Who is at Fault in a Left Turn Collision in an Intersection?

In a left turn situation, if a collision occurs at an intersection where there is a traffic light, which driver is liable in Vancouver B.C.?

It depends upon the colour of the traffic light. If the light is green for both drivers, in almost every case the left turning driver will be found liable. In another situation, if the left turning driver entered the intersection while the light was green and waited for traffic to clear until the light was red, that driver making the left turn may do so and any driver running the red light would be liable for the accident.

It is more difficult to decide the case when the light is yellow. If the left turning vehicle enters the intersection when the light is green then waits for the light to turn yellow before starting to turn, the likely result if the light turned yellow for the straight through vehicle once that vehicle was past the ‘point of no return’, the left turning vehicle would be at fault for the accident. On the other hand, if the straight through driver was sufficiently far back when the light turned yellow, that he or she could have stopped, the likely result will be that the straight through driver will be found liable for the accident.

This is because the Motor Vehicle Act states:

128 (1) When a yellow light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal, following the exhibition of a green light,

(a) the driver of a vehicle approaching the intersection and facing the yellow light must cause it to stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made in safety….”

In the case of Kokkinis v. Hall, the Court of Appeal said:

To say that the plaintiff can be found at fault because she relied on the assumption that Mr. Hall would stop, and because she checked cross-traffic, would in my view subvert the duty on Mr. Hall to bring his vehicle to a safe stop at the amber light as the other traffic did. An amber light is not…a signal to accelerate or to pass traffic that is slowing to a stop.

Every case turns on its fact and slight differences in the fact can make a big difference. For example, if the left turning vehicle entered the intersection on a yellow light, then the left turning vehicle may not have been legally in the intersection and a different result may follow. Also, in situations like this, there is often more than one version of the accident. The drivers involved may not agree on what colour the light was. The cases above are merely examples. For your specific case or car accident in Vancouver, you should contact Taylor & Blair LLP Personal Injury Lawyers.

Kevin Blair &
Graham Taylor

Taylor & Blair LLP
Personal Injury lawyers
1607 – 805 West Broadway
Vancouver, B.C.