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Who’s at Fault at an Intersection Accident?

With traffic entering and exiting from every angle, intersections can be busy places. It’s why determining who’s at fault at an intersection accident can, at times, be challenging. Changing traffic lights and missed turn signals, pedestrian crossings, motorcycles appearing from nowhere, and more—it’s no surprise that approximately 40% of car accidents that occur each year happen at intersections—and assigning fault can be problematic.

snowy intersection

How accidents happen at intersections can differ for many reasons; however, most car accidents at intersections are caused by negligence. Making an error while driving through an intersection, whether calculated, intentional, poor judgment, or simply not paying attention, are forms of negligence and a failure to obey traffic laws. In other words, when an accident occurs at an intersection, the person who violates a traffic law is the person who is at fault. Driver’s have a duty to maintain a degree of alertness while operating a vehicle, particularly when approaching an intersection. Drivers that fail to remain alert through an intersection can injure other motorists, pedestrians, and particularly motorcyclists.

At intersections, motorcyclists are especially at risk, not only because they are exposed and vulnerable but also because of the ease of accelerating motorcycles. Such a rapid increase in speed can cause other drivers to miscalculate when a motorcycle is approaching or passing through an intersection. In many instances, the most common cause of motorcycle accidents at intersections are by drivers who simply did not see the motorcycle approaching.

Wondering how accidents happen at intersections? Here are several leading causes:

  • Someone running a red light or a stop sign is the leading cause of intersection accidents. On average, nationally, it happens an estimated 165,000 times per year. When a driver fails to stop at an intersection as indicated and enters the direct path of oncoming traffic or pedestrian crossing, the result often leads to serious, if not tragic consequences. Oncoming drivers who have the green light and are legally driving through the intersection from a perpendicular direction have very little or no time to react to another car that suddenly pulls out in front of them. With little time to react, such collisions are usually serious ones.
  • Another leading cause of accidents at intersections occurs when drivers fail to yield to the right of way. Even where there is no traffic signal, when two cars approach the intersection, a driver making a left turn across traffic must yield to oncoming traffic. Every driver should know the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel. Failing to yield to the right of way, whether an honest mistake or misunderstanding, can result in a car accident in the middle of the intersection.
  • Misjudging the traffic situation at an intersection frequently causes accidents there. Drivers who turn right, even after stopping, often misjudge the speed of approaching vehicles, or they may pull out and then cross lanes too early. Quite often, drivers attempt to rush through a yellow light when, in fact, there isn’t enough time to do so. Whether turning right into approaching traffic or speeding through a yellow light, such misjudgment can result in intersection crashes.
  • Though not that uncommon, missing or malfunctioning traffic lights can cause enough confusion that may lead to a collision at an intersection. When traffic signals malfunction, it can wreak havoc on normal intersection traffic flow. Malfunctioning traffic signal lights can be caused by natural means—lightning may cause a power surge, or high winds may down wires that cut electricity. Downed traffic signals can be caused by wear and tear or maintenance issues, and sometimes vandalism. When traffic signals blackout or malfunction by natural means, the individual drivers need to navigate the intersection with caution and proceed as if they are at a four-way stop sign. Failing to do so can lead to a car accident.

With multiple drivers entering and exiting in different directions, negotiating intersections can be difficult for many reasons. When accidents happen at intersections, it is a result of drivers making mistakes or miscalculations. Determining who’s at fault at an intersection accident will focus on determining which driver caused the accident by making a driving error.

Contact an Attorney

If you’re injured at an intersection as a result of driver negligence, contact the car accident lawyers at Hardy Wolf & Downing for a free consultation. For nearly forty years, the attorneys at Hardy Wolf & Downing have helped the injured, and their loved ones receive just compensation for injuries sustained in car accidents.