Every driver must maintain situational awareness at all times behind the wheel, paying close attention to nearby changes in traffic patterns. Vehicle indicators like turn signals and brake lights, and the traffic signs and signals posted on most roadways all exist to help drivers anticipate the actions of other drivers nearby. In addition, drivers are expected to follow the road rules while enabling a safe and consistent traffic flow. To meet this expectation, one concept all drivers must understand is the “right of way.”

This term defines the right to continue through traffic. Drivers have the right of way in certain situations and must yield the right of way to other drivers in other situations. While some situations may make it difficult for a driver to discern who has the right of way, drivers should exercise caution and good judgment in these situations to avoid collisions.

When Do I Need to Yield the Right of Way?

The traffic signals and signs on most roads help drivers determine when they have the right of way and when they must yield. “Yielding” allows another driver to proceed on their way before you continue on yours. Some of the most common examples of when yielding the right of way are essential are:

  • Entering and exiting highways and freeways. When regular traffic connects to highways or freeways, “yield” signs are posted at these intersections, indicating which drivers must yield to cross-traffic. As you enter a highway using an on-ramp, you will likely notice a yield sign that indicates you must allow traffic on the highway to pass before merging into a highway lane.
  • Unless an intersection has a “no turn on red” sign posted in the right turning lane, it is legal to perform a right turn on a red light as long as the turning driver makes a complete stop at the intersection and yields the right of way to cross-traffic.
  • Many intersections with left-turning lanes will have signs posted that state “left turn yield on green”. This means that while left-turning drivers have the right of way with a green turning arrow, they may still complete left turns on a solid green light without an arrow. However, they must yield the right of way to cross-traffic before completing their turns.
  • All drivers must yield the right of way to emergency vehicles with their lights and sirens engaged. If you are driving and a police car, ambulance, fire truck, or other emergency vehicle approaches you from behind, you should move as far out of their way as you can safely do it, so they have room to pass as quickly as possible.

There are many other situations in which drivers must yield the right of way to others to avoid accidents. Unfortunately, not all drivers understand the right of way or know when and where to yield appropriately. As a result, some drivers may yield when they shouldn’t, and despite any good intentions they may have, this can disrupt the flow of traffic and easily cause an accident.

What Do I Do If a Driver Crashes Into Me After Failing to Yield the Right of Way?

If you recently experienced a car accident that was not your fault, the incident could have occurred simply due to the other driver’s failure to appropriately yield the right of way. Failure to yield the right of way is a moving violation, so a driver who causes an accident in this manner is liable for the damage that results under California state law. California uses a fault-based system to resolve car accident claims, both in terms of insurance claim payouts and liability for personal injury.

When you or a loved one has been injured due to another driver’s negligence, you have the right to seek accountability for your damages. The first step is filing an insurance claim against the other driver’s insurance policy. However, if the driver does not have enough coverage to fully compensate for your losses, or if they do not have insurance, you would need to file a personal injury claim to recover any special damages.

Success with your insurance claim or personal injury claim requires proving the other driver directly caused your accident. For example, if they failed to yield the right of way and caused the crash, you would need to secure evidence from the crash scene that clearly shows the other driver to be at fault. An attorney can be a valuable asset in this situation as they will know how to secure traffic camera footage and other forms of evidence the average person couldn’t obtain on their own.


Q: Can I Be Partially Liable for an Accident?

A: California enforces a pure comparative negligence law, meaning a plaintiff who is partially responsible for causing their claimed damages may still seek compensation, but they lose a percentage of their case award to reflect their shared liability. If another driver failed to yield the right of way, but you did not react to or handle the situation correctly, you can absorb some degree of fault for the incident.

Q: What If Insurance Denies My Claim?

A: Insurance companies aren’t known for being agreeable to claims for damages, as paying out on claims cuts into these companies’ profits. If you believe an insurance company has unfairly denied a claim for coverage after a driver has injured you, it’s vital to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.

Q: How Long Does a Car Accident Case Take to Resolve?

A: If liability for your recent crash is perfectly clear and you have abundant evidence to prove liability and establish the scope of your damage claim, it’s possible to resolve your car accident claim in weeks or a month or more. When defendants deny liability, assert comparative negligence, or dispute the damages sought by plaintiffs, these cases can take much longer to resolve.

Q: What Damages Can I Claim Against a Driver Who Failed to Yield the Right of Way?

A: If another driver is directly responsible for your recent car accident, they are liable for all damages their actions caused. Your attorney can help you calculate your claimable losses, including immediate and future medical expenses, lost income, lost earning capacity, and your pain and suffering. In addition, some plaintiffs will also receive punitive damages if the defendants in their cases were exceptionally negligent or engaged in some intentional misconduct that resulted in damages.

It’s natural to have lots of questions after a car accident. However, if another driver caused your accident due to failure to yield the right of way, you may face a confusing and tedious series of legal proceedings before you obtain the compensation you deserve. If you are ready to discuss a recent accident with an experienced attorney, contact Kenneth M. Sigelman & Associates today to schedule a consultation with our team.