I was driving uphill on a 35mph limit road heading to a church wedding (Connecticut). Near the top of the hill, the parking lot was to the left. I signaled to turn and since no one was coming from the opposite direction I started making a left turn. I was driving very slowly looking to see if the parking lot was full when I heard the bike coming down the hill. It's one of those street racing bikes, very fast. He was about 90 feet away when I saw him and he did not slow down, I think he just tried to avoid me and wiz by. He ended up crashing the side of my car, in the back seat. He was taken to the hospital and had surgery on his arm but other than that he was ok. Police came and investigated the scene for a couple of hours. He was speeding and did not have a license. However, where I turned to enter the church parking lot was a double continuous line in the road, meaning I could not turn left there. Because of these circumstances, what should I do? Am I liable for his hospital bills and his motorcycle?
The Ct. driver's manual p. 44 says that "Solid yellow lines may be crossed to make a left turn to or from an alley, private road, driveway, or street", and also "A double solid white line prohibits lane changing" (turning left is not the same as lane changing). In Washington, there is a fine of $136 for crossing a double white line, but this is related to the hyper-limited access pay lanes on the freeway. I have not found anything in the Connecticut code that indicates an analogous absolute prohibition against crossing a double white. In lieu of a statutory prohibition, you may succeed in arguing that it was a legal turn, as long as the turn was in compliance with the rest of the law, e.g. you signalled, you yielded right of way (which essentially means he was driving so fast that he appeared after you started to turn). His speed may be contributing negligence that prevents you from being liable, so it just depends.
Connecticut follows what is called a “modified” comparative negligence rule.
This means that the jury at trial assigns a percentage of fault to everyone involved in the accident who has violated any traffic law or had any negligence. The jury decides on a case by case basis how important each person's negligence was to the total outcome.
So, for example, the jury might conclude that the car was 80% at fault and that the motorcycle was 20% at fault, in causing the accident, even though both of them violated some traffic law, or it could conclude that the car was 20% at fault and that the motorcycle was 80% at fault. The lawyers have to argue from the facts regarding the reasons that their client should have a lower percentage of fault and the other party should have a greater percentage of fault.
If the jury finds that someone did not violate any traffic law and acted completely with reasonable care under the circumstances, and so was not negligent at all, then 0% comparative fault is assigned to that person. (In a more complicated accident there might be more than two people involved and might be damages to more than one person.)
Since this is a "modified comparative negligence" system, the percentages assigned by the jury aren't the end of the story. If plaintiff is more than 50 percent responsible for an accident, he can recover nothing. So a plaintiff will not be eligible to recover, say, 20 percent of his damages under this type of comparative negligence. But, if the motorcycle is say 30% at fault, the jury will determine the motorcyclist's damages and that will be reduced by 30% and then the people responsible for the car driver's negligence will be responsible for 70% of the damages suffered by the motorcyclist.
In a case where everyone has some fault, there is no way, on the bare facts, to determine for sure what percentage of fault each person will be assigned. There is no formula that tells you that. It just comes down to what reason and experience tells you that an average juror off the street without formal legal training would be likely to think.
I think it is quite clear the bike driver was at fault due to speeding. The question is whether you were also at fault.
You turned left into a car park. Oncoming traffic had the right of way. Your view was obscured. If you wanted to cross the left lane, you would have had to do this quickly enough so that if an oncoming vehicle entered your view, going at or slightly above the legal speed limit, it would have been safe.
You said you were driving very slowly. You also said you were looking at the car park, not watching for oncoming traffic. If I had arrived, going at the speed limit, just at the wrong moment, would that have been dangerous? I think it would have, the way you describe it. The rule isn’t “don’t start turning when there is oncoming traffic”. The rule is “you must have finished turning before oncoming traffic arrives”.
If you do a left turn, and the view ahead is obscured, you have to do that quick enough so that you won’t get hit by traffic arriving just when you turn. What I would have done: Stop in the right lane, check that I can enter the car park safely, check again for oncoming traffic, and if there is no traffic, turn into the car park as quickly as possible.
And if the obstruction is close enough, or the entrance to the car park is narrow enough, or too much traffic coming from behind you, or if you drive a truck that takes forever to turn, so that you can’t do this safely, then you just can’t turn into the car park. You also need to take into account that people drive faster than allowed. If 30mph is allowed, then you need to expect people coming at 35mph.
Sounds like the traffic offense would would be "failure to yield to oncoming traffic," and possibly reckless driving depending on the cop who responded, but probably not an illegal left turn. But even if you aren't charged with anything, a tort claim could be made against you, but it's difficult to say what the result would be. Speeding on the motorcyclist's part would definitely count against him. At the same time, making a slow left turn just below the crest of a hill, into oncoming traffic might not play too well.
The question essentially asks whether crossing the double yellow line could give the OP accident liability. It seems very unlikely in this case.
As gnasher729 noted, the legality of the lane change does not always determine accident fault. In fact, the way this case is described, there is no connection between crossing the yellow line and the accident. The OP had crossed into the speeding vehicle's lane before the drivers could see each other. The speeding vehicle would have crashed into the OP even if both vehicles were traveling in the same direction and the OP was making a right turn into that same driveway.
The oncoming vehicle triply forfeited his right of way. First because he was speeding. Second because he never had the right of way to a section of road he could not see (since if that were the case, then the oncoming vehicle could legally crash into anything in front of him, even if nobody changed lanes). Third because his right of way expired before the impact, since he had time to slow down after seeing the OP already in his lane (but unfortunately chose not to slow down).
On the other hand, the OP drove perfectly here. Looking for hazards in the parking lot before entering it was exactly the right thing to do. And moving to the left lane before stopping was also the right move, as it protected him from rear-ending by anyone trying to pass him from behind.
It is ridiculous to suggest that the OP was supposed to go past the hill, U-turn, and then make a right turn. This would not have prevented the accident, as the speeding vehicle would still suddenly encounter a slow vehicle in front of it. It is just as ridiculous to suggest that the OP was supposed to "quickly" turn off the road. How "quickly" exactly? What if a pedestrian was crossing the driveway?
Anyone outdriving his visibility just doesn't have right of way. Or else you must logically believe that it's legal to crash into stopped vehicles, pedestrians, etc. that are long established in front of you in your lane. Every Driver's Ed course makes these points clear. Because (among many reasons) it's the law.
Turning left with driving lanes giving you the all clear, and a speeding motorcycle jumps into the turn lane and totals your car THE MOTORCYCLE IS 100% to blame. No attorney will sue for the motorcyclist because he knows he would lose at trial and be out many dollars. Also, that would open for the car owner to sue the motorcyclist for damages, and he would win.