Is the Car Making a Left-Hand Turn Always at Fault?

by John McKiggan

Car Accident

The short answer is no. The long answer is that generally speaking left-turning vehicles must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. However, that doesn’t mean they are automatically at fault and every accident must be examined on it’s own facts and a determination made as to who “caused” the collision.

There is a common misunderstanding that if you were making a left turn you are automatically at fault for the accident.  However, liability will depend on the right of way, the speed of the vehicles, the duties of each driver, and what a reasonable and prudent driver would have done in the same situation.

The Left-Hand Turn Rules in Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the Motor Vehicle Act sets out the statutory requirements and rules of the road.

A more “reader-friendly” version of the rules of the road can be found in the Nova Scotia Driver’s Handbook. First and foremost, traffic signs, traffic lights, and pavement markings must be followed by all vehicles and pedestrians.

A green signal means that, when it is safe, you may go unless otherwise directed by a traffic sign or a peace officer. You must yield the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalk including persons on wheelchairs. You must also yield to other vehicles in the intersection or approaching so closely as to be an immediate hazard. For vehicles turning left at a green signal light, you must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles and any pedestrians that may be in your path.

A yellow or amber signal light means that you must stop before entering the intersection if you can stop safely.

A red signal light means that all traffic facing this signal must stop at the place marked or at the nearest side of the crosswalk.

If the traffic signal lights are not working, drivers should treat the intersection as a multi-stop Come to a full stop, then proceed when you have the right of way and it is safe to do so.

When is it alright to turn left at a red light?

It is illegal to make a left turn on a red light, except for left turns at a red light from a one-way street to another one-way street.

Turning left at an intersection

Section 122 of the Motor Vehicle Act states:

Right of way or left turn at intersection 122 (1) The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield the right of way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection, and when two vehicles enter an intersection at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield to the driver on the right.

So when two facing vehicles approach an intersection at the same time, both drivers can move straight ahead or turn right. But if one driver is going straight while the other wants to turn left, the driver who wants to turn left must yield the right of way and wait until the turn can be made safely. 

Under what circumstances would a left-turning vehicle not be at fault?

Wrongful Overtaking

On highways with two or more substantially continuous lanes, you may pass another vehicle from the right or left, however, you must pass another vehicle on the right if that vehicle is making a left turn.

So if you have stopped (or slowed) and signaled to make a left turn onto another street or into your driveway and someone attempts to pass you on the left side, they will likely be deemed to be at fault.

Unexpected Circumstances

Sometimes things happen that just cannot be predicted or anticipated. In the event of an unexpected circumstance that causes a car turning left to cause an accident such as a pedestrian falling into the path of the turning vehicle, or if a third-party vehicle causes the left-turning driver to swerve in order to avoid an imminent accident, the court may rule that the fault will be fully on the third party driver, or at least only partially the turning driver’s fault.

Other driver was negligent or violated the law

A driver turning left will not be at fault if an accident occurs when they had the right of way. For example, if a driver is turning left at a green left turn light and another driver runs a red light and collides into the car making a right turn, the driver that ran the red light is at fault. 

Nova Scotia’s Contributory Negligence Law

When making claims for compensation for accidents that cause damage or injury, the courts of Nova Scotia have legislation that governs such cases called contributory negligence. This simply means that any driver can be proportioned fault from 0% to 100%. The Contributory Negligence Act of Nova Scotia states that where the fault of two or more persons damage or loss is caused to one or more of them, the liability to make good the damage or loss is in proportion to the degree in which each person was at fault. 

If it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, then liability is shared equally.

Have more questions?

Proving fault in a traffic accident can be a complicated matter. If you are being blamed for causing an accident it makes sense to get legal advice from an experienced car accident lawyer. With the proper advice, you stand a greater chance of being compensated for your injuries or damage to property after an accident.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an automobile collision or truck accident while making a left turn on a roadway, McKiggan Hebert is here to help. The personal injury lawyers at the law firm of McKiggan Hebert represent auto and truck accident victims to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. 
Contact us today by calling (877) 423-2050 or filling out a contact form to schedule a free case evaluation to determine if we can help. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain in requesting a free consultation.

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