Who is really at fault for the motor vehicle accident? Traffic laws, do we know these?



Does the average driver really understand right of way rules and follow those rules while on the road.

Do you really understand who was at fault in your motor vehicle collision?  Over the years I have seen real confusion over simple rules of the road.  I have effectively cross examined police officers and ranking Missouri Highway Patrol officers who gave traffic infractions to the wrong party in an accident when the other driver was at fault.  We have seen insurance companies rely upon such mistakes to support their denial of liability in claims and suits.

These are some of the most obvious and basis misunderstandings.

1. Example:  You have an intersection collision with another vehicle coming from either the left or the right on the cross street.  Your light is red and their light is green at the time of the accident.  It is commonly believed that the accident is your fault for violating the light signal.  This just may not be true.  More information is necessary.  Why?

According to the law, if you entered the intersection while the light was still yellow and thereafter it turned red, you are legally within the intersection and you have the right of way to clear the entire intersection over all other vehicles.  When another vehicle quickly proceeded into the intersection immediately upon the green causing the collision, it is their violation.  Why?  Because your vehicle, which entered the intersection on the yellow light, was legally within the intersection.  You had the right of way to clear the intersection.  The other driver’s green light did not give him right of way over vehicles or pedestrians legally within the intersection at the time the light changed to green for that driver.  This is based upon section the law at, 304.281 R.S.Mo.  The vehicle that has a light turn green, must wait and yield to all vehicles that already entered on a yellow.

2.  The other often misunderstood rule relates to a vehicle traveling  straight through an unmarked and unregulated intersection.  Such does not have the right of way over a left or right turning or non turning vehicle that arrives at the intersection ahead of their vehicle.  This is true even if their road is the heavier traveled road.  The vehicle that arrives at the intersection first always has the right of way at an unregulated intersection.  This is because there really is no such thing as an unregulated intersection.  The law and the rules of the road regulate the intersection.  It is better to call such an intersection “without physical traffic controls present.”  This applies to parking lots, small side streets and major intersections during power outages when the lights are not operating.  This law is cited at 304.351 R.S.Mo.  If vehicles arrive at approximately at the same time then the standard rules apply so that the vehicle to the right has the right of way unless turning left.  All left turning vehicles must yield under that situation.

See:  304.351R.S.Mo.

“1.The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway, provided, however, there is no form of traffic control at such intersection.

2. When two vehicles enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the driver of the vehicle on the right. This subsection shall not apply to vehicles approaching each other from opposite directions when the driver of one of such vehicles is attempting to or is making a left turn.

3. The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

Finally, Missouri has adopted comparative fault as the law of the land.  Even if you were partially at fault, if the other driver could have avoided the collision by acting as a very careful person would have acted, then the jury may assess fault against that driver as well.

In many cases the fault determination of the investigating police agency have been proven wrong. It is appropriate to obtain a free consultation if there is any doubt regarding who was at fault.

It is the obligation of every driver is to act as a very careful person would act under the same or similar circumstances. Common experience demonstrates that people do not always live up to this high standard. This is why the State of Missouri requires compulsory insurance. We do not usually pursue personal injury cases unless there is insurance available.  If the “at fault” driver failed to comply with the insurance law, then uninsured motor vehicle coverage should be available if you or the operator of the vehicle in which you are traveling has any motor vehicle liability coverage. The bottom line is that you should seek a free legal opinion on the applicability of insurance coverage.


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