There are some seriously dangerous intersections in Houston, Texas. A recent study compiled the top most dangerous intersections in the city, many of which were found on FM 1960 and SH 6.
In order to pass safely through an intersection, all drivers need to understand who has the right of way. Unfortunately, factors like power outages and aggressive driving can make intersections tough to navigate.
Who is at fault when a car accident occurs at an intersection? Your local car accidents lawyer is here to tell you.
Read on to learn more about common causes of intersection crashes, who is at fault, and how to prove it.
Common Causes of Intersection Crashes
First, let’s talk about why crashes happen at intersections. Understanding what went wrong is the first step toward determining who was to blame. While this list is not exhaustive, it does cover the most common causes.
Running Lights and Stop Signs
Traffic lights and stop signs are designed to enable the safe flow of traffic, but unfortunately, many drivers have a tendency to ignore them. In fact, over 900 people suffered from fatal injuries thanks to drivers who ran red lights in 2020.
These accidents are often serious because drivers and pedestrians with the right of way have little time to react and get side-swiped as a result. Despite the high stakes, running red lights and stop signs are two of the most common causes of intersections accidents.
Failing to Yield Right of Way Without Lights and Signs
Many intersections do not have traffic lights or stop signs to dictate the right of way, but that doesn’t mean that there are no rules to follow. All drivers should understand the rules of the road, even without these signals in place.
If, for example, a driver wants to make a left turn across oncoming traffic, they are obligated to wait until the turn is clear of cars and pedestrians. If a driver fails to do so, they are likely to cause an accident.
Misjudging Traffic Conditions
There are many ways that drivers can misjudge traffic conditions. This can include:
- making a right on red when oncoming cars are passing through the intersection
- misjudging the distance or speed of oncoming cars when merging onto another road
- changing lanes when other cars are close behind
- rushing toward a yellow light and crossing the intersection when the light is red
While misjudging traffic conditions isn’t as egregious of an offense as, say, running a red light, it still indicates some degree of negligence or carelessness.
Chances are, we’ve all encountered power outages while driving around Houston. Extreme temperatures, storms, and downed trees can all impact our power grid, causing stoplights to malfunction.
When traffic lights are down, drivers are expected to drive with care and treat each intersection like a four-way stop. However, many drivers panic or grow impatient and fail to participate in these interim rules.
Most intersections occur on major roads and highways, which are maintained by the state. However, back roads don’t get that same care, and individual property owners may bear responsibility for maintaining things like visibility.
If a driver needs to make a right or left turn but can’t see oncoming traffic, they do need to operate with caution and inch forward until they can see. In extreme cases or cases of neglect, a blocked view can lead to an intersection accident.
Who Is at Fault and Why Does It Matter?
In almost all cases, the at-fault driver is the driver who should have yielded the right of way and didn’t.
In some cases, this is a very clear-cut breaking of traffic laws. For example, if a driver runs a red light and causes an accident, they have broken traffic laws and are clearly at fault for the accident.
In other cases, it can be somewhat trickier to prove whose negligence ultimately caused the accident. For example, imagine that one driver is merging onto the highway and seems to have enough space to merge ahead of an oncoming car. However, that oncoming car is going well above the speed limit, causing the merging driver to misjudge the time and space they really have, meaning that while it was their responsibility to yield, the other driver’s recklessness and negligence contributed to the accident significantly.
In rare cases, a third party may be to blame. For example, a property owner’s failure to maintain their landscaping could create blind spots at intersections. If accidents result, at least partial fault belongs to the property owner.
Why does fault matter? If you were injured and financially impacted by a car accident, you may decide to file a personal injury claim to recover financial damages. You can only do so if you know who bears most or all of the blame.
Can More Than One Driver Cause an Intersection Crash?
Think of the second example we provided above: one driver merged too soon but the other driver broke the speed limit by a significant amount. Is it possible that both drivers are at fault for the accident that ensued?
The short answer is yes. In fact, you may have to accept partial fault for an accident even if you had the right of way. If there was something you could have done to prevent an accident with the driver who didn’t yield the right of way, like hitting the brakes at a four-way stop, you may have to accept partial responsibility.
Does shared fault mean that you can’t file a personal injury claim? Not always.
The state of Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. That means that as long as the accident that caused your injuries was no more than 50% your responsibility, you can still file a personal injury claim. However, the damages you can recover will reflect the amount of fault you share (i.e. a driver who shares 25% of the fault can recover up to 75% of their damages).
How to Prove Fault After an Intersection Crash
Even if you feel certain that you know why the accident occurred, you will still need to provide sufficient evidence. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence you can compile to strengthen your claims. Once again, this is not an exhaustive list, but it does cover some of the key pieces of evidence that are often used after an intersection crash.
Document the Accident
When an accident occurs at an intersection, the first thing you should do is call the police, who will provide you with a police report. In addition, take as many photos and videos of the scene of the accident as possible, capturing nearby lights, signs, or other relevant features. Make a record of your memory of the accident as soon as possible, including as many details as you can remember.
Talk to Witnesses
In the state of Texas, uninvolved witnesses are not required to stop. However, many good samaritans will, and you should exchange information with them. Witness testimony can make a key difference when trying to recreate the accident to prove who was responsible.
Acquire Traffic Video Evidence
If the accident occurred at a major intersection, there may be traffic video cameras nearby. Keep in mind that many of these cameras self-erase after 20 to 30 days, so you will need to file a request with the city to receive a copy of the footage ASAP. If the accident occurred near commercial properties, ask the property owners if they have any security cameras that may have captured the accident and request that footage, as well.
Work With a Car Accidents Lawyer
Finally, make sure that you hire a car accident lawyer if you want to file a car accident claim. In a car accident claim, the defense team is the at-fault driver’s insurance company and their own lawyers, who have one goal in mind: to undermine your claims and lower your settlement. Hiring an experienced and successful car accident lawyer of your own to level the playing field and ensure that someone with knowledge of the law is in your corner.
Hire the Best Car Accidents Lawyer in Houston, Texas
If you were involved in a crash at a Houston intersection, you’ve come to the right place. Proving fault after an intersection crash presents unique difficulties that our car accidents lawyer is ready to face.
Don’t file a car accident claim without legal representation in Houston, Texas. Contact us at the O’Hara Law Firm and tell us the basic facts of your case. We’ll offer you our expert opinion so that you can make an informed decision and choose us as your car accident lawyer.