Car accidents involving one vehicle turning left into the path of another not only cause significant personal injury these collisions raise serious issues of fault and legal liability.
The sole issue in this personal injury case was the determination of fault for a motor vehicle accident which occurred at the intersection of Highway 10 and 192nd Street in Surrey, B.C. (Schlachter v. Foster,2017 BCSC 300). Immediately before the accident, the claimant was driving eastbound on Highway 10 when he struck a vehicle that attempted to make a left-hand turn from the westbound turning lane on Highway 10, south onto 192nd Street.

The judge found that the claimant most likely entered the intersection on a yellow light which, in relation to any left-turning driver coming in the opposite direction, results in the through driver constituting an “immediate hazard” as contemplated by s. 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act. The claimant was driving at or near the speed limit and was authorized to enter the intersection under a recent yellow light.

The defendant had a clear view of traffic coming towards him that could constitute an “immediate hazard”, and, as a result, was obliged to determine if it was safe for him to make his left turn. The court found that he failed to keep a proper lookout and was 100% negligent.

One of the leading decisions in this type of left turn case is  Nerval v. Khehra, 2012 BCCA 436 in which Harris, J.A. stated at paras. 33 – 35:

The obligation imposed by s. 174 on the left turning vehicle is that it “must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard”. A left turn must not be commenced unless it is clearly safe to do so. If there are no vehicles in the intersection or sufficiently close to be an imminent hazard, the driver may turn left and approaching traffic must yield the right of way. In other words, if a left turning driver complies with his or her obligation only to start the left turn when no other vehicles are in the intersection or constitute an immediate hazard, then the left turning driver assumes the relationship of being the dominant vehicle and approaching vehicles become servient and must yield the right of way.

As a personal injury lawyer I often get asked, “Am I at fault if I turned left and an oncoming car hits me? The left turning driver has the burden of proving, in the face of the legal obligation to yield the right of way, that she started to turn left when it was safe to do so. This is a two part burden placed upon a left turning driver under s. 174, summarized as follows:

(1)   to demonstrate that when the left turning driver commenced his or her turn, there was no immediate hazard; and

(2)    if the through driver is found to be the dominant driver, to show that the through driver nonetheless was negligent and at fault for contributing to the accident.

Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.

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