Parents always worry when driving with their children in the car. While you must always understand and obey the rules of the road, it is doubly important to do so when your children are riding in the car. Unfortunately, there are cases where a lack of an appropriate traffic signal may lead to a car accident. In such cases, you might wonder if the people responsible for maintaining the roads are liable.
An appeals court in upstate New York recently dealt with such a case. The victim was a 15-year-old girl riding as a passenger in a minivan. The vehicle was traveling southbound on New York State Route 11 in the Town of Cicero in Onodaga County. The minivan approached an intersection where there was a flashing yellow signal instead of a full three-color traffic light. The intersecting road had a flashing red signal. The minivan entered the intersection and collided with a second vehicle traveling on the intersecting road. The victim suffered serious injuries as a result.
The victim's parents filed a claim against the State of New York, which maintains the roadways in question. As a matter of law, the state has a duty to “design, construct and maintain its roadways in a reasonably safe condition.” But here, the parents argued that the state failed to do so by not installing a three-light signal at the intersection where the accident occurred.
Several months before the accident, the town supervisor for the Town of Cicero asked the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to install just such a traffic signal. The DOT conducted its own review of traffic patterns at the intersection and agreed a three-light signal was necessary. Unfortunately for the victim, the DOT failed to do so before the date of her accident.
But that did not make the state liable for the accident or the victim's injuries, according to theNew York Court of Claims, which hears personal injury lawsuits against state agencies. The court said the state was entitled to “qualified immunity from liability for negligence arising out of its discretionary highway planning decisions.” In other words, the parents could not seek damages based on the state's delay in installing the new traffic signal. The court noted the DOT had performed “no less than five studies” on that same intersection in the preceding decade, indicating there was some “reasonable basis” not to install a three-light signal until its most recent review. The parents appealed the judge's decision, but theAppellate Division, Fourth Department, affirmed the decision in favor of the state.
Need Help from a Personal Injury Lawyer?Anytime you or a loved one is seriously injured in an automobile accident, it is important to seek prompt legal advice from a qualified New York personal injury lawyer. Accident cases often involve complex legal issues like the case discussed above, and it is not something you should try to deal with on your own. Contact the offices of Waldhauser & Nisar, LLP, if you would like to speak with an attorney right away.