Would I have a case against the city?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Would I have a case against the city?

I was involved in an auto accident that
involved 3 vehicles due to the signal
lights at the intersection were
competely out in all directions. There
was no indication at all that the signal
lights were not working.

Asked on August 5, 2017 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You certainly can file a lawsuit, but there are challenges you will face in suing the city in this case:
1) The city would only potentially be liable, or responsible to pay, if you can show that they knew that the light was out--i.e. that someone had phoned it in or otherwise provided notice of the light being non-functional. They are not responsible if no one told them it was out, since in that case, they had no reason to fix it; i.e. they did nothing wrong in not fixing it.
Furthermore, even if someone had warned them the light was out, it takes at least some time to get an officer on the scene to direct traffic (pending repairs); if the warning of the light being down came in just before the accident, they again would not be at fault, because they would not have had a chance to do anything.
2)  Even if the city was at fault to some degree, you'd also have to show that you were driving carefully at the time--that you were looking to see if any cars were coming (traffic light or not, you always have to check the intersection, because some drivers go through red lights), were driving at a safe and appropriate speed, etc. If you were at fault, too, then even if the city was also at fault in not fixing the light (or having officers there to direct traffic) within a reasonable time frame, your own fault can reduce or even negate the amount of compensation you would otherwise get.
Ideally, sue the city *and* the other drivers, to increase the likelihood that someone will be found to have been negligent or careless and therefore liable for your car damage and/or injuries.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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