Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Illegal U-Turns – OCGA 40-6-121

When Are U-Turns Legal in Georgia?


When is it okay to make a U-turn in Georgia? When a sign says so? When there’s no sign saying otherwise? The real answer is a bit more complicated, and it’s found within OCGA 40-6-121.

Before we get into analyzing OCGA 40-6-121, let’s review why we’re talking about traffic statutes at all on a blog about civil law. Traffic statutes are designed to help traffic patrol officers enforce safe, orderly conduct on the road, but they can also be very useful in civil law because of the concept of negligence per se.

Ordinarily, negligence is determined according to the “reasonable person” standard. In other words, did the defendant act in a way a reasonable person wouldn’t, because of how obviously likely it was that someone would get hurt?

Negligence per se, on the other hand, is the idea that breaking safety rules is inherently unreasonable and negligent behavior. Traffic statutes are all safety rules, so hurting someone by breaking any one of them makes a person liable under negligence per se.

Last week, we talked about OCGA 40-6-96 and how this concept applies to pedestrians walking on the highway. Today, let’s take a look at negligence per se and U-turns.


Inadequate Visibility

One of the big concerns when it comes to U-turns is how long they take compared with right-angle turns. It takes a while to get a whole vehicle’s weight moving in the opposite direction than it was before, which means the turning vehicle will be in the way of potential oncoming traffic for precious extra seconds. This can be a serious safety issue on roads where the driver can’t see whether the coast is clear for a long enough distance.


To prevent accidents with unseen oncoming vehicles, drivers are forbidden to perform U-turns on curved streets,


No vehicle shall be turned so as to proceed in the opposite direction:

(1) Upon any curve;


And in front of hills that could block the driver’s view.


(2) Upon the approach to or near the crest of a grade where such vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of another vehicle approaching from either direction;


While not specifically stated in statute 40-6-121, it’s also a good idea to avoid U-turns in snowy or foggy weather, on unlit roads at night, and in other low-visibility situations.


Heavy Traffic

Whenever a driver turning left would have to yield to oncoming traffic or cross traffic, a driver executing a U-turn must do the same. Because U-turns are more difficult and time-consuming, drivers also may not hold up traffic behind them in order to perform a U-turn in the middle of the street.


(3) Where such turn cannot be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic;


When making a U-turn, it’s important to be realistic about how long the maneuver is going to take, and to make sure you have room to spare in the traffic patterns around you. In heavy traffic situations, it’s usually safest to wait for an intersection specifically marked for U-turns or find another way to get where you’re going, and save the U-turns for quieter roads or times of day.


Local Restrictions

The final scenario in which U-turns are prohibited is the simplest one:


(4) Where a prohibition is posted.


As is the case with most road safety issues, local authorities have the power to install traffic control devices, including “No U-Turn” signs, to regulate the flow of traffic. Unless they’re following the direct instructions of an onsite police officer, anyone who disobeys such a sign is liable under negligence per se for any resulting accidents.


What Damages Can You Recover After Someone Makes an Illegal U-Turn?

If you end up colliding with someone who’s making a U-turn, there’s a good chance that person is liable for the damages, because their U-turn could not be completed safely without interfering with other traffic — namely you.


However, all drivers on the road have a duty to prevent and minimize accidents whenever possible, so if you didn’t do everything you could to avoid hitting the other vehicle, you might share some of the financial responsibility. If you didn’t have time to react due to reduced visibility, even though you were traveling at a legal and appropriate speed, you’re probably in the clear. If there was a “No U-Turn” sign posted where the accident happened, possibly because U-turn accidents have happened there in the past, that can also count in your favor.


Even if there might have been more you could have done to prevent or reduce the severity of the accident, as long as you’re found less than 50% responsible, you’re still eligible for partial compensation. In addition to percentages of fault, your compensation will be calculated according to the principles of “special damages” and “general damages.”


Your Expenses Qualify for Reimbursement as Special Damages

Even a relatively minor accident can create a serious financial burden. Especially if your family usually lives paycheck to paycheck, a totaled vehicle and a few days away from work can be all it takes to make your bills spiral out of control. If you were seriously injured and needed emergency or extended medical care, those expenses can balloon even more astronomically. To get these costs covered by a special damages settlement, you’ll need to document each expense carefully and then prove how they were directly or proximately caused by the other driver’s bad U-turn. To learn more about direct and proximate cause, and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help you establish them in court, click here.


Your Emotional Losses Qualify for Compensation as General Damages

Obviously, things like pain, disability, missed opportunities, and psychological trauma can’t be perfectly reimbursed with any amount of money. However, these unwelcome changes from the way your life was before do count as losses, so when it comes time to award a settlement to cover your full losses, they deserve to be accounted for. Unfortunately, because of the inherently priceless nature of general damages, the sum one judge or jury assigns to a particular injury may be very different from what another judge or jury would award for an almost identical injury. One thing you can do to make sure you’re not shorted by the arbitrariness of general damages settlements is make sure you have a great lawyer, like those at the Wetherington Law Firm. Having someone there to spell out your losses passionately on your behalf can make a big difference in how heavily they’re valued.


What If a Bad U-Turn Caused a Fatal Accident?

If you’re looking for justice for a lost loved one rather than for your own injuries, what you have is a wrongful death case. The Wetherington Law Firm can help you with this as well, though there are some extra rules you’ll need to be aware of. To learn more, click here.


Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

You always have a better chance of having your case heard fairly with a lawyer than without one, but representation is especially important in cases involving insurance companies. After a car accident, an insurance company will likely be your real opponent in court. Insurance companies are prepared for this. Their primary function is to collect premiums and pay as little in settlements as possible, so their legal teams are well practiced and equipped with every possible trick for undermining your case. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we have experts who know insurance company tactics and how to counter them, because they’ve worked for insurance companies, before their consciences drove them to the firm you see today. We’ll help you stand up to these well-oiled corporate machines and get the fair compensation you deserve.


How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta

Our mission to help those who need it most means we need to be financially accessible to those who need it most. We do this by working on contingency. That means we don’t get paid until our clients do, and we never, ever leave a client worse off than they started.


We understand that you’re hiring a lawyer to protect your finances following an accident, not because you have money to spare or to gamble. Once we take your case, we’ll put in our all for as long as it takes, and we won’t ask you for a cent until we win you your settlement.


To talk to one of our qualified attorneys about the details of your individual case and what we can do for you, give us a call at 404-888-4444 or email us through the form on the right.


The Wetherington Law Firm Can Help You Make a Positive Impact

Was the U-turn that injured you performed at an intersection with no sign prohibiting it? Was there something about the road layout that made the turn particularly dangerous? Do you believe adding a “No U-Turns” sign could prevent future tragedies?


We’ve helped lots of people make changes like these in the hope of protect others. If you’re interested in taking your quest for justice beyond your individual situation, we’ll be happy to help you leverage your case to push for bigger, more lasting solutions to stop future accidents before they ever need to be compensated for.


To learn more about the kind of work we do to help clients drive positive change in their communities, just ask!







Have you been injured in a U-turn accident?

The Wetherington Law Firm works on contingency, which means the only payment we take is a share of the settlements we win for our clients. We believe no one should ever have to drop a legitimate case for fear of spending too much in legal fees.