Often, motorcyclists are unjustly stereotyped as road users who violate the law driving while under the influence and speeding. However, statistics prove differently. The majority of motorcyclists are usually riding at less than 30 mph and completely sober when an accident occurs.  Mostly, motorcycle collisions take place at intersections when motorcycle riders are riding straight, and vehicles are making a left turn. Left turn motorcycle accidents are severe, and others can be fatal. If involved in one and it’s not your fault, it is only fair that the at-fault party assumes responsibility for injuries and losses.

California law dictates that the guilty party in a crash compensates for crash-related damages. However, the guilty party won’t just agree to reimburse you without a fight. Their insurance provider and defense team will fight with all the resources at their disposal to show that you are to blame to evade liability. If you have been involved in a left-hand turn motorcycle collision, you need a skilled motorcycle accident personal injury lawyer to help you fight your case.  If you are in San Diego and the surrounding areas, contact the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm for expert legal services.

Laws Regarding Left Turns in California

Under California VC 21801, a driver who intends to make a complete U-turn or left turn shall give away to all autos coming from the opposite direction, which are near enough to create danger at any moment in the course of the turning motion. The driver shall continue giving way to the oncoming motor vehicles until they can make the U-turn or left turn with reasonable safety.

According to the CACI (California Civil Jury Instructions), a hazard or danger arises if an oncoming auto is approaching too fast or is so close that a reasonable person would know that there’s a high likelihood of an accident.  Put otherwise, the motorist who is trying to turn left has to make sure that no approaching vehicles are near enough to cause a hazard. Only then can they proceed across every lane that the right of way has been yielded until they can make a turn with reasonable safety.

Note that often, most drivers have a problem assuming that another road user will automatically follow the law. At times, they are just trying to be good Samaritans and yield to other road users. For instance, they may signal the other driver at an intersection to go before them. This may lead to confusion on your side. It could also delay traffic when neither motorist goes first. You should never encourage a motorist to go when it’s not their turn. If you are worried that they will not see you, ride cautiously. Do not try rushing through, hoping to get out of their way. On the contrary, if a driver takes the right-of-way when they don’t have to, let them go. The critical thing is to keep yourself and everyone safe.

Left-Hand Turn Motorcycle Collisions Account for Majority of Motorcycle VS Car Accidents

A study titled Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors, conducted by the NTIS (National Technical Information Service), found that about 75 percent of motorcycle-related accidents nationally involve motorcyclists colliding with other autos. Left-hand turn motorcycle crashes are the largest subcategory of these bike/car collisions. They account for 42 percent of all motorcycles crashes involving another vehicle. This is more than any other kind of crash and more compared to the subsequent two leading kinds of motorcycle accidents combined.

Unluckily, although this type of accident almost always occurs at low speeds compared to rear-end and head-on crashes, they are often fatal.  As per the NHTSA statistics, unsafe left-hand turn motorcycle crashes make up 36 percent of all motorcycle deaths.

How Making Unsafe Left-Hand Turns Can Cause Motorcycle Crashes

Several scenarios could cause left turn motorcycle collisions. Among them include:

  • A motorist overtaking the motorcyclist, cutting left in front of them to make an unexpected turn, thus, ending up sideswiping the rider
  • Motorists pulling out of a street or driveway without taking adequate time to look if there’s a motorcyclist
  • A rider moving straight through a yellow or green light while the left-turning motorist speeds up to beat the light
  • A rider overtaking an auto that had blocked them from view

Driving right through a four-way intersection is the riskiest situation for motorcyclists. Collisions happen nearly equally on urban and rural roads. In approximately half of the crashes, the motorist’s view is blocked by the glare from the sun, oncoming headlights, or other cars. Distraction also contributes to most accidents, with motorists saying they never noticed the motorcyclist coming.

Still, ignorance isn’t an excuse to escape liability. Motorcycles indeed have a narrow, low organization, and most drivers merely do not see them until it’s too late. However, situational awareness about open roads can help prevent situations like this. Many motorists driving down the thoroughfare are not attentive, and others are ignorant. This outrageous conduct makes the driver responsible for the motorcyclist’s injuries and losses. Both inexperienced and experienced motorcycle riders must always be prepared to make quick decisions regarding road contingency.

Making the Correct Left Turn

A driver needs to pay maximum attention. Paying attention can save lives as well as spare them the courthouse trips.  Here is a list for all drivers on how to make a safe left turn. Additionally, it should assist you as a motorcyclist in understanding the rules & regulations of the road. This way, you can exercise basic civility:

  1. Always make use of your turn signal when nearing the turn. Slow down your vehicle and give yourself adequate time to view the roadway, at the minimum, 70 or more feet in front of you
  2. Do not jump lanes. Make sure you are in the right lane and do not make last minute, unsafe lane changes when nearing the turn
  3. The law obligates you to give the right of way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians
  4. Exercise an extreme duty of care when you’re at the intersection. Stay put until it’s safe for you to go. You need to have optimal situational awareness before making a turn.

Avoiding Unsafe Left Turn Accidents

Like it is with any other motorcycle crash, avoidance is the ideal way to be safe. Defensive operation is a must for motorcyclists. The following safety tips are recommended for motorcycle riders to prevent left-turn motorcycle crashes:

  • Slow down your bike when approaching intersections
  • Always presume that an oncoming car will make a left turn at the intersection
  • Have an ‘’out’’ plan at all times before you need it
  • Always assume that the oncoming motorist doesn’t see you
  • Cover your bike breaks to reduce your reaction time
  • Don’t speed, particularly at four-way intersections. You might not have adequate time to reduce the speed and prevent a hazard as you drive towards the lights
  • Always look left, right, and in the two rearview mirrors immediately before you make the maneuver
  • Negotiate the left turn. Do this by remaining right of the centerline divider. Also, do not jump lanes. Remain in your designated lane, meaning you should stay in the inner lane. The outer lane is for drivers that are negotiating the right-hand turn.
  • Be as visible as you can. You can put on bright and reflective clothes and ride with the lights on
  • Stay upright
  • Take advantage of the smaller size of your bike and ride one side of the lane. This gives you a chance to make emergency maneuvering should you see a looming danger.
  • If you’re a beginner rider, ride on a standard style motorcycle that you can control easily.
  • Make sure your exhaust system and lights work correctly before departing.

If you can notice an unsafe left-hand turn accident about to happen, do not lay down your bike. It may be tempting since you assume you can shed speed that way. Studies show that simultaneously applying rear and front brakes and staying upright can effectively shed much velocity, thus reducing the impact of the crash when the accident happens.

Safety Gear is a Necessity

Since most of the unsafe left turn motorcycle crashes occur because of the driver’s negligence and not the motorcyclist, you might not always be capable of avoiding them. Wearing the right safety gear could lower the possibility of sustaining injuries, decrease the severity of the injuries you sustain, and increase the chances of survival.

The most important safety gear you can put on is a helmet. California law dictates that every motorcyclist must use a helmet. Using this safety gear has proved to decrease the risk of head injuries by approximately 69%. It also lowers the fatality rate by 42%.

Additionally, a riding armor plus other padded safety clothes can drastically reduce the force exerted on your body at the time of the accident. Whereas this kind of clothing might not eliminate the injury risk, even decreasing the impact to a certain degree makes a significant difference between sustaining disastrous injuries and surviving a collision.

For car, SUV, and truck drivers, the crucial safety tip is avoiding driving while distracted— texting, eating, drinking coffee, adjusting makeup/hair, or tinkering with the radio. This is because looking away or down even for one second is usually a contributing factor to collision with motorcyclists. At intersections, a driver has to look both ways two times because motorcyclists are not always heard or seen until it is too late.

Injuries You Can Suffer From an Unsafe Motorcycle Accident

Fortunately, the average travel speed of the vehicles that get involved in unsafe left-hand turn motorcycle crashes in California State is relatively low— about 30mph as per the reports of studies conducted in the entire state. But even at this low speed, an unprotected motorcyclist can sustain severe and life-threatening injuries.  In some instances, the injuries can be fatal.

Unlike drivers and other occupants inside automobiles, motorcycle riders have no or little protection from crashes.  While putting on a helmet could help to prevent injuries to the head, and the use of protective gear could reduce the severity of injuries to the extremities and torso, motorcycle passengers will usually become missiles. They will be ejected from the motorcycle and thrown into the air. Sad to note, motorcycle accident survivability is usually determined by whether the motorcyclist strikes a motionless object before landing to the ground or not. Severe injuries you can suffer include after being in this kind of accident include:

  • Shoulder, arm, and hand injuries—arm, shoulder, and hand injuries are common in these accidents because riders often attempt to support themselves when thrown out from their motorcycles.
  • Upper torso injuries— they include chest, thoracic injuries, and broken ribs. They are common in crashes where motorcyclists are ejected.
  • Head injuries— a head injury can lead to long-term disability. It can also be fatal.
  • Spinal injuries— spinal cord injuries can cause non-fatal debilitation. They can cause chronic pain, paralysis (partial or full), and persistent vegetative conditions.

Other injuries include:

  • Broken bones
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Lacerations
  • Loss of a limb
  • Neck injury
  • Concussion
  • Nerve damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Internal organ damage
  • Soft tissue damage
  • Road rash
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Fractures (minor or compound)
  • Facial injuries

What to Do After an Unsafe Left Turn Motorcycle Accident

If the driver of a vehicle attempted to turn left in front of you and ended up causing an accident, you should know what to do so you can recover damages. The steps you take will determine if you are entitled to compensation and how much compensation you should get. Here is what you should do:

  • Report the incident to law enforcement officers. The police will come to investigate the accident scene and compile an official report that can be useful when filing your claim or lawsuit. You will also have to file a report with the police, giving them your account of events before and after the accident.
  • Get immediate medical attention. Accept medical care while at the accident scene and get follow-up care as required.
  • Follow all the instructions your doctor gives you. Don’t resume your work or regular activities before you have medical clearance to do so.
  • Exchange both insurance and contact information with the motorist that caused the accident
  • Don’t admit or discuss fault with the motorist or any eyewitness.
  • Note down the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of any witnesses that may have observed the crash.
  • Note down the road and weather conditions at the time of the accident.
  • Take photos of all the vehicles involved in the crash.
  • Reach out to a motorcycle accident personal injury attorney as soon as you can so he/she can tell you the next legal step you can take.

Insurance Claims and Personal Injury Suits

In an unsafe left-turn motorcycle crash, a motorist has breached your right of way. His/her negligence has caused property damage and severe injury. The driver can be held criminally liable and might face jail time, fines, or suspension of their driving privilege. However, none of these will help you recover financially or physically from the accident. The ideal way to ensure you heal in the best way possible is by making a motorcycle crash compensation claim.

The law permits you to seek to recover damages from the at-fault party. Apart from filing an insurance claim with your provider, you can also bring a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If the liable party’s insurance provider does not cover all your expenses, you can bring a personal injury lawsuit in court. This way, you may get the financial compensation you deserve, which may enable you to receive the medical treatment and attention you need.

Problems Associated With Left-Hand Turn Motorcycle Collision Insurance Claims

Several issues are associated with insurance claims involving left-hand turn motorcycle collisions. Firstly, even if there’s a traffic accident report, showing that the car driver was to blame, that traffic crash report is considered hearsay. In fact, it can’t be admitted as proof to show the driver’s fault. Additionally, the insurance provider also doesn’t need to consider it as proof of liability.

Secondly, the insurance company attorneys, not having to consider the traffic crash report, will try to blame you. They may claim you were not attentive or that you were not riding at a safe speed at the time of the collision. Alternatively, they may claim you ought to have yielded.

The insurance companies may have endless excuses. They could also claim that you were not wearing clothes that were bright enough or any other thing that will deny you compensation. Therefore, they might argue that you are to blame instead of the car driver. When this happens, apart from worrying about getting custom motorcycle parts to fix your motorcycle, now you’ll need to prove that it wasn’t your fault.

Determining Liability in Unsafe Left Turn Motorcycle Crashes

Liability in a left-hand turn motorcycle accident is determined by proving the negligence of the at-fault party. Negligence is a word used to portray behavior that causes an unreasonable danger of harm to other people. To prove that the defendant was negligent, you must show that:

  • He/she owed you a duty of care. That is, reasonable care for your safety)
  • He/she breached that duty (i.e., they were reckless, speeding, or drunk)
  • His/her violation of the duty significantly contributed to the accident
  • You suffered injuries, damages, and losses, for which you are claiming damages

In most cases, it is the driver who gets to be blamed in unsafe left-hand turn motorcycle accidents. But in other cases, both you and the driver can be partly accountable for causing the accident. For example, according to the comparative negligence law, a person can contribute to a negligent act or be comparatively negligent for their injuries. 

A motorcyclist can be blamed for causing an unsafe left turn crash in a situation where they overtake a larger auto in the same travel lane, which could obstruct them from an oncoming automobile that’s making a left turn. In this case, the other driver usually lacks adequate time to react and complete the turn safely. This will make the vehicle to create a steel wall, ejecting the motorcyclist from their motorcycle. The rider may be considered to have been reckless to the point of causing the crash. 

Note that even if you are partly to blame, you can still recover damages. However, your damages will be lowered by your percentage of liability. Let’s look at this scenario. Suppose you were 20% to blame for causing the crash, and your damages are worth $20000. In this case, you will only receive $16000 after 20% has been subtracted from your total damages.

Damages You Can Recover in a Left-Turn Motorcycle Accident

If your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit is successful, you can recover several damages that can help you get back on your feet. You will be compensated for:

  • Lost income
  • Past, present, & future medical cost. Including ER bill, ambulance costs, costs of prescription medication, physical therapy, surgeries, etc.
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain & suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Expenses related to home medication to take are of disability
  • Loss of companionship and consortium (for spouse)
  • Compensation of wrongful death (for family members if the victim dies)
  • Legal fee and costs
  • Property replacement/repair costs
  • Out-of-pocket expenses

Find a Motorcycle Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Motorcycle accidents are among the most common types of accidents between cars and motorcycles, but unsafe left-turn motorcycle accidents are among the most fatal accidents. Even though these collisions are considered offenses in certain cases, you cannot depend on the criminal justice system to get you the financial compensation you deserve after involvement in an accident. That’s why you will still need a skilled motorcycle crash lawyer by your side to fight for your compensation. Choosing San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm to help you fight for fair compensation will not leave you with any regrets at all. We have a vast network of medical doctors, accident reconstruction experts, and other experts that can establish fault and make a compelling case. Call us today at 619-478-4059 for a free consultation about your case.

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