Of all the ordinary driving maneuvers which a motorist might undertake, the U-turn may be the most risky. When a driver is making a U-turn, care must be taken not to interfere with traffic that is following the driver, as well as oncoming traffic. In addition, an adequate amount of time is needed to complete the turn, requiring a larger break in traffic so that there is the space and time to get back up to speed. Determining liability in U-turn collisions always depends on the particular circumstances surrounding the collision, but usually it involves the law of negligence.
In addition to civil liability, a driver who makes an unsafe U-turn may face a misdemeanor traffic violation. Every state now has a point system and each type of traffic offense has a point value. A state’s motor vehicle department keeps track of the driving records of all the drivers in the state.
Generally, the more serious the traffic offense is, the higher the point value assigned to it. If a driver accumulates too many points in a certain period of time, the driver’s license can be suspended or lost. Insurance companies also have access to a state’s point system and can raise the premiums for a driver’s auto insurance depending on their driving record.
A driver might be able to avoid adding points on their driver’s license by going to traffic school or fighting the traffic ticket. However, those options also might not be available. So, in addition to having liability for an accident, a driver might have problems with their driver’s license if one of their U-turns results in an accident.
Negligence Per Se
Often, when a U-turn results in a collision, it is because a traffic law was violated and this caused or contributed to the accident. For example, most states have a statute that makes it unlawful for a driver to turn at an intersection unless the movement can be made safely. Violation of this statute can be evidence of negligence per se, that is, an act which is intrinsically negligent because it violates a statute.
State laws may vary when it comes to liability for U-turn collisions. For example, in the state of Georgia, U-turns are forbidden completely in the following situations:
- On a curve;
- On the approach to or near the crest of a grade where a driver’s vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of another vehicle approaching from either direction;
- Anyplace where the U-turn cannot be made safely and without interfering with other traffic; or
- Where there is a “No U-turn” sign.
So if a driver violates a traffic law like the one in Georgia in making a U-turn and causes an accident in the process, they would be liable for negligence. Liability for an accident because of negligence can result in an increase to a driver’s auto insurance premiums, because the driver’s insurance company would have to pay up to the policy limits for both the injuries and damage sustained by the non-liable driver in the accident.
As explained above, the driver may also add points to their state driving record, which could result in increased auto insurance premiums. So, it is best to make U-turns rarely, if at all, and only under circumstances in which it is clear that the U-turn can be made safely. If a person is unsure about the potential for danger when making a U-turn, it is best for them to avoid performing the maneuver.
It is important to keep in mind that if a driver is legally responsible for a car accident, they must pay compensation in the form of money damages for all the injuries and damage to property that results from the accident. This includes:
- The cost of all medical treatment for injuries, including doctors, tests, medication, and any procedures;
- The cost of hospitalization;
- The cost of treatment for injuries and future treatment if the injured person has not recovered completely when the case is settled or goes to trial;
- Compensation for past and future lost wages and loss of earning capacity;
- Compensation for pain and suffering;
- Compensation for mental distress;
- The cost to repair any cars damaged in the accident, including the cost of a rental car while a driver’s car is under repair.
If a driver does not have enough insurance coverage to cover all of the damages, the driver can be personally liable for what is not paid by insurance. So, it is clearly a good idea to avoid accidents and drive carefully.
Courts have held drivers making U-turns liable because, while waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, their vehicle was blocking part or all of the lane in which they had been traveling.
For example, one court held that a driver making a U-turn was negligent when the driver attempted to make a turn on a four-lane highway at a “T” intersection. The vehicle was struck in the rear by another vehicle as the driver was waiting to make the turn. The median was 8 feet wide, and when the turning car entered into it, the vehicle still protruded into the lane in which the driver had been traveling, blocking most of it. Another driver coming from behind struck the driver waiting in the median area to make a U-turn.
Turning from the 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 found liable for negligence when the driver attempted to make a U-turn from the middle of three lanes and collided with a vehicle that was going 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 the maneuver, and that when the driver made a U-turn from a lane other than the far left lane without making sure that that lane was clear, his negligence was apparent.
Similarly, in another case, a driver pulled over onto the right shoulder of the road; the driver 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 and that their negligence 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 experienced personal injury lawyer immediately. If you were not at fault, a car accident 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 negotiations with the parties who were injured both before a trial and in court, if necessary. You may have defenses that prevent you from being found liable.
You are most likely to obtain the best outcome if you have a lawyer representing your interests. Without a lawyer, it may be difficult to handle the various issues and requirements that arise in a court of law.