The police officer will usually ask the victim of a car accident, "What color was the traffic light when you were going through the intersection?" If an officer isn't on the scene, an ambulance attendant might ask, or even a good Samaritan checking to see if you're ok. Most people want to know, even at the scene of a gruesome accident, who went through the red light. They want to know who is culpable for causing such carnage and destruction. It's a bizarre sense of curiosity and morbid knowledge knowing that had the driver not gone through the red light, this terrible accident would never have happened. In addition to those people at the scene of the accident, your insurance company wants to know what was the color of the light. Your lawyer wants to know. Your spouse and family members want to know who, if anyone, is to blame for your awful disabling injuries. Sometimes you may not have a memory of the moments leading up to the accident scene. Witness observations are crucial to identifying who was at fault. Other times you might be incoherent, or in shock and unable to tell responding people what happened. Then other times you might be unconscious, or worse, dead. Why is the color of the light so important?
In virtually every town, village and city in the State of New York, there are specific rules that govern the use of a car and how people are supposed to operate their cars on the roads. This is commonly known as 'The rules of the road'. There are regulations, codes, guidelines, laws, statutes and other requirements that must be adhered to when driving a car in New York. Your failure to comply with motor vehicle laws can result in fines, sanctions & penalties. Even worse, is that in a civil lawsuit, where someone is seeking compensation for harm you caused because you violated a motor vehicle law, your violation of the law can result in an award of damages against you and your insurance company. Interestingly, most people who observe the color of the light as they are going through it, firmly believe that their observation is correct. However, in many studies done to evaluate visual perception, the conclusions reached are not very comforting. Witnesses often have conflicting opinions about the color of the light. What happens when the light changes as you are in the intersection? What happens if the light was yellow when you entered the crosswalk, but as you travelled through the middle of the intersection, the light changed to red? Where witnesses to the accident confirm your version of what color the light was, you stand a much better chance of succeeding on liability. Where witnesses contradict what you claim you saw, you have an uphill battle convincing not only the other driver's insurance company and their attorney, but a jury as well.
Gerry Oginski
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NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer