Who May Be Liable for a Crash When a Driver Runs a Red Light?

red traffic light against blue skyRed light crashes are one of the most easily preventable types of traffic accidents - and also one of the most common causes for a collision in an intersection. Typically the driver running the red light is considered the party responsible for this type of crash, but could other parties share liability as well?

Learn more about how these crashes may happen, when liability may be shared and what penalties red light runners can expect under Tennessee’s driving laws. 

If you were injured by a careless driver in a red light crash, our Knoxville-based automotive crash attorneys at Greg Coleman Law are ready to help. We have decades of experience handling these types of cases and a successful track record. Find out if you have a case and how we may be able to help. There is no cost for this meeting and no obligation to file a claim. 

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Running a Red Light and Into a Crash

Whether driving in Tennessee or any other state in the country, running a red light is dangerous. According to the AAA Foundation, red light traffic crashes are at an all-time high. The latest statistics show that 28 percent of all fatal intersection crashes are caused by red light runners. Those numbers crunch down to two people being killed in a red light crash every day. Some of those victims are drivers, but others include passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists as well. 

Why Drivers Take the Risk of Running a Red Light

People that run a red light often do not even look before driving through the intersection. They are just looking to beat the yellow light or completely ignoring the red signal. 

Why do people feel the need to skip the red light? Often, it is because they are:

  • Running late to work or some other appointment
  • Impatient or in a hurry 
  • They may be distracted by something else - such as a text message 
  • Drowsy and either do not realize the light has changed or are too slow to react
  • Driving impaired by alcohol or drugs
  • Angry or highly emotionally charged and driving recklessly

Who May Be Liable?

More often than not, it is the red light runner who is liable for damages from the crash. However, even if you have the green light, if you see an oncoming vehicle, you are still required to stop. Drivers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to others.

Pedestrians and cyclists also have this same duty of care. If you walk, ride or attempt to proceed through an intersection without looking - even if you have the right of way, you could share liability for a crash.

Tennessee Red Light Laws

In Tennessee, if a driver runs through a stop sign or red traffic light, he or she could be cited for a violation. Even unmanned traffic lights with cameras could result in a citation if a driver violates the law.

Drivers who blow through a stop sign or traffic light and either admit to doing so or are later convicted in a trial, will likely get demerit points added to their driving license and have to pay a fine. Laws for maneuvering through traffic lights in Tennessee are clear:

  • Amber or yellow light: In Tennessee, unlike other states, a yellow or amber light is used to caution drivers that the light is about to turn red. There is no violation for driving through a yellow signal.
  • Solid or Flashing Red: This signal means drivers must come to a full and complete stop - even if preparing to turn right. If there is a crosswalk, drivers must stop before reaching the clearly marked line for stopping. 
  • When turning right on red: Although drivers are permitted to turn right on red, they must first come to a full and complete stop and check for any oncoming traffic, yielding to other vehicles who have the right of way.
  • Left on red: Tennessee is one of a few states that allows turning left on red under certain conditions. This maneuver is legal only after fully stopping at a red light and only when turning from a one-way street onto another one-way street.
  • Red light cameras: If a traffic light is equipped with a camera to catch red light runners, there will, by law, be a sign informing drivers about the camera. When tickets are issued, it is the owner who will be cited - even if he or she was not in the car. The owner can fight the ticket by notifying police if the car was stolen - or by providing the name of another registered driver who legally borrowed the car.

Could Liability for a Red Light Crash Be Shared?

In some red light crashes, determining fault can be challenging, especially if there is no camera to capture what happened. If both parties insist they had a green light, it can become a situation of "he said, she said." Under these circumstances, especially if no witnesses saw the crash, both parties may be assessed a percentage of liability.

Determining Fault

Insurance companies for both sides will be adamant about proving that their policyholder was not at fault for the crash. This is not so much for the benefit of their policyholder, as for avoiding paying money out on a claim. So how is fault determined in this type of situation?

Police who respond to the accident, as well as the insurance companies, will be investigating the scene of the crash and the damage to all involved vehicles. The location and extent of the damages, combined with other evidence, such as tire marks, can often provide insight into the cause of the crash.

That said, regardless of who did or did not have a green light, both drivers still have a duty of care to check for oncoming traffic before proceeding through an intersection - even if they had the right of way.

Contact Our Trusted Law Firm for Legal Help

Car crashes caused by a red light runner often quickly escalate into more complicated claims. Our experienced lawyers have decades of experience and a proven track record of success with all kinds of car crash claims.

Drivers owe others a duty of care, regardless of whether they are at a green, yellow or red stop light. If you are injured because another driver ran through a red light and crashed into your vehicle, you may have a valid case for recovering damages.

Find out about your potential legal options and whether you can seek compensation for your injuries, lost wages and more. There is no cost or obligation for this meeting, and if we represent you, there is also nothing to pay up front. We do not get paid unless you do.

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