Left Turn Accidents – Pennsylvania Law – Who is at fault?

One of the most serious car accidents in the Philadelphia area is left hand turns. Left hand turn accidents happen when the driver fails to yield and turns left into traffic traveling straight. These crashes often result in a T-bone impact where the left turning vehicle slams into the middle of the other vehicle. These accidents may lead to devastating injuries and sometimes death.  A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on crash factors in intersection-related accidents revealed that turning left was the leading event in intersection crashes, with a left hand turn being blamed on almost 1 out of every 4 of these type intersection crashes.

Learn more about this serious type of car accident below.

Liability in Left Hand Turn Accident in Philadelphia

Fault usually lies with the left turning driver, if the traffic signal allowed the straight ahead traffic to continue through the intersection. For instance, assume Driver 1 is waiting at the stop light to turn left. The driver fails to see Driver 2 with the green light driving straight through the intersection. Driver 1 hits Driver 2 in the intersection. It is clear that Driver 1 is negligent.

However, cases exist where the left turning driver is not negligent and not responsible for the accident. An example is where a four way stop sign controls the intersection. The driver coming straight ahead could violate a traffic law by not stopping at the stop sign and be liable in a left turn accident here.

For example, Driver 1 approaches the intersection with four stop signs for all lanes. Driver 1 signals a left turn and starts to do so after stopping. Driver 2 approaches the intersection, but is distracted by a cell phone. He fails to stop and hits Driver 1 while making the turn. Driver 2 is liable in this situation.

What Pennsylvania Law Says

The rules of the road are contained in Pennsylvania Vehicle Code Chapter 33. The most common ways fault is assessed in a left hand turn accident are detailed in Sections 3321, 3322, and 3324:

  • Drivers making a left hand turn must get into the extreme left-hand lane that is available (you cannot make a left hand turn from the middle lane if a left lane is available).
  • Drivers turning left at an intersection have to yield to drivers who approach from the other direction. This means that the person making the left hand turn is usually the party held responsible or negligent for the accident.  This obligation to yield the right of way also includes turning left into a driveway, private road or alley.
  • Drivers turning must use their turn signal.  At speeds of less than 35 miles per hour, the driver must put on their turn signal continuously for at least 100 feet before the turn.  The turn signal must be given at least 300 feet or more at speeds in excess of 35 miles per hour.

Exception when the driver making the left hand turn is not responsible or negligent.


  • No oncoming driver in view.  A driver may make a left hand turn if he or she is justified in believing that he or she can turn safely ahead of the approaching vehicle with no danger of collision.  For example, if the driver does not see anyone coming from the opposite direction because of the design of the road or bad weather, there is also an obligation on the part of the driver from the opposite direction to proceed with caution.

  • Speeding from the oncoming vehicle causes the accident.  If a left hand turn is made but a speeding driver who was a long distance away causes the collision, the driver having the right of way may be negligent.  The driver who has the right of way going straight must operate their car at a speed that allows him or her to stop within a clear distance ahead. A Pennsylvania court held that a driver making a left hand turn has the right to assume that a driver out of the range of vision and coming from the opposite direction will obey the speed limit.

Financial Compensation for Personal Injuries

If you are injured in a left hand turn crash in Pennsylvania, you may be entitled to financial compensation, if another driver caused the accident. For most state residents, your PIP or personal injury protection coverage pays your medical costs and lost earnings up to at least $5000. You also may sue the other driver for your losses above your PIP policy limits.

Contact a Philadelphia personal injury attorney today to assist you with filing a legal claim for your left hand turn accident.