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In driver’s ed, we learn the rules of the road. We learn when to use our turn signal and what to do in slippery conditions. We learn when you have to use your headlights even when it’s daytime, and when you can turn right on red. Probably the most important concept we learn as young drivers is “Right of Way:” who gets to go when at an intersection.

It seems basic enough- whoever got there first at a stop sign, the person the right if it’s the same time, whoever has the green light at intersection with traffic signals. It’s all so basic and second nature to anyone who’s been driving for a long time.

By the time we reach the age of 25, Right of Way seem like an indisputable concept. Whoever has it can go, whoever doesn’t shouldn’t. When accidents happen, it’s natural and easy to assume that the person who did not have the right of way was definitely at fault. Unfortunately, accidents are not that simple.

Fault determinations are based on the legal theory of negligence. It’s not enough to have had the right-of-way at the time of the accident. The driver at fault is the driver that did not use reasonable care to avoid avoidable accidents. As a result, even if you had the right-of-way, if you could have avoided an accident but did not, you can still be at fault.

Multiple factors come into play, but the most basic situation like this happens far too often:
A car is waiting to turn left at a green light, sees traffic clear up and nearly makes the left turn when a car going the speed limit clips the turning car in the rear.

Logic might say the turning car must be at fault- it did not have the right-of-way and should have waited til it definitely could have made the turn without causing the accident. Believe me, we all understand that position. But the other car, as you can probably guess, is actually at fault. By just slowing down a little, the accident could have been avoided.

There are certainly facts that can change this outcome- maybe the car did slow down considerably and the turning car stalled. Maybe the turning car tried to zip through the intersection when there was never a chance that it would make it. An insurance company will take all of these factors into account when determining liability in the claim. The answers, however, are never as simple as we believe them to be based on what we learned in driver’s ed. Even when you have the right-of-way, always be diligent to avoid all accidents whenever possible.

Unfortunately, of course, not all accidents can be avoided. If you find yourself in a situation where you drove as carefully as possible but still ended up hurt, the experienced staff and attorneys at Daniel L. Jacobs Jr. LLC are available to help. Call today for a free consultation.


Attorney Jacobs believes that everyone deserves a lawyer and always strives to achieve the best available legal outcomes for his clients. Attorney Jacobs cannot make promises as to what legal outcome he will be able to achieve for his clients; however, Attorney Jacobs can promise you that the care and concern he will show for you and your legal needs will be second to none. If you sustained a personal injury, the law firm of Daniel L. Jacobs Jr. LLC and Attorney Jacobs are here to assist you.


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