Accident Caused by a Traffic Light Malfunction – Who is at fault?

By: Nick Todorovic and Patrick Sinclair, Articling Student

Blog 19 - traffic red

Traffic lights, like all electronic equipment, are subject to breakdowns, malfunctions, and power outages. When this happens, otherwise safe intersections can become dangerously congested and confusing, resulting in needless accidents.

When street lights are out, the intersection becomes “uncontrolled” under the meaning of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA). The rules governing uncontrolled intersections dictate that where an intersection has no stop sign, yield sign or a traffic control signal system,  drivers approaching the intersection must “yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection that has entered it from an intersecting road”.

In effect, this means that the first vehicle to arrive at, and enter the intersection, has the right of way to proceed. If a vehicle improperly enters an intersection causing a collision they will be found at fault for any damage that resulted.

If pedestrians are present, all drivers in the intersection must obey s.140 (1) of the HTA and give pedestrians the right of way, Vehicles shall not proceed until pedestrians have fully traversed the crosswalk. If the driver of a vehicle hits a pedestrian, while in an uncontrolled intersection, they may be found negligent in their conduct and will be required to compensate the injured pedestrian. S.193 of the HTA stipulates the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident with a pedestrian bears the onus of proving they were not at fault.

Blog 19 - traffic green

When it comes to malfunctioning traffic lights, the entity responsible for maintaining the light may also be held accountable. Regions and municipalities have a statutorily imposed duty to ensure roads are safe for users. The Province of Ontario has set out certain minimum requirements for the maintenance of roadways including standards related to traffic signals.

The Ontario Regulation 239/02: Minimums Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways, under the Municipal Act, outlines the standards related to traffic signals. Section 13 of the O.Reg 239/02 stipulates that when a traffic control signal system is not working properly the minimum standard is to “deploy resources as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the defect to repair the defect or replace the defective component”.

If a municipality or region fails to meet the minimum standards set out in the O.Reg 239/02 or otherwise contributed to the malfunction of a traffic light or allowed a malfunctioning traffic light to exist for an unreasonable amount of time, they may be held liable for any damage arising from an accident.

If you have been injured in an accident, call the personal injury lawyers at McLeish Orlando LLP to get the necessary legal advice and help so that you can be fully compensated for your losses.

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