Traffic Lawyer U.: Green Lights

TRAFFIC LAWYER RULE: EVEN A DRIVER PROCEEDING THROUGH A GREEN LIGHT MUST EXERCISE SOME CARE TO AVOID RESPONSIBILITY FOR AN ACCIDENT

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A traffic lawyer has a client come to his office. The client tells the traffic lawyer that she was injured in a recent car accident. The collision, she states to the traffic lawyer, occurred while she was driving through an intersection.  She had a green light. Does that automatically mean that she was not at fault?

Usually, it does. But, sometimes, a traffic lawyer may have a client who had a green light, yet still was at least somewhat at fault. How can this be so?

Under New Jersey law, a driver proceeding into an intersection with a green light does not have an unlimited right to proceed. Rather, the driver must use reasonable care. “Reasonable care” includes making reasonable observations for traffic traveling on the intersecting street.

That’s not to say that a “green light” driver has the same obligations that, say, a driver approaching a stop sign would have.  However, the driver who has a green light must still make some observations.

Nonetheless, sometimes, the law allows a jury to conclude that a driver with a green light acted reasonably if he or she made only brief observations for traffic proceeding on the intersecting street. Other times, though, , the same brief observations would not be considered reasonable.

So a traffic lawyer must verify that his client at least used a little care. It doesn’t matter whether the client of the traffic lawyer had the green light. Even such a driver cannot proceed as if with “blinders” on.

In short, we are all obligated to be observant at all times when we drive. Green lights should not make us oblivious to the inherent dangers of the road.

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