In several recent auto accident cases, we have litigated an all-too-common type of Arizona accident.
John Doe is eastbound on Main Street, planning to turn left onto northbound First Avenue. He enters the intersection on a green light, and stops to wait for westbound traffic as the light changes to yellow. Mary Roe is westbound on Main Street and planning to go straight through the intersection. Doe starts his turn, and is hit by Roe, often resulting in a serious “T-bone” crash.
We all deal with this potential scenario on a daily basis. Most of us have been in or witnessed such an accident. After the fact, the first question would be the color of the intersection light that the vehicles had just before the impact. There would be also be questions about speed, the positions, and movements of the vehicles.
In some cases, the police, insurance carriers and attorneys will agree that the legal fault lies totally with the left-turner, whose duty to yield is set forth in Arizona Revised Statutes §28-772:
“The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle that is approaching from the opposite direction and that is within the intersection or so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard.”
However, in many cases, there are arguments that the vehicle going straight should bear at least a portion of the fault because they ran a red light, were speeding, or for other reasons.
Typical of lawyers, we have been willing and able to argue these facts both ways, depending upon our client’s position. However, for your legal protection, and your personal health and safety, there is no question that you need to exercise the utmost caution in either position.
As the left-turner, if there is any traffic coming toward you, you need to be absolutely certain it is stopping, regardless of the changing light. Any approaching vehicle might speed up or otherwise keep going, regardless of the light color or the stopping of other vehicles.
As the vehicle going straight, if there is any vehicle in the intersection stopped or signaling for a left turn, you need to assume that he might turn at any moment, either not noticing you or assuming that you will stop. You should stop safely on the yellow if possible, and otherwise be extremely alert for the need to take any possible evasive action.
- Stephen J. Green, Personal Injury Attorney