Intersection Accidents: What Happens When Both Drivers Claim They Had a Green Light?

Steps to take after an intersection accident to figure out which driver actually had the right of way.

By , Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Intersections are where cars from several streets or roads come together, and sometimes where they collide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that about 40% of the nearly six million crashes that happened in the United States in 2008 were intersection-related crashes.

Intersections are often controlled by traffic signals. When drivers fail to obey traffic signals—accidentally or intentionally—the likelihood of a crash is pretty high.

Sometimes it's easy to figure out who's at fault for an intersection crash. Maybe one of the drivers immediately admits to running a red light or maybe a witness had a perfect view of what happened. But what happens when both drivers claim to have had a green light?

In this article we'll cover:

What To Do Immediately After the Car Accident

It probably goes without saying, but the first thing you should do after an accident is to call 911 if you or anyone involved in the crash is injured.

Then, as long as it's safe to do so, here are some steps you can take to gather as much evidence for your car accident claim as you can:

Step 1: Call the police. If you've called 911, a police officer is likely on the way to the scene. But if you haven't, you should probably call the local law enforcement agency's non-emergency number and report the accident. An officer will likely respond to the scene and write a police report that might help you if you file an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit over the accident.

Step 2: Exchange insurance and contact information. You're legally required to give your insurance and contact information to everyone involved in the accident. Make sure to get their information too.

Step 3: Talk to witnesses. Find out if anyone witnessed the accident. If so, get that person's contact information. A statement from a neutral witness is invaluable in an intersection crash when both drivers claim they had a green light.

Step 4: Gather evidence. Take pictures of the vehicles involved in the accident. Document any skid marks and debris. Take pictures of the traffic signal controlling the intersection and anything that might have obstructed either driver's view of the signal. Look for surveillance and doorbell cameras in the area that might have captured video of the crash.

Step 5: Watch What You Say. Statements that you make at the scene of a car accident can come back to haunt you. Right after an accident, your emotions are likely running high. Don't blurt out an apology or aggressively accuse the other driver of lying—your words may hurt your case. Talk only to the responding law enforcement officer about how the accident happened. Stick to the basic facts only. You can always add more details later when you've had time to reflect and talk to a car accident lawyer.

Exposing the At-Fault Driver

When both drivers involved in an intersection accident claim that they had the green light, one of them is either mistaken or lying. Here's how police officers and insurance adjusters figure out who actually had the right of way.

Interview Witnesses

When it's one driver's word against the other's, an unbiased witness is often the best source of information about what actually happened. Investigators typically talk to witnesses one at a time, away from the drivers. Passengers often have the best view of what happened in an intersection accident, but they might not be entirely unbiased because of their relationship with the driver or because they have their own passenger injury claim to consider.

Look for Camera Evidence

Video footage of an accident is often as good, if not better, than a witness. Some intersections have red-light cameras. You, or anyone else investigating the crash, may be able to request footage of an intersection from the government agency that's responsible for the red light camera. But don't delay—most cameras only keep recorded video for 20-30 days.

Other potential sources of video footage of the accident are dash cams, doorbell cameras, and security cameras from businesses in the area.

Accident Reconstruction

In some cases, investigators work with accident reconstruction experts who analyze the crash data and draw conclusions about what happened.

Most car accident claims don't justify the cost of an accident reconstructionists. But if settlement talks fail and a trial is necessary to resolve a car accident lawsuit, an expert can offer a qualified opinion about which driver is telling the truth about having the green light.

What Happens If Both Drivers Are at Fault for an Accident?

It isn't always clear cut which driver is to blame for an accident and sometimes drivers share fault for an accident. Shared fault rules—contributory and comparative negligence—vary from state to state.

Most states allow drivers to recover some compensation even if they share blame for an accident. But a handful of states bar drivers from receiving compensation if they share any fault for an accident, even 1% fault.

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer

If you've been injured in a "green/green" light intersection accident, talk to a lawyer about your options. A lawyer can answer your questions, help you gather evidence, guide you through the insurance claim process, and help you get the best outcome possible in your case.

Learn more about the difference between hiring a lawyer or handling your own claim. You can also connect with a lawyer directly from this page for free.

Original article by Brian White, Texas Attorney

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