challenge and the dangers of causing a crash are especially high when you navigate around a busy intersection and have to make a left turn. Data from the NYC Department of Transportation’s (DOT) study in 2016 shows that left turns are the cause of more than double the bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities as right turns. Left-turn accidents in New York have also been known to cause three times as many fatalities and serious injuries as right-turn accidents.

While it is generally assumed that the driver who makes the left turn is responsible for the accident, there could be situations when they may not be fully or even partially to blame. Read on to know more about the concept of liability in left-turn accidents in New York City.

Why are Left Turn Accidents in New York Dangerous?

Much before the results of the study by the NYC DOT, a 2010 analysis carried out by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had found that a vehicle making a left turn at an intersection is one of the most critical events that can trigger an accident. Here are a few reasons why left turn accidents can be deadly:

  • Turning left means having to cross oncoming traffic, and this increases the risk of crashing into a vehicle coming from the opposite direction.
  • It is a natural tendency for drivers to speed up as they get into a left turn. This, along with the wider radius of the turn they have to execute can cause greater injury to any pedestrians caught in their path.
  • Left turning drivers may try to slip into the turn in an attempt to ‘beat’ the driver coming from the other side and this makes the turn very risky.
  • When a driver seeks to turn left and slows down, there is a greater risk of the car being hit by other vehicles behind this car. So, a rear-end crash is very likely in left-turn situations.
  • Traffic coming from the opposite direction is often moving at a speed far greater than the vehicle that is trying to turn left and this impact with a fast-moving car can lead to a fatal collision.

Why is it Difficult to Make a Safe Left Turn at NY Intersections?

Every driver on the road knows that making a left turn is a huge challenge. Despite being an experienced or expert driver, it can be quite difficult to execute a safe left turn at New York intersections due to the following reasons:

  • When you are making a left turn, you have to give your attention to vehicles that may move towards you in three different directions. This can be a huge effort for even an expert driver and even a small lapse can lead to a crash.
  • Driving very fast can make it difficult to slow down in time to make a careful left turn.
  • When a driver is going at a particular speed, and suddenly hits the brakes to reduce speed to make the left turn, it can leave very little time for the vehicles following this car to react. This could lead to a rear-end crash that involves multiple drivers.
  • If the left-turning driver’s view on the left or in front is obstructed by trees, or a signboard, it can be tough to assess the state of traffic coming from the opposite side.
  • A significant number of left-turn accidents are caused due to the inattention of the driver who is making the turn. If you are distracted because you’re checking social media feeds on the phone or trying to figure out what instructions the GPS is giving you about getting to your destination, it can be difficult to be alert to the actual situation on the road.
  • Left turns are often riskier for persons who are new to driving. It can take a lot of experience with executing such turns for a driver to get to a stage where they can accurately judge the gap at an intersection and time the turn to match the break in traffic.

Who is Considered Liable for a Left Turn Accident in NYC?

Under New York law, a driver who is making a left turn at an intersection has to yield the right-of-way to traffic coming from the opposite direction. So, if the investigation into a left turn accident in NYC shows that the left-turning driver failed to yield the right-of-way, their actions will be considered as negligence and they will be held liable for the accident. Negligence means that the concerned driver failed to act with the care that was expected of any reasonable person in that situation. 

However, there can be many exceptions to this general guideline about the liability of the left-turning driver. If it can be shown that the car crash occurred due to factors beyond their control while they were making a careful turn, it is quite possible for the other driver involved in the crash to be found at fault for the left turn accident.

In What Situations is the Left Turner Not Liable for the NY Car Accident?

Liability in an accident depends on several factors and a left turn accident is no exception. To determine who is at fault for such an accident, it’s critical to take into account factors such as:

  • Which driver had the right of way?
  • What was the speed of the vehicles involved in the crash?
  • Did the concerned drivers act in a reasonable manner?

Careful consideration of these factors may throw up information that shows that the party other than the driver making the left turn was responsible for the accident.

Generally, the left-turning driver is not considered at fault for the accident if it can be proved that:

  • They obeyed the signal indicating they could make a left turn
  • The other driver was speeding as they approached the intersection
  • The other driver ran through a stop sign or a red light
  • The driver following the left turning car was driving in a distracted manner and therefore crashed into its rear end
  • The other driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Role of Unforeseen Circumstances in a Left Turn Crash in New York

In some situations, there could be a sudden event that was not foreseeable by any of the drivers. If an animal or a young child suddenly ran into the road, the driver making the left turn would have been forced to brake or slow down and this could have caused a left-turn accident.

In such circumstances, if the left-turning car is involved in a collision with an oncoming vehicle or a car following them, it may be quite possible that the other driver will be held liable because they ought to have noticed that the left-turning driver was slowing down and reacted accordingly.

New York’s Laws Regarding Comparative Fault

New York operates on the concept of a “pure” comparative fault. According to this, all the parties involved in a personal injury lawsuit have an equal opportunity to recover compensation. The exact amount that one recovers will be adjusted to match the extent of their contribution to the accident.

Say you were involved in a car accident while making a left turn at one of New York City’s busy intersections and at trial, the jury determines that your liability was 20 percent while that of the other driver was 80 percent. If you have been awarded $10,000 as damages, under the pure comparative fault law, the amount you finally receive will be less by 20 percent, so you will get $8,000 in damages.

Contact a Left Turn Accident Personal Injury Attorney in New York

Most people generally assume that whenever an accident occurs while making a left turn, it is the left-turning driver who will be held liable. This may deter them from pursuing a personal injury claim to recover damages from the other parties involved in the accident. But it is important to remember that there can be exceptions to this assumption and if it can be shown that the other driver too was partially at fault for the left-turn accident, you may still be able to recover compensation from them.

At Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP, our car accident attorneys have helped several clients who were injured in left-turn accidents to recover damages to make up for the losses they sustained due to another party’s fault. Using our network of accident reconstruction specialists and independent investigators, we can help build you a strong case that gets you the justice and damages you deserve.

Whether you decide to settle with the insurance company or pursue your case to trial, our team of expert car accident lawyers will work with you to help you navigate the complex legal process of claiming damages. To discuss the details of your left turn accident case, get in touch with us today at 1-800-660-2264 or contact us online for a free and confidential case review.


122 East 42nd Street Suite 3800
New York, NY 10168

Tel: 1-800-660-2264

Tel: 1-212-697-9280



8900 Sutphin Blvd Suite 501
Queens, NY 11435

Tel: (718) 399-3100

*By Appointment Only



220-226 E 161st Street
The Bronx, NY 10451

Tel: (212) 344-1000

*By Appointment Only



1002 Dean St
Brooklyn, NY 11238

Tel: (516) 410-4445

*By Appointment Only