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Turning left is one of the most dangerous traffic maneuvers that the driver of a motor vehicle can make. His or her brain is required to process information as to the color of any traffic light that might be in place, when it might change color, any oncoming traffic and the speed of that traffic.

That fact pattern

Aside from bicyclists losing control of their bikes and falling, motorists turning left in front of a bicyclist are the most common causes of bicycle accidents and serious injuries. The usual fact pattern is that the motorist and bicyclist are approaching an intersection from opposite directions. Then the motorist fails to yield the right-of-way to the bicyclist. He or she turns left in front of the bike, and a collision occurs. Whether the motorist is trying to beat a traffic gap, beat a light, or is distracted, drunk, high or simply indifferent, a left turn accident with a bicyclist can cause severe injuries to, or even kill a bicyclist.

Making the fault determination

If you were injured in a California bicycle accident by a motor vehicle that was turning left, it’s likely that the driver of that vehicle can be held liable for the damages that you suffered. A study performed in Long Beach involving bicycle accidents in traffic concluded that 63 percent of all crashes that were caused by a motorist’s failure to yield the right-of-way, turning or both. Determining fault in a left-turn accident can get cloudy though. It depends on how both the motorist and bicyclist acted or failed to act. If the bicyclist was using due care and caution and was following all rules of the road, 100 percent liability for the accident might be attributed to the motorist. Sometimes though, a percentage of the fault for the accident might be attributable to the bicyclist.

Comparative negligence in California

If a percentage of fault for the accident is attributable to the bicyclist, that percentage will be deducted from his or her total damages award. For example, if the cyclist is determined to be 20 percent at fault for an accident, and he or she was awarded $100,000, the net award would be $80,000. That’s known as the law of comparative negligence.

Pure comparative negligence

On the issue of comparative negligence, most states are known as modified comparative negligence states. Depending on what state the claimant is in, if he or she was 50 or 51 percent at fault for an accident, no recovery would be available. California is known as a pure comparative state. If the claimant is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident, he or she can still be awarded damages.


Given the nature of these accidents, the resulting injuries can be severe or even fatal. The injuries could consist of:

  • Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Multiple extremity fractures
  • Facial fractures and severe dental injuries
  • Organ damage
  • Cuts, abrasions and contusions
  • Severe road rash and infection
  • Nerve damage

Contact a Bicycle Accident Personal Injury Lawyer Today

We are the only injury law firm in Northern California specializing exclusively in representing cyclists. In many cases we can help injured cyclists obtain significantly more compensation for their injuries than they would receive without having an experienced bicycle accident lawyer represent them.
We work exclusively with injured cyclists in northern California. If you were injured in Davis, Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco or anywhere in northern California and were injured by someone making a left hand turn, contact us today.
If you were a bicyclist who was injured by a motorist who turned left in front of you, and you suffered damages like medical bills, lost earnings, permanent scarring or disability, pain, suffering and permanency, you’re probably eligible for significant compensation for those damages. Don’t give a written or recorded statement to the opposing insurer. It will only try to use your own words against you in the future. You’ll want to contact us right away to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation. Anything that you say to us is protected and privileged. We’ll listen carefully to your side of the story, and then we’ll tell you what we think we might be able to do for you. No matter how careful that you are on a bike, somebody is going to be careless and turn left in front of you. Be prepared for that. If there’s a crash, and you’re injured, contact us right away.