Philadelphia Car Accident Injuries – Who Had the Right of Way in an Intersection Accident?

When intersection accidents happen in Pennsylvania, fault isn’t always clear. The question of who had the right of way often arises. Did one of the drivers run a red light or were they speeding excessively? Was the traffic signal working properly? These are all issues that must be resolved to determine who had the right of way and who was at fault for the car accident.

Distracted Driving

In general, car accidents have been on the rise for several years. This is in part because of the increasing population and increasing number of cars on the road. This may also be due to increasing levels of distraction. In the dawn of smart phones, we’re constantly tied to our phones, which are illegal to use when driving for anything other than making a phone call in Pennsylvania. However, many drivers are still texting, emailing and even surfing the internet while driving. Not only are these types of behaviors illegal and dangerous, they often lead to car accidents across the Philadelphia area, and in particular, intersection accidents and rear end accidents.

The Right of Way at Intersections – Traffic Signals

When an intersection accident happens, the initial inquiry involves whether the intersection was controlled by any traffic control devices including traffic lights or traffic signs such as stop signs. In general, fault tends to be clear when a driver violates a traffic control device, i.e., running a red light or stop sign.

For example, Driver A is sitting at a red light waiting for the light to turn green. Just as the light turns green, Driver A proceeds into the intersection. Driver B is approaching from the right but fails to stop for the red light. Driver B strikes Driver A. Clearly, Driver B is at fault because Driver B failed to stop for the red light.

However, fault might not be completely clear in intersection accidents that involve turn signals, such as a left hand turn signal or yield sign.

Using the example above, let’s say that Driver A is intending to turn left and is waiting at the light in a left hand turn lane. Driver A’s traffic light is green for his direction of travel, but without the green arrow. Driver A can legally enter the intersection and make the left turn after yielding the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction. Driver B is approaching the intersection from the opposite lane of travel. Driver B has a green light as well. Driver A looks and determines that it is safe to make the left turn and begins to turn. Driver B’s light is now turning yellow, and so she slams the accelerator hoping to make the light. She crashes into the rear passenger side of Driver A.

Who is at fault for this intersection accident? The answer depends on how fast Driver B was traveling when she entered the intersection and what the speed limit was. Let’s say the speed limit for that road was 30 miles per hour, and Driver B accelerated to 50 miles per hour just as she entered the intersection.  In this instance, both drivers would share fault. However, Driver B’s share of the fault would probably be much greater than Driver A’s share, because Driver B was speeding excessively and in a manner that would have made it difficult for Driver A to anticipate. Accordingly, a jury might find that Driver A is 25% at fault and Driver B is 75% at fault.

Let’s change the fact scenario a bit. What if Driver B’s speed was only 35 mph when she entered the intersection? Remember that the speed limit was 30 mph. Going 35 mph in a 30 mph zone isn’t unreasonable, and Driver A should have been able to anticipate that it was unsafe to turn left. Under this circumstance, Driver A would probably be 100% at fault.

Other Factors in Determining Fault in an Intersection Accident

Other factors can come into play when figuring out who was at fault for causing an intersection accident. Such factors often include:

  • faulty headlights or brake lights,
  • speeding,
  • failing to use turn signals, or
  • using a cell phone.

Using the example above involving the left turn, let’s say that it’s nighttime. Driver A has his headlights and turn signal on. He is intending to turn left. Driver B is approaching the intersection but doesn’t have her headlights on. Driver A doesn’t see Driver B and begins to turn left. They collide. Here, so long as Driver A had a green light, Driver B would be 100% at fault for failing to drive with her headlights on.

Philadelphia Car Accident Law Firm – FREE CONSULTATIONS

Namerow Law is a Philadelphia car accident injury law firm handling car, truck and pedestrian accidents. If you’ve been injured in an intersection accident in the Philadelphia area, including the suburbs, call us for a free case review.

Firm partner Jordan Namerow focuses on personal injury matters. Mr. Namerow is highly rated and recommended by his former clients. Call us at (215) 985-0777.

Car accident cases accepted in Philadelphia, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and throughout other parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.



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