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Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP

Are U-Turns Illegal and Cause for Lawsuits in a Car Accident?

The critical injuries suffered by a 2-month-old child in a U-turn car accident on Long Island in December raise questions about the legality of U-turns and justice for those injured by such risky driving. New York residents will remember the deaths of four women in a U-turn accident on Long Island for which their limousine driver was charged with negligent homicide in 2016.

A U-turn – typically a sweeping turn made to allow a vehicle to proceed in the opposite direction – creates an obvious risk if executed across lanes of traffic. Vehicles traveling in any direction are at some point in opposition to a car that is in the middle of a U-turn. A driver who executes a U-turn carelessly or causes an accident may be held accountable in a civil proceeding, as well as potentially face criminal charges.

The experienced legal team at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, on Long Island can provide you with assistance if you have been injured in a U-turn car accident. If another driver’s negligence or carelessness led to the accident and your injuries, then you may be entitled to pursue compensation for your out-of-pocket expenses and losses.

When Are U-Turns Illegal in New York?

A U-turn is allowed in many places in New York or New York City, but there are posted intersections and locations in NYC where it is illegal to make a U-turn. That can cause confusion. Provided that it is allowed, you can make a U-turn in New York when you have a green left-turn arrow to proceed and you yield to other traffic.

The N.Y. Department of Motor Vehicles’ driver’s manual advises: 

Do not try a U-turn on a highway unless absolutely necessary. If you must turn around, use a parking lot, driveway or other area and, if possible, enter the roadway as you move forward, not backing up.

Do not attempt a U-turn anywhere that other drivers cannot see your vehicle from 500 feet away in either direction, such as near a curve or the top of a hill.

It is expressly illegal to make a U-turn:

  • In New York City business districts
  • In school zones
  • On limited-access expressways
  • Anywhere a sign says U-turns are prohibited.

Who Is at Fault in An Accident Involving A U-Turn?

The hazards a driver creates when attempting a U-turn are easy to understand. The car slows in traffic and may need to stop if the driver misjudges the width of the turning space. A driver in a U-turn might have to back up in a lane of traffic after stopping mid-turn. Any of these actions – slowing down, coming to an unexpected stop or traveling in reverse in traffic – could cause an accident.

An illegal U-turn where oncoming traffic cannot see the turning vehicle could easily lead to a collision. For example, as the vehicle making a U-turn crosses the oncoming lanes, another vehicle could hit it broadside. Because each side of the car – front to back – is exposed to oncoming traffic at some point in a U-turn, head-on collisions and rear-end accidents can occur, as well.

The New York driver’s manual suggests that, unless prohibited, a three-point turn can be used to turn around on a narrow street. However, a three-point turn poses the same risks as a U-turn if the driver does not execute it safely.

After a car accident, our attorneys review police reports and other evidence, including witness statements, to determine who was at fault. In urban areas of New York, surveillance cameras often record car accidents as they happen. This footage can be obtained by our law firm if sought soon enough after the crash.

When investigating U-turn injury cases, we would look for evidence to support a claim that:

  • The U-turn was made illegally, or
  • The U-turn was not made safely, and/or
  • Other factors, such as intoxication or distraction, contributed to the U-turn accident.

The driver responsible for your injuries in a U-turn accident may be held accountable for your losses, even if you were partially at fault. Determining fault in a car accident is often complicated and evidence can be lost. It is to your benefit to contact an experienced Long Island car accident attorney to investigate your case as soon as possible.

Compensation for Injuries Suffered in a U-Turn Collision

The impact of a U-turn accident can cause a variety of injuries. In a motor vehicle collision, drivers and passengers are jolted by the initial impact and slammed against the structure of the vehicle, airbags and/or each other. Loose cargo can be thrown into occupants of the vehicle. In some high-speed crashes, a car rolls over and/or occupants are ejected from the vehicle and suffer additional impact injuries or crushing injuries.

Common car accident injuries include:

Medical care is expensive. The costs of hospital care and rehabilitation after a severe injury are the biggest part of many car accident claims. Insurance companies often balk at full payouts for car accident claims involving serious injuries. If possible, they will try to deny their policyholder’s responsibility or the validity of the claim itself. It is best to seek legal guidance from the start of the accident claim process so you do not mistakenly say something to an insurance company representative that they can used to undermine your claim.

In a personal injury lawsuit, New York law allows the injured to seek economic and non-economic compensatory damages for their losses and, in some cases, punitive damages for the defendant’s egregious conduct.

Economic compensatory damages include money for:

  • Medical bills (past, current and future).
  • Property damage (to a vehicle, typically).
  • Lost income, including future losses due to lost earning capacity.

Non-economic compensatory damages may be awarded if the car accident victim has suffered a serious injury as defined in New York State Insurance Law § 5102. Non-economic damages are available for:

  • Fractures
  • Dismemberment
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Loss of the use of a body organ
  • Significant limitation of use of a body function or system.

A jury may award punitive damages if the at-fault driver’s actions equate to gross negligence or reckless disregard for human life. Punitive damages are usually a multiple of the amount awarded as compensatory damages.

Call a Long Island Car Accident Lawyer After a U-Turn Crash

If someone else’s unsafe decision to make a U-turn in New York left you with injuries that required hospitalization, contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP today for a free consultation about a personal injury claim. Let us explain how our U-turn accident attorneys would work to help you seek full compensation for the harm somebody else’s negligence has caused you. Call us at 866-878-6774 or contact us online complete our contact form now. 

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