Identifying Who Had the Right-of-Way in a Car Accident

Identifying Who Had the Right-of-Way in a Car Accident

One important factor to consider when determining fault in a car accident is which driver had the right-of-way. The right-of-way is a term that identifies which driver may proceed, and which should yield. This principle applies to stops, turns, and merging, and can help traffic flow more smoothly. Traffic signs, signals, and road markings can indicate the right-of-way, but there are also rules of the road that can dictate who must yield.

Right-of-Way Rules

There are a few general rules that govern who has the right-of-way while driving. These rules address different situations and can be used to guide drivers’ decisions about proceeding or yielding.

  • Controlled intersections: These intersections have lights or traffic signs dictating how to approach the intersection. Drivers must always obey these signals, and failure to do so can leave you at fault for an accident.
  • Uncontrolled intersections: Drivers should yield to drivers who are already at the intersection. If two cars arrive at the same time, then the car to the right has the right to proceed.
  • Multiple-lane intersections: When a larger street with more lanes intersects with a smaller street, the drivers on the larger road have the right-of-way.
  • T-intersections: If a road dead-ends into another street, the driver of the dead-end street should yield to drivers on the other road.
  • Highway on-ramps: When merging with the flow of traffic on a highway, the drivers already on the highway have the right of way, and drivers who are entering the freeway must yield to them.
  • Highway off-ramps: When exiting a highway, the drivers on the ramp must yield to the drivers on the street they are exiting onto.
  • At a malfunctioning traffic light: Sometimes traffic lights go out or are set to flash red while maintenance is occurring. In these cases, drivers should treat the light as a 4-way stop. Drivers should stop fully at the intersection, look both ways, and proceed when it’s their turn.

If you are uncertain of you have the right-of-way, assume you do not. Other drivers may fail to yield or take the right-of-way, so it is important to be mindful that you watch for other cars when merging or navigating an intersection.

Right-of-Way & Accident Liability

After a car accident, each party will try to demonstrate that they are not to blame for the accident. Right-of-way can be a strong indicator of who is liable for an accident. If a driver proceeding straight through an intersection with a green light hits another driver making an unprotected left turn, the driver who made the turn may be held liable for the accident, even though they were the one who was hit. The car proceeding straight was the vehicle with the right-of-way.

Kentucky has Pure Comparative Negligence laws, which allow the driver who was not at-fault to still be held responsible for their share of fault in the accident. The drivers are each responsible for their share of fault in the settlement. If one driver is found to be 30% at fault for their accident, they may only receive 70% of the total value of their claim as compensation. Even if you are deemed to be partially at fault for your accident, you may still be able to collect damages for your accident.

Commonly, a police report will be an important piece of information that will be used to assign the liability for the accident to one or both parties. In the police report, the officer should note the direction each driver was traveling at the time of the impact and which driver had the right-of-way. You should be able to obtain a copy of the police report from your insurer.

An experienced Lexington auto accident lawyer can help you investigate your accident and may be able to help you prove you weren’t at fault for the accident. At GoeingGoeing& McQuinn PLLC, we are committed to protecting the rights of our clients and fighting for their best interests.

Contact our offices today for a free case evaluation. Call us at (859) 253-0088.


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