Who Is At fault In A Car Accident When A Vehicle Makes A Left-Turn On A Green Light?


Car accidents involving left-turning vehicles on a green light have become a prevalent issue, accounting for more than one-third of recent cases. These accidents can have devastating consequences, including life-threatening injuries and fatalities. However, it is important to note that such accidents are entirely avoidable.

Understanding the Legalities

There is a common misconception that drivers are legally permitted to turn left on a green light. However, it is crucial to understand that a green light, also known as a “green signal,” is different from a green arrow. According to the law, drivers are allowed to turn on a green light or green signal ONLY IF it can be done safely. When making a left turn, vehicles must yield the right-of-way to other vehicles. In simpler terms, if another vehicle is traveling straight through a green light, the driver going straight has the right-of-way.

Florida Statute 316.075 provides specific guidelines stating, “Vehicular traffic facing a circular green signal may proceed cautiously straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either such turn. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.”


In a very common scenario depicted in the image above, where a white car is traveling straight through a green light, the yellow car attempting to make a left turn is at fault despite having a green light.

The Dangers of Turning on a Green Light

Turning on a green light can be extremely dangerous as it requires making several critical judgment calls within a short period of time. Some of these judgment calls include:

  • Calculating the speed of oncoming traffic
  • Ensuring visibility around or through other vehicles also attempting to make left turns from the opposite direction
  • Dealing with pressure from impatient vehicles behind trying to “beat the light”
  • Estimating the time it takes for a green light to turn to yellow, and then to red
  • Accounting for pedestrians crossing the street

Among these factors, limited visibility is considered the primary reason for left-hand turn accidents. Drivers often struggle to have a clear view of oncoming traffic, leading to misjudgments and collisions.

Safety Tips for Left-Hand Turns on Green Lights

To minimize the risks associated with making left-hand turns on green lights, it is essential to follow these safety tips:

  • Signal your intention to turn approximately 100 feet before reaching the point where you plan to make the left-hand turn.
  • Stop your vehicle behind the limit line, ensuring it does not cross or overlap it.
  • When at a complete stop, look to the left, then to the right, and finally to the left once more to check for oncoming traffic.
  • Only proceed with the turn when you are absolutely certain there is no oncoming traffic or other potential hazards, such as pedestrians, that could result in an accident. Do not attempt to see around or through other vehicles.
  • Avoid cutting the corner of the lane where ongoing traffic is present, as this can lead to collisions.

Traffic Citations and Liability

In the event of a car crash where a driver turns left into another lane of traffic, it is crucial to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.

In many cases, the at-fault driver, who turned on a green light, may tell the police that they carefully looked both ways and did not see any oncoming traffic before proceeding into the intersection. They might shift blame to the other driver, accusing them of running the light, speeding, or illegally switching lanes. Due to conflicting stories, the police officer may not issue a citation to the at-fault driver. However, the at-fault driver will be listed as “vehicle 1” on the crash report, as is usual for the responsible party.

It is important to note that the officer’s opinion on the crash report is largely irrelevant. According to Florida Statute §316.075, the driver turning left on a green light is considered at fault and should be held 100% responsible for the crash. In rare cases, the insurance company may apportion liability between the drivers if there is evidence that the driver going straight was traveling at an excessively high speed. Proving such circumstances can be challenging.

An experienced personal injury attorney will fight to ensure that the insurance company assigns 100% liability to the at-fault party. They will also guide you through giving a sworn statement to the insurance adjuster, protecting your rights throughout the process.

Injuries and Consequences

Personal injury attorneys have represented numerous individuals involved in car crashes caused by drivers negligently making left-hand turns into oncoming traffic. These accidents have resulted in severe injuries, with some victims requiring cervical and lumbar fusions and disc replacements. Tragically, there have also been fatalities at the scene of these accidents.

If you find yourself in a crash where someone negligently turns into your lane of travel, it is crucial to seek immediate medical care and contact our office for a free consultation. It is strongly advised not to speak to the insurance company without legal representation, as they may attempt to manipulate your statement to your disadvantage. Let us protect your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.