Determining Fault in a Left-turn Car Accident

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on January 12, 2022

On January 3rd, a car crashed into a large commercial truck that was turning left at the intersection of Pinebush Rd and High Ridge Ct. in Cambridge.  The car was severely damaged and the car’s 31-year-old driver suffered serious injuries and was transported to hospital.  It is expected that charges will be laid against one of the drivers.

Car accidents involving vehicles making a left-hand turn are unfortunately fairly common and it’s important to understand your responsibilities in these situations.

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident involving a left-turn situation, your actions and liability will be assessed on the basis of whether or not they meet the standard of care of a reasonably prudent driver. Both the driver making the left turn and any oncoming drivers are expected to take reasonable care to avoid an accident, which includes driving at a safe speed so that you are able to come to a safe stop when needed.

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act (HTA), s. 142(1) states,

The driver or operator of a vehicle upon a highway before turning to the left or right at any intersection or into a private road or driveway or from one lane for traffic to another lane for traffic or to leave the roadway shall first see that the movement can be made in safety, and if the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by the movement shall give a signal plainly visible to the driver or operator of the other vehicle of the intention to make the movement.

Before commencing to make a left turn, a driver is clearly obligated to make certain that they can complete the turn safely.  Making a safe left turn requires that a driver signals the turn at a reasonable distance before making it, so that other drivers have sufficient time to adjust their actions accordingly.  Persons turning left are also expected to check for, and be aware of, any other vehicles or barriers that are within their range of view and can be clearly seen.

The Highway Traffic Act, s. 141(5) further states that no driver or operator of a vehicle in an intersection shall turn left across the path of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction unless he or she has afforded a reasonable opportunity to the driver or operator of the approaching vehicle to avoid a collision.    

However, in Nowakowski v. Mroczkowski Estate (2003), Justice Cameron found that it would be unfair and unrealistic to expect a driver who fully complied with the HTA s.141(5) to yield the right of way to an oncoming car that wasn’t visible at the start of the left turn.  Accordingly, the judge in this case decided that the driver of the left-turning car was not negligent because the curve in the road, as well as bushes and other vegetation, prevented him from seeing the oncoming car when he began his left turn.

This doesn’t mean that drivers can’t be held responsible for seeing any objects that are not clearly visible at the time of their driving action.  For example, in Younes v. Nikzad (2010), the defendant driver was found negligent after he decided to turn left on a busy Toronto street while his sightlines were obstructed by stopped traffic, rather than waiting until he could be sure that there was no oncoming traffic and it was safe to do so.

The circumstances of the accident, including the geographical aspects of the location, clearly have a bearing on whether a driver’s actions were prudent and reasonable at the time of the collision.   If you were hurt in a car crash arising from a driver’s negligence, talk to a knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your community to learn about your legal rights to compensation.

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