Left Turn Crashes and Fault

Turning left into intersection accident fault

You see the intersection ahead is clear of traffic and you have the green light. You scan for cars that might try to beat the light, make sure there are no pedestrians or cyclists in the intersection. And just as you enter the intersection, a car facing you decides to turn left right in front of you. If you are fortunate, all you face is a frightening near miss. Somewhat less fortunate and you face some property damage. But it can be worse; much worse.

I know, because I was that victim of a left turning vehicle. Destroyed my car and had me leaving the scene on a backboard in an ambulance. I followed up with several other blogs including: the aftermath, what's taking so long, taking even longer, still so long continued, and a resolution.

Besides, as a cyclist, I see first-hand daily how many times people decide to make left turns in front of other traffic. The near misses have become so frequent as to be an expected part of my ride.

Left Turn Cases - The Law

(625 ILCS 5/11-902) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-902)
Sec. 11-902. Vehicle turning left. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but said driver, having so yielded may proceed at such time as a safe interval occurs.
(Source: P.A. 76-1586.)

This means that you cannot make a left turn until you have a clear path and the right of way. Just because you want to turn left does not make it safe, or legal, to do so! The left turning vehicle must yield to all other vehicles and pedestrians.

Why Do People Consistently Make Left Turns Before It is Safe To Do So?

My laundry list includes:

  • They’re in a hurry
  • They are distracted by mobile devices or other technology
  • They don’t know the law and feel if they can “make it,” why not?
  • The other vehicles coming toward them have brakes, why can’t they stop in time?
  • “Oh, I didn’t see you.”
  • Bikes need to wait for cars.

The sad fact is, many people make left turns in front of oncoming traffic without giving it a second thought. It is almost as if drivers have adopted the assumption that it’s not their problem.

Why Does It Matter?

If you are the operator of a motor vehicle that strikes another while you make a left turn, you are almost certainly going to be held at fault.

Illinois has a Comparative Negligence Statute. This means that if you are more than 50% at fault for your own injuries, you do not collect anything. Further, if you are less than 50% at fault, your recovery will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Meaning if you make a left turn in front of another vehicle before it was safe to do so and you get injured, you might not be able to collect a dime for your injuries.

It also means that if you are the left turner, you will likely have to pay for the damages experienced by any other vehicles and their occupants. If you have insurance that is at the state minimum amount of $25,000 per person per incident and $50,000 per incident, you can easily be left with your personal assets at stake!

Many times, a left turning vehicle will only “look” at the lane closest to the first lane it must cross. This is very dangerous. Always make certain that all oncoming lanes are clear before you turn. I cannot tell you how many cases I’ve handled where the left turning vehicle hit my client going straight in the curb lane and claimed they “didn’t see them.” They didn’t see them because they didn’t look at that lane, or they only looked to beat the oncoming traffic in the nearest lane.

What If…

What if you turn left when there are no vehicles coming toward you but you immediately turn right into a pedestrian or bicycle on the street you turned onto and strike them?

You would be at fault for failing to keep a proper lookout. You are responsible not just to ensure that it is safe to make the left turn but also that it is safe to continue on with your turn.

Always look “through” your turn beforehand to visualize any potential objects, people, barriers, or other traffic that you might hit as you complete your turn.


  • The law on left turns says you must make sure it is clear and safe and that you have the right of way before beginning your turn!
  • In our increasingly distracted society, “keeping a safe lookout” seems to be more an inconvenience than the law.
  • Always check for oncoming traffic in all lanes before beginning your turn.
  • Always scan through your turn for pedestrians, dogs, bicycles, or other traffic in your anticipated path.
  • As always, make sure you have insurance paid up and in maximum amounts, just in case you do make a mistake in judgment.
  • If you are the victim of a left turning vehicle and are injured, make a police report, get necessary medical treatment immediately, and contact an injury lawyer.
  • How auto and homeowner’s insurance may compensate you

Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman

As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a personal injury lawyer.

If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He has been named a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited.

Stephen handles personal injury and workers' compensation claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything upfront and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day, contact Stephen now.

Categories: General