Safe intersection traffic controls, maintenance, and design are a crucial part of making sure that motorists throughout San Diego are capable of navigating the roads without a problem. However, regardless of the best efforts being made to reduce or eliminate intersection collisions, data indicates that over 50% of combined total injury and fatal accidents happen near or at intersections.

When an intersection accident takes place due to another person’s negligence, understanding the California car crash recovery law is critical, as it will help you when you want to hold the at-fault party responsible. It is also crucial to have an attorney by your side so he/she can help you through the process of seeking compensation. If you are in this situation, our San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm lawyers can help. We will apply the knowledge we have about California personal injury laws in helping you to get fair compensation. Contact us as soon as you can after a crash so that we can have ample time working on your case. In this article, we discuss all you need to know about intersection accidents.

California Intersection Traffic Rules

Slowing down on seeing a yellow light is not just common sense, it is the law. VC 21453 defines the duties of a driver when nearing a traffic signal. It provides that all motorists must come to a stop upon reaching a marked line when facing a steady circular red signal except if they already are in the intersection. Vehicle code 21452 provides that a steady circular yellow light cautions motorists that a red light will run immediately after. Therefore, it is upon the driver to reduce speed when he/she sees a yellow light so that he/she can halt in time at the line when the red light runs.

Most commonly, the yellow light problem occurs when a motorist cannot decide if they have adequate time to drive past the intersection before the traffic lights change to red. Most drivers misjudge the speed, distance, or time, and therefore fail to halt in time before the traffic lights turn red. If a motorist drives past the marked line and into the intersection at the time when the traffic light is red, they will be considered to have violated the law, and they may be subject to related penalties.

In California, no law prohibits motorists from being in an intersection at the time when the yellow light is on. The rule here is the motorist can’t be in the intersection at the time of a red indicator. Even though the difference between these two is only a few seconds, it’s a significant one. If you get into an accident at an intersection when the yellow light was on, you aren’t technically to blame. However, in case the traffic light had changed to red, you may be responsible for damages.

Most yellow and red light accidents aren’t simple matters to handle. They are complicated and may need footage of video surveillance, eyewitness interviews, and accident recreation to determine fault. If you did particular actions seconds before the crash, however, your chances of being at fault increase. The investigation by law enforcement will aim at identifying whether you committed any of these mistakes:

  • Failing to slow down when the yellow light is on

  • Speeding when the light turns yellow

  • Failing to stop when the light changes to red

  • Miscalculating the distance of approaching traffic when you are turning left

  • Causing a rear-end crash due to your failure to stop

The above are common errors drivers make in intersections that lead to severe car crashes. The severest accidents usually stem from motorists speeding up in an attempt to cross before the light turns red. This can cause high-speed accidents and deadly T-bone collisions. As a driver, you have to comply with traffic signals, drive at safe speeds, and come to a stop when the lights turn red. Failing to do this, and ending up causing an accident may place you at fault.

Passing through a traffic light when the red light is on may qualify to be negligence per se in California courts. By negligence per se, it means a motorist may be to blame for making the accident happen by violating traffic laws without any additional proof of negligence needed. If you are an intersection collision victim, investigators may be capable of assisting you in proving your case. Talk to an intersection accident lawyer for advice about bringing an intersection crash injury claim.

A Summary of Right-of-way Laws at Intersections

The right-of-way laws for California intersections are summarized as shown below:

  • At any given intersection, whether unmarked or marked, a driver ought to slow down and be prepared to stop

  • The right of way is given to the bicycle or vehicle that’s first to arrive

  • At an unmarked intersection, you have to yield to traffic on the through roadway

  • On a four-way stop, you should give way to the automobile that’s there first, then to those on the right

  • When making a left turn, yield the right of way to the auto close enough to pause a danger

Forms of Intersection Collisions

An intersection crash takes various forms. Examples of types of intersection accidents include:

  • T-bone collisions - T-bone crashes are the most known type of intersection accidents. They happen when one car hits another from the side, creating a T-like shape. Usually, these accidents happen when one auto fails to give way to the other and occurs when one automobile is making a left turn while the other is moving straight through the intersection.

  • Right-turn crashes - A right-turn accident is among the most common collisions that happen at intersections. This type of accident involves a driver and a pedestrian or bicyclist. It occurs when the pedestrian/bicyclist is crossing the intersection, and a car turning right turns right into the victim due to the failure to yield.

  • Rear-end crashes - This form of accident occurs when a rear motorist strikes the front motorist from behind. It takes place when the rear driver assumes that the motorist in front is going to drive through the intersection (when turning left or right).

  • Head-on collisions -Even though head-on collisions are less common at intersections, they may happen when motorists are under the influence, distracted, overly fatigued, or distracted, or impaired.

Causes of Accidents at Intersections

Intersection collisions can be prevented. However, if they happen, the responsible party should be identified as soon as possible, so the process of filing claims can start. Common reasons why intersection crashes occur include:

  • Dangerous intersection conditions, for instance, missing, downed or faulty traffic lights, absence of traffic control devices, or poor signage. If an intersection crash occurs due to hazardous conditions like the ones we have mentioned, the transportation department or municipality in charge of the intersection plus its maintenance may be liable for resulting injuries.

  • Driver’s errors, for example, running a stop sign or red light, driving too fast for conditions, failure to give way to other drivers, driving while under the influence, following too closely, or making erratic or improper lane changes. Other motorist mistakes include aggressive driving, misjudging approaching traffic, driving when distracted, unpredictable and sudden speed changes, prohibited and hazardous passing & merging, making improper turns, or failing to obey traffic control signs and devices.

Speeding has proven to be the leading reason for fatalities as far as it concerns aggressive driving collisions. This is because if the speed of the aggressive auto is higher, the transfer of impact from it to your automobile will be significant. And, the significant the transfer of impact is, the higher the possibility that you will suffer severe injuries since your tendons and muscles absorb the force of the accident. This is among the main reasons for intersection accidents being so dangerous, since, often, a motorist will be speeding up to evade the red light, and they will either enter into the intersection at a higher speed rate or an attempt to slam on the brakes, leading to a crash behind them.

Injuries Sustained in an Intersection Accident

The injuries you can sustain when involved in an intersection accident can be especially severe due to the forms of crashes that usually occur. For instance, if one automobile runs a red light, a broadside accident may be the result. In this kind of collision, the front part of one vehicle directly crashes into the side of another, usually where a passenger or driver is sitting. Since these occupants are protected only by the door, the odds are that they will sustain severe or catastrophic injuries. The kinds of injuries you can suffer after being in this kind of accident include:

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Traumatic brain injuries

  • Head trauma

  • Internal organ injuries

  • Amputation or loss of a limb

  • Severe burns

  • Back injuries

  • Broken bones

  • Whiplash and other neck injuries

  • Soft tissue injuries

  • Wrongful death

Liability in Intersection Accidents

California intersection collisions are different from other forms of vehicle accidents since they aren’t always the mistake of the motorists involved. In certain cases, there could be a flaw in the road design or in the roadway construction itself that caused or contributed to the vehicle accident. Roads that are not properly designed to allow the motorist a line of sight to be able to see posted signage of speed limit or the continuation of the roadway may lead to severe car crashes and sometimes car accident-related deaths. Apart from poor lines of sight, improperly-timed or malfunctioning traffic signals could also be hazardous to drivers

Other road defects that may lead to motor vehicle crashes include:

  • Defective or malfunctioning traffic signs

  • Damaged signs

  • Signs that are faded or weathered

  • Improperly placed traffic signs

We have several factors that need to be considered when an intersection crash takes place. That is why it’s critical to hire a skilled personal injury lawyer to protect your rights and ensure the liable party is entirely held accountable for your injuries, damages, and loss.

How to Prove Liability after an Intersection Accident

Most auto collision claims involve negligence. For you to show negligence, you have to prove that:

  • The other motorist owed you a duty of care

  • He/she violated that duty of care

  • His/her violation of that duty led to your injuries

  • You suffered damages as a result

While this may seem like a straightforward analysis, car negligence claims may quickly turn out to be complicated. Insurance providers are profit-making companies. Therefore, they are continually looking for ways through which they can deny fault auto insurance claims and reduce their costs. The liable car insurance provider may deny your injury claim in case there is:

  • Proof showing that your injuries were pre-existing

  • A factual disagreement about who led to the accident

  • Disagreement concerning the degree of your damages

California Pure Comparative Negligence Rule

Since intersection accidents typically involve several vehicles, all the motorists involved can sometimes be deemed to be negligent. For instance, if you get an accident at a four-way stop and every motorist involved in that crash reasonably believes they had the right-of-way, it may lead to both parties being deemed partially to blame for the accident. However, if you’re the only party injured in that crash, the question to ask is, what are your recovery options? Every state complies with its own rules for determining liability in multi-vehicle collisions. While other states forbid recovery if your level of fault for the crash is over 50%, a few others will bar you from seeking recovery in case you were even 1% to blame for the crash.

However, California follows what we call pure comparative negligence rule. Here, if you contributed to the occurrence of the collision that resulted in your injuries, you won’t be barred from seeking compensation. However, your amount of compensation will be reduced proportionately depending on your degree of liability. For instance, if your compensation amount is $20,000 and you were 20% to blame for the crash, then you will only be capable of recovering $16,000, a 20% reduction in the original award.

Damages You Can Recover After an Intersection Accident

Intersection car crash damages are usually classified as non-economic and economic damages. Economic damages include:

  • Replacement or repair cost of your damaged property

  • Lost income

  • Past, present, and future medical expenses

  • Out-of-pocket costs

  • Cost of rental cars

Non-economic damages compensate for the pain you go through after sustaining injuries due to the accident. They include:

  • Pain and suffering

  • Emotional distress

  • Mental anguish

  • Disability or disfigurement

  • Loss of companionship or affection

Caps on Damages

Unlike most other states, the state of California doesn’t have a limit on damages when it comes to car accident claims generally. However, there’re a few instances that can restrict or eliminate your damages for a car crash. For instance, there is a cap for California auto accidents that involve a motorist that has no proof of financial responsibility or insurance. In 1996, voters passed Proposition 213 that states that irrespective of who is to blame for the accident, in case a driver doesn’t have insurance, he or she cannot be compensated for non-economic damages. However, the driver will still get economic damages if he or she can prove fault.

Also, for severe personal injuries that result in your stay in the hospital, a limit on damages to do with medical malpractice can affect your life as well. If your auto accident injury turns into something more severe because of a medical professional’s fault, your non-economic compensation would be restricted to $250,000.

Statute of Limitations for Bringing an Intersection Accident Claim

The Statute of Limitations refers to the law that provides the timeframe that an accident victim has to file his/her personal injury claim. California law gives you only two years from the time the accident occurred to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for your injuries. Also, if your loved one died due to the injuries sustained in an accident and you want to file a wrongful death claim, you need to do that within two years of the death of the loved one. And if you are bringing a property damage claim, you have three years from the day of the property damage to do so. If a governmental body is involved, however, the period in the Statute of Limitations shortens drastically. In this case, you will have only six months to bring a claim against the government agency that is responsible for your injuries.

If you file your claim after the deadline has passed, the defendant likely will notify the court about your delayed filing, and the court will most likely dismiss your claim. If this happens, you will have lost the right to seek compensation for the injuries you sustained regardless of how severe they may be and irrespective of how clear the defendant’s liability is, unless you’re eligible for an extension of the statute of limitations, which is rare.

It’s critical to keep in mind that the timeframe for bringing a personal injury claim is not merely a factor when you have resolved on taking your lawsuit to court through a formal suit. The filing timeframe that this law sets is also critical to your place in settlement negotiations with the at-fault party and their insurance company. If the deadline passes, then you will also have lost all of your leverage.

However, there is an exception to the period as provided for in the Statute of Limitations, whereby it can be delayed or tolled. Different scenarios can pause the running of this timeframe or postponing the date that the Statute of Limitations starts to run. When this happens, it means the timeframe for bringing your claim will extend. Here are a few examples of situations that are most likely to delay or pause the running of the statute of limitations:

  • The victim didn’t discover and didn’t know any facts that would’ve caused a sensible individual to suspect that he/she had sustained injuries caused by another person’s wrongful act (i.e., the delayed discovery rule)

  • The victim was below eighteen years old or did not have the legal capacity of making decisions (i.e., if the victim was subject to a permanent or temporary illness) when the accident happened

  • The at-fault party left California after the accident before the claim could be filed

Should you have any concern about how the Statute of Limitations applies to your case, mainly if the filing deadline has passed, talk to an experienced personal injury attorney.

How an Attorney Can Help in Your Intersection Accident Case

An auto accident lawyer can assist you in gathering proof to prove your personal injury claim, thus, increasing your odds of being compensated. The evidence your attorney can help you to collect include:

  • Police report - Whereas this is critical to your injury case, it might not always be sufficient to exonerate you of any liability for the crash you have. Your lawyer can suggest other means to get proof that’s favorable to your lawsuit

  • Proof of financial responsibility - The personal injury law in California provides that motorists should always have adequate accident coverage. Your lawyer can assess your current state of insurance and suggest the ideal way to move forward with claiming compensation

  • Photos, video footage, testimony from witnesses- This kind of proof can significantly strengthen your personal injury claim

  • Obtaining compensation - Whether you are seeking to recover damages from the at-fault party or your insurance provider, your lawyer could recommend the best possible way of maximizing damage recovery

Find an Intersection Car Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

An accident that takes place in or at an intersection can leave you with severe injuries and costs that range from medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, etc. When you are harmed in this kind of accident that took place due to another person’s negligence, you ought to be compensated. For you to stand a chance at compensation, you need expert legal representation you can get.

At the San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, our lawyers will advocate for you. We will comprehensively investigate the intersection accident to determine fault. We also have experience when it comes to negotiating with insurance companies, and we are not intimidated should the case proceed to court. Reach out to us at 619-478-4059 to talk to one of our lawyers and schedule a consultation so we can help you to the best of our ability.