A traffic light accident dispute is perhaps one of the most common accidents out there. The facts are obvious, one driver will argue that the light was green and the other one will argue that the light was red. They will blame each other as to who had the right of way. Absent any witnesses or objective credible evidence, this dispute becomes a word v. word scenario.
This type of dispute is then compounded by the fact that each insurance company must believe and advocate for their client. If there is no evidence showing that their driver is lying, then they must find that their insured is correct (not liable). Each insurance company will do the same, with both finding the other liable for all damages.
The matter typically ends up in mandatory arbitration or some sort of litigation to have one final decision as to who caused the accident. The arbitrator or finder of fact will make a final, binding, decision as to who is responsible for damages.
The arbitrator will typically look at all evidence presented by each adjuster. In most cases, this evidence will be a police report (if any), photographs of damages, photographs of the point of impact on each vehicle, and any other piece of evidence presented to who had the right of way.
Since in most cases, the only evidence presented is the recorded statement and pictures of the damages, the arbitrator will boil down the decision to a question of credibility.
The adjuster investigation must be evaluated to show no bias. Independent evidence may be an independent witness, a police report or the positioning of the vehicles. Consumers try to have their passengers be witnesses; however, passenger statements tend to be non credible (it is biased).
It is important to note that who driver that who the red light may not be 100% liable for the accident. If an arbitrator decides that one party had the red light, it may also conclude that the vehicle with the green light had a duty to look out and avoid the accident but failed to do so.
Drivers still have a duty of care when approaching and crossing any given intersection despite the fact that the light is green. There is a well established affirmative duty on drivers to only proceed into an intersection when it is safe to do so.
The adjuster or arbitrator must show an excusable reason why the driver with the green light could not see or avoid the other vehicle. Typically, a recorded statement transcript should address the question for the adjuster. Statements like “I had the green light” are not sufficient to dispel the question of who is entirely liable for the accident.
Obviously, the vehicle running a red light will be liable, but it may not be (although, if proven, will likely be) 100% at fault. Some insurance companies will still place a 10-15% maybe 20% liability offset if the driver who had the green light failed to see any other vehicle at the intersection.
The arbitrator must decide who is more credible if the statement matches the physical evidence and if the vehicle with the green light can still have some liability for failing to proceed with care.