An Improperly Installed Traffic Signal Leads to a Serious Crash and a $9M Settlement for a Southern California Driver

An Improperly Installed Traffic Signal Leads to a Serious Crash and a $9M Settlement for a Southern California Driver

When you’re injured as a result of an intersection crash, it’s possible that the other driver bears 100% of the blame for the accident. It’s also possible, though, that legal culpability for the harm you’ve suffered as a result of that crash extends beyond just that driver. Other parties – ranging from the driver’s employer to local governments to third-party vendors – may share in the blame. When it comes to getting everything that you deserve from the legal action you take, identifying and including all responsible parties can be vital and is one area where having a skillful Santa Barbara car accident lawyer on your side can make all the difference.

An example of this truth played out to our south, according to the Los Angeles Times. In February 2021, an intersection crash in the Hollywood Hills left a traffic light pole badly damaged. The city placed a temporary traffic signal on a pole located on the side of the road. 

The next day, a San Rafael woman was attempting a left turn at the same intersection when a man in a pickup truck ran a red light and slammed into her, causing a serious neck injury. The driver of the pickup said he didn’t see the red light “until the last second,” too late to stop in time.

Clearly, the driver of the pickup truck was potentially liable for the woman’s injuries based on his failure to stop at the red light. 

The woman’s legal team, however, saw something more. The woman’s counsel sued not just the driver but also the City of Los Angeles, alleging that the intersection where the crash occurred was “unreasonably” dangerous. Specifically, the woman’s legal team argued that the way the city set up the temporary traffic signal made it very hard to see. 

Municipal Liability for Unsafe Road Conditions

Hole in the asphalt on a damaged road, highlighting the risk of driving.

Under California law, a city may be liable if the injured person proves that:

(1) the city owned and/or controlled the intersection in question, 

(2) the intersection was dangerous at the time of the accident, 

(3) the hazardous condition caused the accident, 

(4) the injured driver/passenger endured action harm as a result of the accident 

(5) the city knew or reasonably should have known that the intersection was unreasonably dangerous but did not take the proper steps to address it.

In a lot of municipal liability cases involving dangerous road and/or intersection conditions, the dispute involves an intersection that had become dangerous and the city did not address the hazard in a timely manner. (These types of cases might include a city that failed to take sufficiently prompt action to replace a stop sign that it knew (or should have known) had been stolen or lost, or a city that knew or should have known that foliage on public property near an intersection had become overgrown and blocked sightlines of drivers at the intersection.) By contrast, the Los Angeles case was different, as the woman contended that the temporary traffic signal was too difficult to see, rendering unsafe from the moment workers installed it – and that the city knew this or should have known it.

Ultimately, the city chose to settle the case, awarding the injured woman more than $9 million, according to the Times.   

Whether it’s adding an employer on the basis of vicarious liability or a city government on the basis of unsafe road conditions, your car accident may involve more than you would have initially thought, including pursuing compensation from multiple parties. The helpful Santa Barbara car accident attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP have decades of experience handling all types of car crash cases, so we have the knowledge and the skill to spot situations in which the blame for the harm you endured goes beyond just the driver who hit you. Contact us at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today. The sooner you call, the sooner we can begin investigating your case and taking action to get you all the compensation the law says you deserve.


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