When Red Light Runners May Not Be Liable for a New Jersey Crash

Posted on behalf of James Lynch on October 25, 2023  in Car Accident News. Updated on January 3, 2024

image of red traffic light signal against blue skyRed-light running and other types of reckless driving behaviors are among the leading causes of fatal crashes in New Jersey. Even when there are no fatalities, the injuries can be catastrophic and life-altering. Often the driver ignoring the traffic signal is assessed with fault, but are red light runners always liable for these crashes?

At Lynch Law Firm, PC, we are deeply committed to advocating for victims injured by the negligence of others, including those injured by car crashes in intersections. Our New Jersey car crash attorneys have extensive experience and a proven history of success. Our client results include a $4.5 million settlement for a crash victim who suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Have legal questions after a collision? Call (800) 518-0508 for answers.

Can I Sue if a Driver Runs a Red Light and Hits My Car?

Typically, the red light runner is the at-fault party if the negligence of ignoring the traffic signal resulted in a crash and caused damages. Whether or not you can sue a red light runner in this situation, however, depends on several factors.

For instance, what if the red light runner says they went through the intersection on a yellow light that changed faster than they expected? They may also try to shift blame to you by saying you jumped the green light and sped through the intersection. In situations like these, more evidence may be needed to prove fault.

When the drivers’ accounts of a car crash differ greatly, the situation can quickly become more complicated. In these kinds of “he said, she said” situations, proving fault can become much more difficult.

You can be sure that under any ambiguous circumstances, the insurance company of the red light runner will fight hard to shift as much blame to you as possible.

Having an attorney on your side, especially for collisions where fault is unclear, could greatly benefit your claim and help to ensure your legal rights and best interests are protected.

Are Red Light Runners Always Liable if a Crash Results?

Regardless of whether or not a crash occurs, running a red light in New Jersey is a traffic violation. If a crash occurs, the red light runner will most likely be the liable party. That said, there could be some situations where the driver hit by a red light runner could share liability.

Some examples where there could be shared liability for a red light running crash include:

Plaintiff Driver Jumped a Green Light

If the plaintiff driver (the driver filing an injury claim against the red light runner) went through a green light without making sure oncoming traffic had fully stopped. Even when drivers have had the right of way, they still owe a legal duty of care to take reasonable steps to avoid causing anyone harm. This duty includes checking for traffic before entering an intersection, even if you have the right of way.

Plaintiff Driver Was Distracted When Going Through the Intersection

If the plaintiff driver was texting and driving or distracted by something else, then he or she could be at least partially liable for damages. Distracted driving is also a traffic violation, so the injured driver in this situation would likely be assessed with some fault for not staying focused on the road.

Plaintiff Driver Was Impaired and Failed to See the Red Light Runner

Driving while impaired by alcohol and other substances is a dangerous and reckless driving behavior. It is also illegal. In this situation, an impaired driver hit by a red light runner could be assessed with more fault than the red light runner.

What Are New Jersey’s Laws for Stopping at a Red Light?

Like most states, New Jersey has a three-color traffic signal system for alerting drivers about the actions they can take as they approach an intersection.

The three colors of a traffic signal are green, amber and red, informing drivers to respond as follows:

  • Green: Drivers with a green signal have the right of way and permission to proceed through an intersection. Jumping a green light or going on a green light when other traffic is still traveling through are both prohibited.
  • Amber: An amber light signals drivers to slow down or stop on their approach to an intersection if they cannot proceed without endangering other motorists and pedestrians.
  • Red: A red light means drivers must come to a full and complete stop. Drivers with a red light do not have the right of way and they may not proceed into an intersection or crosswalk.

According to NJ law, a safe stopping distance is no less than fifty feet from an intersection.

Are There Penalties for Running a Red Light in New Jersey?

If you violate traffic laws in New Jersey by running a red light, regardless of whether or not there is a crash, you could be ticketed, fined and get up to 2 points added to your driving record.

Under New Jersey law N.J.S.A. 39:4-105, if your negligence leads to a crash that causes injuries, you could be jailed for up to 15 days at the Court’s discretion.

Could New Jersey’s Comparative Negligence Impact a Crash Claim Involving a Red Light Runner?

In New Jersey, both drivers will be responsible for their degree of fault for a crash. While crash victims who are partially at fault may still have a valid claim, any awarded compensation will be reduced by that individual’s percentage of fault.

If the injured victim is assessed with more fault than the red light runner, then the injured victim will be unable to seek any compensation for his or her injuries. Additionally, the red light runner in that situation may be eligible to recover a claim against the injured party.

In short, you can be partially at fault for a crash and still recover compensation for a valid claim. However, you cannot be more at fault than the other party.

What Evidence Could Help To Prove a Red Light Runner’s Negligence?

There are several key types of evidence that may help to establish fault for a crash caused by a red light runner. This evidence may include:

  • Video footage: This could include red light cameras, surveillance videos or even dash cam footage: Video footage, regardless of how it was recorded, gets overwritten pretty quickly. If you have an attorney, he or she can take immediate action to get that footage to help strengthen your claim. Video footage is hard for insurance companies to dispute.
  • Eyewitness accounts: If a witness saw the crash occur and your attorney determines he or she is credible, a statement could help to support your claim.
  • Vehicle damage: In a red-light-running crash, the damage to the at-fault driver’s car will typically be on the front end. Damage to the other vehicle is likely to be on the vehicle’s side panel.
  • Photographs: Capturing photos of the crash scene and vehicle damage is a good idea and could help to strengthen your version of the crash.
  • Police report documentation: If the responding officer tickets the other driver for running a red light, it will be on the police report. This is just one detail that could help strengthen your version of how the crash occurred.

How Can You Avoid Being Hit By a Driver Running a Red Light?

The best way to avoid being hit by a red-light runner is to stay focused on the road and drive defensively. In this situation, that means even if you have the right of way, you should pause for a second or two on a green light. Waiting just long enough to make sure no one is running a red light can help you to prevent an unnecessary crash that could cause you irreversible harm.

Call Lynch Law Firm, PC To Discuss Legal Options After a Crash

At Lynch Law Firm, PC, we are here to help. Our legal team has been helping injured victims for decades, recovering millions on behalf of our clients.

If you were injured in a crash, we strongly recommend requesting a free case review to discuss your situation and learn about your legal options. Waiting to call a lawyer, even if you are unsure if you have valid claim, could cause you to miss the filing deadline.

Request your FREE case review today. Call (800) 518-0508 today.

* Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

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