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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 20490
Experience:  Lawyer. Former judicial law clerk. Worked for District Attorney's Office in Traffic Court.
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CA traffic law Hi, I was recently involved in an accident

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CA traffic law
Hi,

I was recently involved in an accident when leaving an intersection with a very unusual stop sign. On the surface I am going to be considered at fault since I was hit by a vehicle coming through the intersection while I was making a right after stopping at the stop sign.
The item I found different was that this stop sign had two stop bars (lines). On for going straight through the intersection and a second for cars making a right at about 135 degrees to the first. Clearly, if there is a car going straight through and you are making a right the car going straight will clearly obscure your view in making a right.
I decided to do some research on this kind of intersection w/2stop lines (bars) at an angle. Particularly since this is a one lane road coming into this intersection. While there is clearly enough room for most cars to be side in the intersection there are no lines on the road to indicate this what a driver should do. Should the drivers be side by side or should only one car be in front of the stop sign which is what is to be expected with a one lane road coming to a stop sign.
The main point is I have a 10 year spotless driving record w/my insurance co and I want to protect it. After 2 hours of web research I could find no documents regarding this kind of intersection and expected protocols. Since the only damage was to my car it is only my adjuster who can assign blame in this case. I am hoping to avoid blame by saying I did almost nothing wrong in this situation. Why is that? Well because I could not find it on the web, the CA driver’s handbook or anywhere on the web after 2 hours searching that offered any insight into right behavior at this kind of intersection. Therefore since there was no way to find the right way of dealing with this intersection, I could not have been wrong or at fault.

ITEMS for expert;
1. If you know of any educational material regarding this kind of intersection please provide references.
2. What do you think of "I can’t held accountable for wrong behavior if there is no way to learn what right behavior" defense?
3. Please suggest ways to improve this defense.
4. Alternative defenses.

Thanks!
Cheers..Tom
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Traffic Law
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Hi,

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

We have recently implemented a new payment and feedback system. Please be aware that you are rating my courtesy and service as a professional, and not whether the answer supports your legal position. Choosing either of the low two options reflects poorly on me (and not the law), and ensures that I receive no credit for my time in helping you, so please do not choose either of these options without first giving me the opportunity to address your concerns by clicking the "reply" tab. I appreciate your patience while we adjust to the new system.

1. California law treats all intersections the same. When a person sees a stop sign, the law requires that he stop at the designated line if there is one, or before the intersection if there is not, then look to see if it is clear before proceeding. Cal. Veh. Code, Section 22450. If there is anything obstructing the intersection, even another car, which means that the driver cannot see whether it's safe to go, he's expected to sit and wait until he can see, or inch forward carefully. The Driver's Handbook gives an indication of that when discussing how to proceed through an intersection.
http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/right_of_way.htm

2. Unfortunately, it is well established that ignorance of the law is not a defense to a ticket. Traffic offenses are strict liability - that means that it doesn't matter whether someone saw the stop sign or not, or intended to stop, or anything like that. So, in court, that defense won't make a difference. Even if it were allowed, a judge would tell you that, in a situation where you don't know what to do, the thing to do is to slow down as much as possible to ensure that you can proceed safely.

3. The only real defense here is that you stopped at the stop sign, looked, and that it appeared to be safe to proceed. That might help you with the insurance company, because they're assigning fault based on who they believe caused the accident. If there was no possible way to see the oncoming vehicle, and you did everything you possibly good before completing the turn, you might be able to get them to find that you were only partially liable (especially if the other car was speeding or wasn't there when you started to make the turn). As far as a ticket goes, though, the problem is that the fact of the accident can be used as evidence. If a person is in a collision going through the turn, that shows that it wasn't safe to proceed. It's a bit of a Catch-22. That's one reason that it's so very difficult to beat most traffic tickets.

4. I apologize, but I really don't see any defenses in the facts that you've presented. Again, this is a strict liability offense. Either you saw the stop sign, stopped, and waited to proceed until the intersection was clear, or you didn't. These are minor offenses. A conviction doesn't mean that someone is a bad person, or even a bad driver. Mistakes happen. That sometimes means that there are consequences. There's a common perception out in the world that it's really easy to have traffic tickets thrown out. Everyone has a story, or knows someone who has a story. That's simply not the case. The reality is that most people who are issued traffic tickets are found guilty, because most of them broke the law, and any reason or excuse is irrelevant. During the time that I worked in traffic court, I saw less than 1% of all tickets dismissed once it got to the judge. Usually, in California, the judge will allow you to take traffic school in order to have the ticket removed from your record (if you ask for it before trial and haven't done it within the past 18 months), and that is the best option for most people who qualify. You can do traffic school online now, and you don't have to do it all in one sitting. So, keep that in mind.

There are two things you can do to try to get the ticket dismissed - 1. Hope that the police officer does not appear in court. If he's not there, the state can't prove their case, and you can request dismissal. Just be aware that this is far more rare than the internet would have you believe. The other is to question the officer to try to establish that things did not happen the way he says they did. Object to him testifying as to anything that someone else told him (that's hearsay), or demand that they produce an eyewitness. He'll testify that he looked at the intersection, and the damage to the vehicle, and used that to determine what happened. You can question him about his training and experience in accident reconstruction. You will also have the option of testifying yourself as to what happened, although you're not required to do so.

You certainly do have a right to hire an attorney to defend a ticket for you. But you should be prepared for the possibility that the lawyer will cost more than the ticket - and there's a chance that you'll have to pay the lawyer and the ticket.

The ratings you're seeing are not to rate the information being provided, which I cannot control, but the manner in which the professional responded to you. Please do not "shoot the messenger" if you do not like the information itself, because I unfortunately cannot change it. I can only tell you what the law is - I cannot make it give you the outcome you would like in all situations. I apologize that this was probably not the Answer you were hoping to receive. However, it would be unfair to you and unprofessional of me were I to provide you with anything less than truthful and honest information. I hope you understand.

Good luck.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi,

Im sorry I guess I was not clear.

1 Chip was on seen took an accedent report. No ticket was issued nor do I expect one. Just now my major concern is getting my adjuster not to credit me as the responsible party. I also know ignorance of the law is no excuse.

2. I'd like some clearifcation, the single lane leads to this angled stop bar w/room for 2 cars. There are no marking on the road or signs. How am I supposed to know if the cars are to wait single file, then pull to the bar the need or if there can be one car behind each stop bar with the line behind them. Again no marking to indicate that there are to be two lanes one for each angle of the stop bar. I read the code you sighted and it seems to offers no guidance for the above situation.
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you for clarifying.

1. If the only concern is the insurance adjuster, then you have to establish that you were driving slowly and carefully, and that you proceeded as safely as possible under the circumstances. It would help if the other driver was speeding or otherwise driving unsafely (I don't know if that's the case). The problem with the insurance company is that they assign fault based on charts, graphs, research, and probabilities - where there is a collision between two cars, one of which is turning, the car turning is nearly always found to be at least partially at fault. That's based on Cal. Veh. Code, Section 22107. "No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement."

2. If there are two lines, one that leads straight, and one angled to the right, cars turning right use the angled line, and cars going straight use the straight line. There isn't a code section that specifically addresses all possible situations, so the general rule that a person should pull to the line and then proceed when it's safe applies. It wouldn't be safe for a person who is turning right to pull to the straight line, stop, then turn, because that's going to increase the chances of colliding with someone who is turning right, who is in the correct lane. Also look at Cal. Veh. Code, Section 22100:
"Both the approach for a right-hand turn and a right-hand turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway..." So, a person turning right needs to be on the right-side of the road, even if it's unclear whether people going straight are allowed to proceed at the same time.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hi Again,

I know that in some cases highway engineers have been found a fault not the drivers.

The road that the car that hit me comes down a hill get to the intersection and goes up a hill. The road I am on is below the intersection and rises to it. If I get as close to the right curb as reasonable, I'm on a rise at an angle. If I want a good view of the lane from which I was hit I would have to turn about 180 degrees and to do this I would have to loosen or open by safety belt.

Look I know I'm supposed to drive safely but at some point reasonableness has to be a factor. Clearly if an engineer designed a roundabout that required all traffic to do a 360 turn in reverse that is a unreasonable expectation of the driver.

For instance if I could show (research pointers earn bonuses) that this T intersection had a statistically higher % of accedents per capita car when compaired to simmiler T interesections say by 2X it would indcate that the intersection was poorly designed and limit my responsibility.

One other factor the road I was on had a lot more traffic then it ussally handeled. There had be an accedent blocking a nearby road. The road I was on was the workaround many were using. In fact this was the first time I had ever been on this road since I was also using it as a workaround.

Given your responses I I feel like the points I'm raising would be easily dismmised by a Judge. From you experience, do you think the adjuster will as easily dismiss these points?

Given all of the above in your opionion what is my best strategy to be a party not responsible for the accident or failing that, not wholly responsible because of mitigating circumstances?

Thank you for your patience.
Cheers..Tom
You know in 40 yrs ago in Sweden if you totaled your car in an accident, the gov't would buy you a new car, no fault, no litigation <smile>. Don't know how it is currently
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 2 years ago.
Insurance adjusters have less discretion than a judge. As I said - they have charts and graphs that they use to determine fault, based on the research. They sometimes won't listen to anything other than the bare bones facts of how an accident happened. You may have a better shot with a supervisor than a regular adjuster, as they have slightly more discretion.

The fact that you'd never been on the road before isn't relevant, and neither is the fact that the road had higher than usual traffic (something that you're really only guessing, since you've never used the road before). I understand what you're saying, but you have to look at it from the other perspective - in all accidents, someone bears some fault. It's either the fault of one driver or the other, or both bear some responsibility, barring extremely rare situations involving acts of God. Even where there are intervening factors, the insurance company's job is to figure out who was more at fault. The person turning is always going to bear at least some of the fault, unless he did everything that he possibly could have done to complete the turn safely, and the other driver was driving so recklessly that the turning driver had no reasonable ability to avoid the accident. I have never heard of a case where the person who designed a highway was found to have liability, rather than the individuals who were driving and involved in the accident, because the insurance company's job is to figure out which driver is at fault. Again, if there's a reason that you can't see whether it's safe to proceed, then the answer is to inch out slowly until you can see, or to stop back where you have a clear view.

Insurance contracts have a clause that states that the insurance company has a right to assign fault in an accident. There is also usually a clause that states something like that the insured doesn't have any ability to sue the insurance company unless the company declines a claim in bad faith, or uses bad faith when reaching a determination. So, it's very difficult for an insured to force an insurance company to rule in a certain way.

If the other driver is not claiming any repairs or injuries, and you're really concerned about your driving record, and the cost of repairing the vehicle is fairly low, you may want to consider simply dismissing the claim and paying for the repairs yourself. There's no sure-fire way to prevent an insurance company from assigning at least partial liability to you in this situation. I appreciate all of your arguments, but I also know how insurance companies work, and it would be unprofessional of me to tell you that you can avoid being found at fault, based on the facts you've provided because, from a legal perspective, it was your act of turning that caused the accident - the other car isn't at fault simply for being there. That's what an insurance company or a judge is looking at - who, more likely than not, caused the accident. This isn't a criminal case. It's not saying that you did something wrong, beyond all reasonable doubt. They're looking at who was more likely at fault, which is like a 51% chance.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 20490
Experience: Lawyer. Former judicial law clerk. Worked for District Attorney's Office in Traffic Court.
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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq.
Traffic Lawyer
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Lawyer. Former judicial law clerk. Worked for District Attorney's Office in Traffic Court.