Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion that discusses an important concept in New Mexico car accident cases. The case presented the court with the task of determining whether a waving gesture made by the defendant to encourage the plaintiff to complete a left-hand turn through traffic was the cause of an accident that occurred when the plaintiff was struck by another vehicle. Ultimately, the court concluded that it is a driver’s own responsibility to safely complete a left turn through traffic and that the defendant’s gesture was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
The plaintiff was an on-duty police officer who was heading back to the barracks. As the plaintiff approached the barracks heading westbound, he needed to make a left hand turn across two eastbound lanes of traffic in order to enter the barracks. At the time, there was a line of cars in the closest eastbound lane of traffic waiting at a red light. The defendant was one of the cars waiting at the traffic light.
The plaintiff inched his car forward and angled his car as though he wanted to make a left turn. He made eye contact with the defendant, who checked his own mirrors before waving the plaintiff on. The plaintiff slowly proceeded in front of the defendant’s vehicle, but as he entered the far eastbound lane of traffic, another motorist collided with his police cruiser.