If you are a driver in Wisconsin (or anywhere else, for that matter), it has likely happened to you many times: You leave in your vehicle to go somewhere when you suddenly realize that you forgot something at home. Perhaps you turn at the next light and travel around the block to get back home again. Maybe you turn into a parking lot where you can get turned around to head back in the direction you came.
Or perhaps you save time and effort by making a U-turn.
U-turns have been legal in Wisconsin for over a decade now, provided drivers follow the law. However, the question remains: Who is at fault in a U-turn accident in Wisconsin?
The truth is, it depends on where the driver executed the U-turn and the other circumstances of the accident.
What Is a U-Turn?
U-turning involves a driver turning their car 180 degrees to travel back in the same direction they came from.
To complete the maneuver, the driver must:
- Be sure that the path is clear, ensuring that a crosswalk at the intersection where the maneuver takes place is clear and that any approaching vehicles are at least 200 yards away.
- Turn on the left turn signal and begin moving forward.
- Keep the car on the right side of the lane to prepare to swing it to the left.
- Once clear of a median or other road divider, turn the steering wheel as far to the left as it will go.
- Accelerate while returning the steering wheel to the starting position to exit the turn.
- Once completely in the travel lane, resume normal speed.
When Does Wisconsin Permit U-Turns?
Drivers in Wisconsin may make U-turns at:
- Any intersection, as long as they can safely complete the maneuver and no signs prohibit it.
- In a residential area, provided there is a traffic signal protecting the driver from oncoming traffic and there is no oncoming traffic within 200 feet.
- At a green light at most intersections, as long as there is no sign prohibiting it.
- On a divided highway where an opening is specifically provided for U-turns.
Places Where Wisconsin Prohibits U-Turns
While plenty of roadways around Wisconsin allows a quick U-turn safely and legally, in several locations you should never attempt a U-turn, such as:
- On railroad tracks.
- On a divided highway where space has not been provided to do so.
- Anywhere where there is a sign stating: No U-Turn.
- Where there is oncoming traffic within 500 feet of the travel lane you wish to enter.
- In front of a fire station.
- Near hidden alleyways or parking lots
- Where you cannot execute a U-turn without interfering with other traffic.
Common Types of Accidents Resulting from Improper U-Turns
U-turn accidents can happen through:
- Broadside (T-bone) accidents, which occur when the front of another vehicle collides with the side of the turning vehicle as it is completing the turn.
- Sideswipe accidents, which result when the driver completing the turn does not do so tightly enough and collides with the side of a vehicle passing in an adjacent lane.
- Rear-end accidents resulting from the driver stopping immediately after the turn and causing the driver behind them to collide with the rear of their vehicle.
- Head-on collisions when the turning driver fails to yield at a red light and pulls into oncoming traffic.
U-turns can also result in bicycle or pedestrian accidents if the turning driver fails to notice other roadway users in the crosswalk or on the roadways when making the turn.
Who Is At Fault for a Wisconsin U-Turn Accident?
As previously noted, determining fault for a Wisconsin U-turn accident depends on many factors. Here is a look at some of the most important factors to consider when determining liability.
Did the Driver Complete the U-turn Legally?
In a U-turn accident, the driver completing the turn can be liable for an accident if they did not complete the turn legally.
Examples of illegal U-turns resulting in the turning driver being responsible for an accident include:
- Accidents where the turning driver has not ensured that there is no oncoming traffic within 500 feet.
- Accidents involving a driver making a U-turn where a sign prohibits them.
Did the Driver Complete the U-turn Safely?
Wisconsin law only allows U-turns where permitted and safely executed. You cannot make U-turns on an undivided highway or near the crest of a hill where the driver cannot see approaching traffic for at least 500 feet. The driver also cannot attempt the maneuver where it will interfere with traffic flow. You can hold the driver liable for an unsafe U-turn accident even if the law permitted it there.
What Actions Did the Non-Turning Driver Take?
If the U-turn was permitted and did not interfere with traffic, then your Wisconsin car accident lawyer may need to consider the actions of other drivers involved.
You can hold a non-turning driver liable for a U-turn accident if they:
- Sped. Speeding makes it difficult for a driver attempting a U-turn to accurately judge whether they have enough space to commit the maneuver safely.
- Failed to yield. The law permits U-turns at intersections. If a driver attempts a U-turn while they have a green light and another driver fails to yield the right-of-way by stopping on a red, the non-turning driver can be liable for the accident.
- Drove distracted. Driving distractions such as texting, visiting with passengers, or looking at other objects or people on the roadway can lead drivers to miss stop signs, traffic lights, or even veer into a travel lane where an individual is attempting a U-turn.
The Problem With Determining Liability in Accidents Involving U-Turns
When Wisconsin lawmakers quietly passed a law permitting U-turns in 2010, one of the stated reasons for allowing the maneuver was because individuals driving on the state’s roadways from other states were unaware that they were not permitted to do so. Each state’s laws on U-turns are slightly different, and what is considered permissible and safe in one state is not allowed in another.
This does not remove liability from a driver who was unaware that they were breaking the law by completing a U-turn, but it leads to driving mistakes on both sides of the coin.
- Non-turning drivers are often unaware of how to properly handle a vehicle making a U-turn and can commit mistakes such as passing the driver on the right side.
- Turning drivers are often unaware of the locations where U-turns are unsafe unless there is a sign stating that the maneuver is prohibited.
This confusion can be worsened by insurance providers who wrongfully deny claims from those injured in U-turn accidents due to misunderstanding the law or banking on the notion that the claimant does not understand the law.
Seeking Compensation After a U-Turn Accident
Seeking compensation after any traffic accident can be a complex affair, involving the need for legal guidance from an attorney with experience in similar cases. This is true for U-turn accidents as well, particularly given the confusion as to the laws that govern liability and the legality of the maneuver. Here are some aspects of a personal injury claim and how an experienced Wisconsin car accident attorney can help.
After a car accident, it is normal to have questions. Were you to blame? Can you prove someone else was at fault? Do you have a claim? A car accident attorney can answer these questions.
Car accident attorneys have specific experience helping clients seek compensation after traffic accidents. Most provide free case evaluations, which allow claimants to obtain answers to their legal questions without obligation. This is also a time for the claimant to learn more about the attorney and their legal team before committing to a partnership.
Investigating the Claim
After a car accident, there will be several investigations. Law enforcement personnel will investigate to determine the cause of the crash and whether to charge anyone with a crime. The insurance companies will investigate the claim to determine how much liability (if any) their insured has.
An experienced car accident attorney will investigate the claim to determine sources of liability, insurance resources, and whether evidence exists to prove that someone else’s negligence caused their client’s injuries.
Establishing a Value to the Claim
Medical care is expensive. Missing work while recovering from an accident is expensive. An injured individual's pain, suffering, and emotional distress carry difficult-to-calculate costs.
After a U-turn accident, an injured party’s attorney is not only trying to determine the level of liability posed by others in the situation but also the amount of compensation necessary to cover the expenses and impacts of their client’s injury.
This includes determining the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy, which can affect the value of the claim as it establishes the maximum amount that the provider will pay out on a claim.
Your car accident lawyer will also want to evaluate whether any injuries will result in future expenses for the claimant or cause them to lose earning capacity.
Managing Contact With the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Provider
Insurance companies are not in business to pay out on the claims of those injured by their insured but rather to make money by selling insurance policies. To do this, they often engage in tactics to reduce or eliminate claims.
Individuals injured in a U-turn accident can expect that the insurance company will attempt to place the liability on them, regardless of whether they made the U-turn or the other driver did.
These tactics are most effective when the claimant does not have a car accident attorney. Most individuals don't know the laws governing car accident claims. In addition to communicating with the at-fault party's insurance provider to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, a car accident attorney will protect their client's claim from tactics to reduce the claim.
Managing the Timelines of Your Case
In Wisconsin, personal injury claimants generally have three years from the accident to file their claim in court. Failing to meet this deadline will bar the claimant from using the court system to seek compensation. It will usually result in the loss of the ability to settle with the insurance company since there is no reason for the insurance company to provide an out-of-court settlement if the claimant cannot take the case to court.
If the insurance company fails to pay the claim or offers a settlement that fairly compensates the claimant, your lawyer may recommend litigation. However, most cases settle well before this step.
A Car Accident Attorney Can Help You After a U-turn Crash
If a U-turn accident injured you, let an experienced car accident lawyer seek compensation for your expenses. Contact a car accident attorney today for your free case evaluation.