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Broken Traffic Lights and Pedestrian Accident Liability

Who’s At-Fault for Pedestrian Accidents Caused by Faulty Traffic Lights and Signals?

There is a misconception that traffic signals are infallible. The reality is that many aggrieved individuals have received damages after being hurt in car and pedestrian accidents that were caused by faulty traffic lights and signals.

For the most part, a public entity will most likely be held liable for any losses caused by defective traffic signals or hazardous road conditions they are responsible for maintaining. Likewise, a pedestrian who is using a public road has a legal right to well-maintained roads. In essence, a city or state is expected to properly manage heavily traversed roads in safe conditions.

If you or a loved one was injured in a pedestrian accident in Los Angeles, our experienced personal injury attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers are always here to help. We will recover all the compensation you are entitled to so that you can focus on your recovery and on the ones you care most about.

Types of Defective Traffic Signals

Conflicting Signals. There are some cities that will invoke immunity from liability if conflicting signals cause an injury. That will not necessarily be the case though. For example, if traffic signals were not positioned properly, immunity may not be applicable and a city or public entity may be liable for any losses caused by their negligence.

Not Enough Time to Cross. Traffic signals may not be programmed properly and may not allow a pedestrian enough time to safely cross a street. Cross time must be enough for a pedestrian to cross, and the amount of time must be based on the distance necessary to cross from light post to light post. Therefore, a city can be held liable for any losses caused as a result of such programming errors.

Malfunctioning Signals. Malfunctioning signals are another example of city negligence. In the event of a malfunctioning traffic signal, a transportation department must provide adequate warnings for motorists to be aware of the malfunctioning traffic signals. Liability can be incurred for not providing enough warnings to pedestrians.

Poorly Visible Stop Signs. Anytime a public entity places a stop sign in an incorrect position or does not remove objects blocking the clear view of a stop sign, a city can be held liable. It’s possible that a city may claim the injured pedestrian was hurt because of his or her own negligence. Such an argument would likely not be successful. In most cases, a city will be held liable for any injuries caused as a result of a poorly placed stop sign.

Liability for Defective Traffic Signals

An injured pedestrian needs to prove two things in order to hold a city liable for damages. The first is negligence. The injured pedestrian needs to prove that the city was negligent — such as by placing a poorly placed stop sign — and that the negligent act created a hazardous condition, which contributed to the accident.

However, if negligence cannot be established, a pedestrian must prove that the city or public entity knew about or should have known about the hazardous condition, yet did not take enough reasonable action. Reasonable action means repairing the hazardous condition, but can also include providing adequate warnings for pedestrians.

In summary, if a city or public entity was previously put on notice regarding a hazardous condition, they will almost certainly be held liable for any losses caused by their negligence or failure to warn pedestrians about a potential hazardous condition.

Available Damages

Accidents happen. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Below is a brief explanation of damages. Damages are a type of monetary award that is determined by a court of law to help compensate an aggrieved individual for any losses or injuries sustained as a result of someone’s negligence.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out-of-pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out-of-pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life

Punitive Damages

The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact are only incorporated in about 5 percent of all verdicts.

Furthermore, there is no real set standard for calculating and awarding punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded at the court’s discretion and will vary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

A Personal Injury Firm That Cares

If you have sustained injuries in the city of Los Angeles as a result of an accident, an injury attorney at our firm can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our efficient and compassionate team.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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