Of all the ordinary driving maneuvers which a motorist may undertake, the U-turn is probably one of the most dangerous. When a driver is making a U-turn, due care must be taken to insure that following traffic, as well as oncoming traffic, will not be interfered with. Additionally, a significant amount of time is needed to complete the turn, requiring a larger break in traffic and more time to get back up to speed. Determining liability in U-turn collisions often depends on the particular circumstances surrounding the collision, but often are determined on theories of negligence.
Negligence Per Se
Often, when a U-turn results in a collision, there is a statute which was violated which caused or contributed to the accident. For example, many states have a statute making it unlawful for the operator of a vehicle to turn at an intersection unless the movement can be made safely. Violation of this statute can be evidence of negligence per se (an act which is intrinsically negligent because of the violation of a statute).
Courts have held drivers making U-turns liable because, while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, his vehicle was blocking a portion or all of the lane in which he had been traveling. For example, one court held that a U-turning motorist was negligent where the motorist attempted to make a turn in a four-lane highway at a "T" intersection. His vehicle was struck in the rear by another vehicle as he was waiting to make the turn. The median was 8 feet wide, and when the turning car went on it, 10 feet of the vehicle still protruded into the lane in which he had been traveling, thus blocking most of it.
Turning from Wrong Lane
A driver who makes a U-turn from the wrong lane or without sufficient warning has also been held liable for the resulting collision. For example, the driver of a large truck was held liable when he attempted to make a U-turn from the middle of three lanes and collided with a vehicle traveling in the same direction in the left lane. The court explained that a U-turning motorist is held to a high degree of care in executing his maneuver, and that when he makes a U-turn from a lane other than the normal lane, without making sure that that lane is clear, his negligence is apparent.
Similarly, in another case, a driver pulled onto the right shoulder of the road and then made a U-turn across the highway without giving any signal. The vehicle was struck by an oncoming bus travelling in the same direction. The court held that the driver of the vehicle was clearly guilty of negligence which was the sole cause of the collision.
Should I Consult an Attorney About Liability for U-Turn Collisions?
If you have been involved in a U-turn collision, you should contact an attorney immediately. Proving your case can be difficult, but a personal injury attorney can help protect your rights so that you can recover damages for your injuries. If you have been accused of causing a U-turn collision, an attorney can explain the defenses available and represent you in court so that you can avoid being found liable.