Motorists expect traffic lights, traffic signals, and streetlights to function properly. However, safety equipment can and does malfunction. In the best of circumstances, this can lead to driver confusion. In the worst, it can wind up causing highway fatalities. It may seem straightforward to assume that a municipality is at-fault for a non-performing traffic light, but that is not always the case. In fact, accidents due to faulty streetlights must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Consider a typical stoplight after it loses power. Maybe it blinks yellow repeatedly or it does not show any lights at all. Either situation could leave motorists at risk, especially those unfamiliar with the area. Yet, many courts would suggest the municipality not be held responsible for accidents because although power outages happen, the municipality was not negligent in its duty.
On the other hand, what if the municipality was forward-thinking and had back-up batteries installed in the stoplight? The municipality would expect that the back-up batteries would take over, even in the case of zero power coming into the unit. If the back-up batteries supplied by a private third-party source did not kick in, the third-party vendor could potentially be held liable for any related accidents. After all, the expectation would be that the back-up battery would work. Even the municipality could have been at-fault for not routinely checking the battery.
These two similar circumstances show just how complicated the question of liability can be. Car accident lawyers routinely dive deep into all case facts to figure out the best ways to navigate the court system on behalf of crash victims whose incidents were exacerbated by malfunctioning streetlights.
Drivers have an obligation to pay careful attention to all traffic signals. Plus, they must follow the rules of the road, even when stop lights and other electric signs are broken or faulty. For instance, when a car approaches an intersection and sees flashing yellow lights, the driver should slow down and be prepared to stop. If a driver runs through the yellow lights despite all the warnings, they may be at fault for any accidents even though the traffic signal was not working. Similarly, if the traffic signal is flashing red, drivers must stop regardless of what they have done at the same intersection in the past.
Motorists have a responsibility to be proactive. Still, some problems may be outside of a driver’s control, such as when a four-way traffic light shows green in all directions. If several drivers collide, they will usually not be held liable and the municipality may be to blame.
If you were injured in a car accident, a Delaware County personal injury lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help. We will determine the appropriate legal course of action to obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 610-565-3700 or complete an online form for a free consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.