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Who’s at fault in a roundabout car accident in Michigan?

November 23, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Dissecting what happens after the crash with an Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy

The newest Michigan roundabout is now open and it is right down the street from our Farmington Hills law office.  And with the new roundabout at Orchard Lake Road and 14 Mile Road came plenty of groans from people who will be swirling through it.

Roundabouts, it seems, are not very popular.  But is this dislike of roundabouts deserved?

Twenty seven percent of Michigan car crashes occur at intersections.  And while there is quite justified concern about drivers getting confused about how to drive a roundabout, the fact is, that roundabouts actually reduce the risk of serious personal injury from a motor vehicle accident.  There may be more crashes involving roundabouts, especially in the beginning as motorists learn to navigate them, but these crashes are not going to be as serious as car accidents that occur in intersections.

To help motorists learn to drive roundabouts, we requested some feedback from a traffic investigator at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. Below, is a Q and A with Deputy Jerry Yaldoo, who provided us with some great insight into how fault is established in a roundabout accident, as well as recommendations on navigating these confusing areas.

For more information on Michigan roundabouts, including an interactive map and an updated list of new ones being built next summer, visit our new resource center on roundabouts. You also may visit our Michigan’s Most Dangerous Intersections page for a complete list of intersection car crashes, including roundabouts, that can be searched by any Michigan city or county, and our list of Michigan’s 2016 Top 20 Most Dangerous Intersections.

Q:  If a driver is involved in a crash within a roundabout where there are no designated shoulders, where should he or she pull over while waiting for the local police?

A: “If there are no shoulders in the roundabout, the drivers would have to drive their vehicles out of the roundabout, and to a place where they can pull off the roadway while they wait for law enforcement to arrive at the scene.“

Q: How do officers determine fault in a roundabout accident?

A: “The officer on scene will speak to both drivers to get an understanding of what happened. The officer will also speak with any independent witnesses that may have seen the crash. The officer will look at the damage on both vehicles and will then determine who is at fault.

Most crashes in roundabouts are the result of one driver failing to yield the right of way to a vehicle already in the roundabout. When that happens, the driver that did not yield would be put at fault. The other most common crash would be a sideswipe crash, which happens when one driver changes lanes in a roundabout and strikes a vehicle that was legally in its lane.

A crash report is an officer’s opinion of what happened. The officer may decide that both drivers were at fault or that fault cannot be determined.

In regards to who has the right of way in a roundabouts: The person already in the roundabout would have the right of way and the person that is attempting to enter the roundabout does not. If a driver enters the roundabout and strikes a vehicle that was already in the roundabout then he would be cited for failing to yield the right of way.”

Q:  What recommendations would you give local drivers to navigate roundabouts safely?

A: “Slow down when approaching a roundabout especially if you are not familiar with that particular one. Pay attention to signs and road marking which tell you what lane can do what in the roundabout. When you approach the yield sign at the intersection stop and look to see if a vehicle is traveling toward you. Wait until that vehicle passes and there are no more vehicles approaching you. At that time it would then be safe to enter the roundabout.”

Our lawyers would like to extend a sincere thank you to Deputy Yaldoo for these important tips.  To see a good example of how changing lanes in a roundabout is never a good idea, watch this video of an accident at Maple and Drake Roads in West Bloomfield:

Vehicle damage reimbursement for roundabout car accidents

As we’ve seen from the No. 1 intersection in the state for car crashes, new roundabouts can result in an increase in accidents as local drivers adjust to the changing traffic flow. As we said above, most intersection conversions to roundabouts result in less crashes, with vehicle damage-only accidents becoming the majority.

With that in mind, Michigan drivers who do not carry broad collision coverage on their insurance can get reimbursed for a portion of their deductible if they were 50% or less at fault.  This vehicle damage reimbursement is called a Michigan mini tort claim and can be submitted to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. To learn more about this process, and how to submit a claim, please visit our mini tort resource center.

You also may visit our Michigan Dangerous Intersections page for a complete list of intersection car crashes (including roundabouts) that can be searched by any Michigan city or county, and our list of Michigan’s 2016 Top 20 Most Dangerous Intersections.

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