Two Cars Meet in an Unexpected Manner

Posted Monday, September 19, 2016 by Ed Harper

Two Cars Meet in an Unexpected Manner

Whenever there is an automobile accident at an uncontrolled intersection, one may ask “who is at fault?” this is a common occurrence for cars especially on small side streets in modern suburbia.

An uncontrolled intersection is one where there are no traffic control devices (signs, and/or signals) to inform a driver to yield or stop at the intersection.

There is a basic rule for cars arriving at an uncontrolled intersection. (RCW 46.61.180) When cars approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the car on the right becomes the favored driver. Thus, the car on the left needs to yield the right of way.

However, issues often arise. In an intersection case, the favored driver on the right may assume that the driver on the left will yield the right of way. This assumption continues in effect until the favored driver becomes aware, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have become aware, that the right of way will not be yielded. (Massengale v. Svangren, 41 Wn.2d 758, 252 P.2d 317 (1953))

Thus, one may ask, when does a driver “become aware, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have come aware, that the right of way will not be yielded”? This requires a factual inquiry, and depends on each case. Reasonable care requires drivers to look and see that which is there to be seen. “Every person has a duty to see what would be seen by a person exercising ordinary care.” (Washington Pattern Jury Instruction 12.06). Liability can flow if the driver, even the favored driver, does not look. And if he had looked, he would have seen the other car not yielding the right of way.

Therefore, the favored driver status is not iron-clad and does not establish liability on the non-favored driver if these cars unexpectedly meet in the intersection – via an automobile accident. If one does not keep a proper lookout for his own and others safety immediately prior to the crash, the favored driver will be found at fault. Focusing on objects around you, especially vehicles traveling to your right and left as you approach and enter an intersection, is reasonable.

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Although our office does not handle all types of cases, we hope you will contact us regarding any legal issues you may encounter. We will answer your questions, or refer you to another quality and trustworthy attorney if we are unable to assist you.

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Harper Law PLLC
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