If you hear that an accident occurred, it is only natural if you automatically assume that the accident was caused by one or more drivers. However, technology itself can wreak havoc on the roads. Defective traffic lights are an incredibly dangerous occurrence that can cause chaos on the roads.
Alabamans recently experienced the dangers caused by defective traffic lights firsthand when traffic lights along Mobile’s Airport Blvd. were not working for “as far as the eye could see”. Many accidents occurred as a result of the traffic light outage. In Mobile County alone, 4,243 accidents (this figure includes all traffic signal-related accidents, including running red lights as well as defective traffic signal accidents) occurred as a result of various traffic signal issues over the past year alone, making it one of the most dangerous aspects of driving on the road.
Different Ways a Traffic Signal Can Be Deemed Defective
While many motorists take properly functioning traffic signals for granted, there are many ways a traffic signal can be defective.
First, conflicting traffic signals are a common form of defective traffic signal. Imagine that there is an intersection where both lights are green. Naturally, this would likely cause chaos on the road and could lead to a devastating auto accident.
Second, a blocked traffic signal is another way that a traffic signal can be deemed defective. Public entities in Alabama have a duty to protect drivers by creating traffic signals that are clearly visible and non-obstructed. A classic example of such a situation is a large tree or tree branches that functionally block a traffic signal. While public entities often attempt to claim that the driver was negligent, this will rarely hold up in court. When a city fails to clear obstructions that block the view of a stop sign or similar traffic signal, the city itself will often be held liable for injuries resulting from the accident.
Finally, malfunctioning traffic signals — similar to the example cited in Mobile along Airport Blvd. — will make a traffic signal defective. Proper warnings are required on the roadway for motorists to ensure the safety of themselves and others, and it is impossible for drivers to be held accountable for road safety protocols if the traffic signals helped create the recipe for an accident waiting to happen. Pedestrian traffic signals are also not immune from a defective traffic signal analysis where malfunctioning traffic signals are concerned, which is helpful to know for pedestrians who have been injured after walking when the walk sign was malfunctioning.
Legal Rights for Victims of a Defective Traffic Light Accident
Victims of a defective traffic light accident will not be able to sue the driver in most cases. Unless the driver was intoxicated or behaving in a similarly negligent manner, it is best to litigate against the city, the local department of transportation or a similar governmental entity.
Public entities have a duty to provide reasonable care with regards to traffic light maintenance, which is why injured plaintiffs typically must show that the government entity failed to meet this standard of reasonable care. Additionally, the plaintiff will need to show that their injuries arose as a result of the entity’s negligent actions that failed to meet the standard.
This is often the easiest path to recovery for an injured plaintiff, but if this standard fails, the plaintiff may pursue a recovery based on whether the public entity had notice of the dangerous traffic condition. Actual notice or constructive notice can both be used to show the entity had notice.
Actual notice, as the name implies, is when the entity actually knew of the condition — whether from an inspection or a phone call from a concerned citizen — whereas constructive notice involves whether the entity should have reasonably known about the dangers. Either way, both of these will be used to determine negligence if the entity knew or should have known about the dangerous traffic condition and did nothing.
Typically, local entities in Alabama require a notice claim within 60 days after the injury occurred. As a result, if you have been injured in a Mobile, Baldwin, or Escambia County accident caused by a defective traffic signal, there is no time to waste. Immediately contact an experienced accident attorney who will fight on your behalf to receive the justice and compensation you deserve. Noel B. Leonard works with accident victims every day and will help file your injury claim. Put an experienced auto accident attorney to work for you today. Call 251-943-8638 or contact Noel online to schedule a consultation.