Car crashes occur because of many reasons. One common cause of car crashes is a driver running a stop sign.
For a stop sign to be valid, it needs authorization from the governing body of the municipality. In other words, the municipal council must approve the placement of a stop sign at a particular intersection.
But what happens in car crashes when the municipality places a stop sign at an intersection without the council authorizing it? Let me illustrate with an example.
Let’s say you live in Teaneck. One day, you decide to take a drive to a mall in Paramus. From there you drive to Fair Lawn. Then to Paterson. Then to Clifton. In Clifton, you proceed down a street and approach an intersection.
There is no traffic signal or stop sign facing in your direction, so you enter the intersection. Suddenly, another car plows into the side of your vehicle. You suffer severe injuries.
After the accident, you retain a personal injury lawyer to represent you. Your lawyer files suit in court. He claims that, because the other driver ran a stop sign, that driver was at fault and is responsible for your injuries.
But the other driver also has an attorney. His attorney is being paid for by his insurance company. This defense lawyer does a little research and discovers that the municipal council of Clifton never approved the stop sign in question.
Therefore, the defense lawyer argues to the judge that his client had the right of way because he entered the intersection first and there was no valid stop sign requiring him to stop.
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Recent Case on Stop Sign Crashes
Who wins the case? According to a recent appellate case in New Jersey, you would likely win. The court ruled that, even if a stop sign is technically not legal, it Is still negligent to ignore it. Otherwise, the appellate judges noted, there would be chaos on the roads.
(As to whether the other driver could legally get a traffic ticket for running an unauthorized stop sign, that is an entirely different question, one which the court did not discuss.)
The recent case also illustrates why, if you are hurt in a car crash, you need to retain an experienced personal injury lawyer. The insurance company for the other driver will have an experienced lawyer representing its interests. You need a good lawyer who can level the playing field.