Who is at fault when a left-turning car hits an oncoming car on a yellow light?

  • Each case depends on its facts – you might be 100% at fault, or the other car might be 100% at fault.
  • Drivers are entitled to assume that other drivers will obey the rules of the road.
  • The mere presence of a left-turning car does not cast a duty on the other driver to take extra care in case something unexpected happens;
  • The left-turner need not live up to a standard of perfection and will not be blamed for failing to precisely gauge the speed or distance of oncoming traffic.

The recent case of Henry v. Bennett considered the rules that apply to the “inherently hazardous left turn scenario”.

The through-driver had the opportunity to stop, but chose not to.  He knew that there was a car waiting to turn left, and that the light was about to turn red.  He entered the intersection at the very end of the amber light, just as it was turning red.  As he entered the intersection, he passed cars that had stopped for the light. 

The left-turning car had been stopped in the intersection waiting to turn.  She was entitled to assume that an approaching car that could safely stop for the yellow light would do so, unless it was apparent it was not stopping.  Her view of the critical part of the street was blocked by an SUV that had stopped, so she waited until her light was red before cautiously nosing forward.

There was nothing that should have alerted her to the fact that the other driver would come through the stale amber light.  In contrast, the through-driver knew or should have known that the left-turner would be turning on the amber or red light.  He created an extremely unsafe situation in failing to stop and was 100% at fault.

However, in another recent case, McPherson v. Lange, liability was equally divided.  In that case the left-turner was at fault for starting her turn when the through-driver was obviously not stopping.  She made her decision to turn without adequately considering the location, distance and speed of the oncoming car.  If she had kept a proper look-out, she would not have pulled in front of the other car and a collision would have been avoided.

If you do not agree with ICBC’s assessment of liability in your collision, contact us.  We can help.

Read the cases:  Henry v. Bennett and McPherson v. Lange