Under Washington law, a driver intending to turn left at an intersection must yield to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or close enough to be an immediate hazard. This rule seems fairly straightforward and suggests that the vehicle turning left will usually be at fault in an accident in an intersection. Seattle car accident attorneys know, however, that the law is not that simple, and the facts of a particular accident may mean that the driver of the vehicle turning left is not liable for the accident.
A recent case illustrates how the driver turning left is not always found to be at fault. In this case, the plaintiff was on a motorcycle in the curbside lane traveling south. This lane was a right-turn-only lane for vehicles other than buses. There were a total of three southbound lanes.
The defendant was traveling north. When the defendant reached the intersection, there was traffic in the two southbound through lanes, but they had left a gap for vehicles to turn left. The defendant entered the intersection to make her left turn. As she was making the turn, she saw the plaintiff in the curb lane. She stopped in front of the southbound through lanes, before reaching the curb lane.