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Fairbanks, Alaska

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Ward Merdes
Ward Merdes
Attorney • (866) 452-3741

Turn Left – You Lose… Maybe

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A left turn in a wreck isn’t always the cause. Common sense controls. Don’t listen to insurance carriers.

Alaska’s Administrative Code 13 AAC 02.125 addresses vehicle turning left, usually across traffic. It provides: “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” This means that in almost every case where an automobile wreck occurs, and one party was turning left, that party is at fault. Period. The police will ticket the party turning left.

Remember, a traffic ticket is not admissible at trial. Thus, whatever a police officer thinks of the parties’ respective fault, the jury will not know who was ticketed. At the same time, a ticket will go far toward convincing an insurance adjuster to pay (or not pay) a claim. The tension arises when a party is turning left – but the on-coming car is going too fast for conditions. Who is at fault then?

The answer is … let the jury decide. I recently accepted an automobile wreck case where my client was turning left at the time of the crash. My client was ticketed. Other attorneys laughed, having turned down the case. Each attorney said I was “ill-advised” [a lawyer-word for “stupid”] because I took the case.

Yet, I won. How do you suppose that happened?

As with Paul Harvey, the key is always “the rest of the story.” It turns out that the defendant, who was actually making a claim against my client, was speeding at the time of the crash. Not only was the defendant speeding … a lot … he was coming around a blind curve. Once we got our accident reconstructionist on the scene, it became abundantly clear that our client was being absolutely reasonable – and the other driver was absolutely wrong. In short, our client was trapped by the on-coming driver.

Yet, the other driver’s insurance carrier refused to pay a dime repeating: “Your client was turning left. He must have been violating 13 AAC 02.125 – it’s 100% your client’s fault.” And, “Your client was ticketed. Even the police think that your client was at fault.”

The jury disagreed. Justice was done by the jury. My client was awarded his: (1) medical bills; (2) lost wages; and the largest portion (3) pain/suffering for his injuries.

Sometimes I think that insurance carriers don’t waste money training their adjusters to think. In many cases, adjuster training seems to stop with teaching them the word: “No.” It’s amazing.

Anyway, the bottom line is DON’T LISTEN TO INSURANCE COMPANIES. They will tell you you’re wrong. They will tell you “in our experience.” They will tell you anything to keep their money. Instead, use your head. Think it through and hire an attorney who will do the footwork. Trust a jury to do the right thing – and justice can still be had in America.