What if My Car Crash Was Caused by a Malfunctioning Traffic Light?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on August 6, 2021 in Car Accidents
Updated on February 24, 2022

Drivers rely heavily on traffic lights, especially at busy intersections that would be otherwise dangerous to drive through. When traffic lights malfunction or completely blackout, it often causes confusion. Many motorists may be unsure who has the right of way in this situation, and a serious collision may result.

PKSD explains how drivers can more safely navigate an intersection with a defective traffic light and who may be liable if there is a collision.

Injured in a collision caused by a broken traffic light? Our Milwaukee auto accident attorneys have decades of experience and are committed to helping the injured.

FREE Case Review: 877-877-2228

Who May Be Liable for a Collision Caused by a Defective Traffic Light?

Determining liability for a crash caused by a malfunctioning traffic signal is difficult. For starters, if a defective traffic light created enough confusion for drivers in the intersection, your collision and how it happened may have gone unnoticed in the chaos.

Generally, the liability for a crash in this situation could be:

Another Driver

Often, an intersection collision that happens because of a broken traffic light is likely the fault of one or more drivers who failed to follow safe driving laws. Some motorists may use the excuse of a defective traffic light to ride through the intersection without stopping or checking for traffic. Others may simply get confused. In either situation, liability may be tough to prove. If there is a working camera at the intersection, the footage may help to support your claim. There could also be witnesses or a police officer on the scene that saw what happened and can provide a statement on your behalf.

Government Entity

Whether you are able to file a claim against a government agency depends on certain factors, such as:

  • Was a government agency responsible for maintaining and repairing the traffic light?
  • Did the agency know – or should they have known – about the problem and neglected to fix it?
  • Was there any signage or other types of warnings notifying motorists and residents about the outage?

There could be more than one liable party, which is why this type of case could quickly become complicated and benefit from the help of a knowledgeable attorney.

If a Collision Happens at a Broken Traffic Light

Whatever you do at the crash scene, do not apologize or admit fault, and be careful what you say to the responding officer or any others at the scene. Let the accident investigators do their job to determine who may be liable for the crash.

Contacting an attorney immediately after any car crash often benefits the injured victim. Knowing you have experienced legal representation to protect your interests provides peace of mind. Victims who hire an attorney also often receive significantly larger compensatory awards than those who do not.

What Situations or Events May Cause a Traffic Light to Malfunction?

Traffic lights may malfunction and begin flashing yellow or red lights. At other times, the signal may blackout completely. There are many other reasons that a traffic signal could stop working, including:

  • Power outages
  • Damages caused by high winds
  • Lightning damage
  • Vandalism
  • Poor maintenance
  • Damages from an earlier accident
  • Illegal tampering
  • Wear and tear

How Should Drivers Handle a Defective Traffic Light?

When the traffic lights are working properly, it is very clear who has the right of way. Yet even then, some drivers may ignore the signal and run through a red light.

However, when traffic signals are malfunctioning or completely blacked out, many drivers may quickly become confused. Here are some tips to help you keep safe in this situation:

Flashing Red

If the traffic signal facing you is not working as usual but is flashing a red light, you must treat the light as a stop sign. Drivers with this signal must come to a full and complete stop, ensuring there is no oncoming traffic before proceeding.

Flashing Yellow

A flashing yellow light allows drivers to go through the intersection, but only after yielding to traffic already traveling through the intersection.

Blackout Traffic Signal

Wisconsin Statute 346.37(3) clearly states that in this situation all drivers should treat the traffic signal as an all-ways stop sign.

  • First to arrive; first to go: The first driver to arrive at the intersection should also be the first to go, but only after coming to a full stop and checking for traffic that is already moving.
  • Tie goes to the right: If two vehicles get to the intersection at the same time, or no one noticed who arrived first, the vehicle to the right is the one with the legal right of way.  If there is confusion, you should only proceed if you are sure traffic has come to a complete halt.

Avoid Getting Angry

A malfunctioning or broken traffic light is inconvenient, but not worth getting into a fight or accident over. Some drivers, such as those who are elderly or new to the area, may be more hesitant to drive through – even if it is their turn. Other motorists may get annoyed and go through at the wrong time just to avoid any delays.

Impatience and anger often lead to poor driver decisions, which in turn may cause a crash. If someone is already moving through the intersection, let that driver pass – even if you have the right of way.

No driver should continue without first checking for oncoming traffic, cyclists or pedestrians.

Did a Defective Traffic Light Cause Your Crash? Our Firm is Here to Help

If you were injured in a crash because of a defective or nonfunctioning traffic light, determining liability can often be difficult.

At PKSD, our qualified lawyers are experienced and prepared to fully investigate the cause of your crash. Learn more about your legal rights and how we may be able to help. We have the staff and resources to build a strong claim on your behalf. If you have a case, we are prepared to work tirelessly to recover the compensation, such as medical costs and lost wages, that you need.

Take advantage of the zero-cost, no-obligation consultation we offer with one of our licensed attorneys. If we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front or until your case concludes. We only collect our fees if we are successful in obtaining compensation for you.

Millions Recovered. 877-877-2228

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