There are thousands of car accidents caused by defective or malfunctioning traffic lights in the United States each year, many of them occurring in New York City. Victims of such accidents may be able to secure compensation from all liable parties, including the city itself.

According to a New York City Comptroller’s report, the city paid $11,378,500 in 2020 to settle claims brought as the result of accidents caused by defective, obstructed or missing traffic control lights or devices, including stop signs. Although these cases typically do not go to trial, obtaining a substantial settlement still requires gathering evidence showing not only the lack of a functioning signal but also how that situation led to the accident.

A defective or malfunctioning traffic light does not mean the city is automatically responsible for an auto accident that occurs. For example, if a traffic light at an intersection goes dark, drivers may become confused and proceed without yielding to those who have the right of way. In this scenario, any drivers who did not yield may be partly responsible for a crash. The city might be partly to blame if its personnel knowingly left the light unrepaired for an unreasonable amount of time.

On the other hand, if a defective light flashes green in multiple directions simultaneously and drivers collide, the city will most likely be the principally liable party.

Since traffic lights are the city’s responsibility, you must follow the special protocols required for seeking compensation from public entities. Unlike in lawsuits against private parties, you must first file a Notice of Claim with the city within 90 days of the date of an accident. This allows the city a chance to respond to the claim and possibly resolve it before a formal lawsuit is filed.

Recovering damages for an injury after an accident depends largely on gathering evidence of negligence by the individual or entity to be held responsible. In the case of a traffic signal malfunction, this can include police reports, witness statements, traffic video footage and inspection and maintenance records. Evidence of prior accidents at the same intersection can also help your case. Since the process for obtaining these records and documents is complex, it is wise to enlist the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.

The Licatesi Law Group, LLP represents New York auto accident victims and their families, pursuing fair and adequate compensation for their injuries. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at 516-227-2662 or contact us online at our Uniondale or Brooklyn office.