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What Happens When You Are Hit by A Car at An Intersection?

Approximately 35,000 people a year die in car accidents in the USA. Half of these are at intersections so you can imagine how many people have an intersection accident that isn't fatal!

Intersection accidents happen in various ways. Here are some of the most common scenarios:

  • Running a stop sign or red light.
  • Getting confused due to malfunctioning, or missing, traffic lights.
  • Failing to yield when turning left across traffic.
  • Side-impact collision
  • Rear-end collision
  • Not paying attention to pedestrians

Each of these collisions is avoidable and presents its own challenges when it comes to determining liability.

Who is liable for an Intersection Collision?

Sometimes this is a very straightforward question to answer, and sometimes you can find yourself in very murky waters with drivers disagreeing on facts. It will then be up to a jury to decide who is liable for what. Depending on what facts or supporting evidence is available it can be risky taking a dispute to trial without seeking legal counsel’s help.

Running a Stop Sign or Red Light

Drivers are obliged to come to a complete stop at a stop sign and a red light before proceeding. Failure to do so is lawfully negligent. The yellow caution light indicates to proceed with caution, which means that if you are not going to cross the intersection before the light changes to red, you should stop. If there is an intersection collision due to someone not abiding by this rule of the road, they are at fault.

Red-Light Swearing Match Cases

There are instances where both drivers will claim that the light was green for them. This results in a Red-Light Swearing Match case. These cases generally become very messy for all involved. If one of the drivers admits to running the stop street or traffic light, then their insurance company will pay for any property damage.

Should there also be a personal injury claim, this admission makes it easier to win at trial. However, if nobody admits they are at fault, then you have a swearing match and you can be sure that both party’s insurance companies will have aggressive car accident lawyers to fight for their clients’ respective claims. If there is no evidence, like camera footage or an eyewitness, to help prove who was in the wrong it becomes, as they say, complicated.

Most of the cameras at intersections are traffic cameras that are used to monitor traffic live to assist traffic authorities. They do not record. Some intersections may have a working "red-light" camera" but, if they don't, you’ll need to see if there are any shops around that have cameras that could have caught the car accident. Therefore, it is vital that you always take down the details of anyone who witnessed the car accident. It may be all the evidence you can get and be the difference between winning or losing a red-light swearing match.

If there is no camera footage or eyewitness, you will have a problem because it is essentially one person’s word against another’s and the burden of proof falls on whichever party files the lawsuit. Your lawyer will need to convince 10 members of the 12-member jury in order to win the case. If they only manage to convince 9 you will lose. This, unfortunately, means that the odds are stacked against you and is why car accident lawyers usually turn down swearing match cases.

You can be at fault even if it was a green light for you

Even though running a red light is legal negligence, it does not automatically mean that the driver is 100% liable for damages. All drivers have a responsibility to approach an intersection with caution, no matter what the signal on the traffic light. So, you should still look both ways as you approach. It is the duty of all drivers to be alert and avoid accidents. This means that you could be apportioned liability for not paying attention.

Getting confused due to malfunctioning, or missing, traffic lights.

All intersections should have a traffic control device. If it is an intersection with traffic lights, there are times when they may malfunction due to mechanical failure or are missing or damaged due to vandalism or an accident. When you approach an intersection where there is no functioning traffic control device, it should be treated as a four-way stop. The rule at a four-way stop is that the first driver to reach the intersection has right of way. If two drivers arrive simultaneously, the driver on the left yields to the driver on the right. The right has right of way.

As with the swearing match collisions, the two drivers could both claim that they were at the intersection first. So, again, make sure you take down the details of any eyewitnesses and look for cameras near the intersection. Don’t forget that you must always report the accident to the police.

Government Liability for Malfunctioning Traffic Lights

Unless a member of the local government knew that the traffic light was malfunctioning and failed to fix the traffic light timeously, the government is not liable. Again, the burden of proof would be on the driver and it is extremely difficult to win a case like this.

Failing to yield when turning left across traffic.

At an intersection, the person on the right always has right of way. If a driver is turning left across traffic, they need to yield right of way. The driver could be found negligent for not yielding right of way to the vehicle on their right. However, if, for example, it is night and the oncoming driver doesn't have their lights on so cannot be seen by the driver turning left across the intersection, they cannot be held liable. In this case, the driver would be fully liable for damages.

Side-impact Collision

Side-impact car collisions are often referred to as a T-bone accident. These car accidents are the ones where you feel like they’ve come out of nowhere. They are also accidents that can cause the most injury to the drivers and their passengers because the sides of a car are not as strong as the front or back of a car. Generally, they happen when a driver fails to yield, turns across traffic, runs a red light, misjudges oncoming traffic when turning left, or doesn’t account for bad weather conditions or a badly maintained road. If you’ve been in a side-impact car collision and there have been injuries, you will need a car accident personal injury attorney.

Rear-End Collision

Rear-end car collision is one of the accidents that commonly occur at intersections. This usually happens when a vehicle speeds up to make it through a yellow light and then decides at the last minute that they’re not going to make it, stops suddenly and the vehicle behind them rear-ends them. It can also happen that the person behind the leading car assumes that the car in front is going to go through the yellow light but doesn’t.

The generally accepted rule is to always keep an assured car distance from the vehicle in front of you so that you have time and space to stop should they slow down or brake suddenly. Usually, the liability lies with the person who does the rear-ending and not with the leading car. However, there are instances when a jury will find the driver of the leading car negligent and liable for the damages. This could be because the leading car did not give fair warning, for example.

Not paying attention to pedestrians

It is very easy for a driver to not pay as much attention to pedestrian traffic as they do to vehicular traffic. Drivers who don't look to the back to check for pedestrians or cyclists can lead to some very nasty accidents. It is essential that drivers be aware of where pedestrian traffic crosses the intersection and still looks back even if the traffic light is signaling "Don't Walk" for pedestrians. If a pedestrian is not paying attention and ignores a "don't walk” signal they can also be held liable for damages but, as you can imagine, without witnesses or cameras this scenario could also escalate into a swearing match situation.

What to do if you are hit by a car at an intersection.

  • Get medical attention
  • Take careful note of your surroundings, the intersection, and the area around the intersection.
  • Take pictures of the accident scene and the surrounding area.
  • Get the details of any eyewitnesses and look for cameras.
  • Follow all the procedures required by law like reporting the incident to the police.
  • Hire an attorney to make sure you file claims correctly and to negotiate on your behalf.

As you can see, car accidents that take place at an intersection can be really difficult to deal with. There can be many issues that arise when trying to figure out who was at fault. If you have been injured in a car collision at an intersection, the best thing you can do is to contact legal counsel. Our car accident experienced lawyers at The Injury Firm is standing by to help.

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