If you sideswipe, center-punch, or rear-end someone who makes a sudden move in their vehicle while failing to use their turn signal, are you at fault? The short answer is, maybe; the long answer is, it’s complicated.

Failing to Use Their Turn Signal

In 2012, MSNBC reported that, according to the Society of Automotive Engineers, drivers failing to use their turn signal cause more road traffic accidents than people driving while distracted. The U.S. Department of Transportation said around the same time that distracted drivers caused around 950,000 accidents every year. Somewhat alarmingly, the SAE found that drivers neglected to use their turn signals 48 percent of the time. And nearly half of all drivers don’t use their turn signals correctly.

According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Laws, Part I, Title XIV, Chapter 90, Section 14B, motorists are required to give a ‘plainly visible’ signal before stopping or making any turning maneuver that would affect the operation of another vehicle. Under the statute, a plainly visible signal includes activating the brake lights or directional signal on the vehicle.

If the lights aren’t working, then the driver must use one of three hand signals to indicate their intentions to other drivers.

Fault Determination in Massachusetts

In terms of motor vehicle insurance law, Massachusetts is a no-fault state. No matter who is at fault in an accident, your insurance company will usually cover a portion of your expenses. However, when a negligent driver, such as someone failing to use their turn signal, collides with your vehicle and causes you or your passengers’ serious injury or permanent dysfunction or disfigurement, you will probably need to recover damages from the other driver.

Here’s Where It Gets Complicated

Insurance companies try to pay out as little as possible. When you sue their clients, they will make use of the section of Massachusetts law that says if you are more than 50 percent at fault for the accident, you recover nothing. Under Massachusetts 211 CMR: Division of Insurance, Section 74.04, there is a list of circumstances when a vehicle operator’s fault is presumed to be greater than 50 percent. Failing to signal before turning or changing lanes appears on this list, along with:

    • Colliding with the rear section of another vehicle.
    • Colliding with another vehicle at an uncontrolled intersection.
    • Operating a vehicle that is partially or completely out of its proper lane and colliding with another vehicle.

Say, for example, the vehicle in front of you slams on the brakes suddenly to make a right-hand turn in front of you. Caught off guard, you smash into the rear end. Based on the Massachusetts regulation alone, you may think more than half the blame will be assigned to you. But, having read this article or been advised by your lawyer, you might expect the other driver to be responsible for paying your lifetime medical expenses incurred as a result of the injuries you sustained in the crash, not to mention lost earnings and compensation for pain and suffering.

Why You Need a Lawyer

How can you avoid being saddled with half the blame? The smart move is to hire a lawyer who specializes in motor vehicle accident defense. If you do have an accident, make them one of your first telephone calls so they can begin fighting for you immediately.

Call (413) 746-4400