Can I sue the city for the cost of my deductible regarding an accident in which the traffic light were not working?

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Can I sue the city for the cost of my deductible regarding an accident in which the traffic light were not working?

I was approaching an intersection where the traffic lights weren’t working. I was on a street where there were 4 lanes, 2 going south and 2 going north. I was headed north and the car I hit was on a one way street headed east. I was on the right lane and the left lane was full of cars that stopped and I couldn’t see past the left lane and I didn’t notice that the car was in the intersection. As I came closer to the intersection, that’s when the car became visible and I hit it. I’ve never been in a car accident before but when I finally do the traffic signals aren’t working. I have a deductible that I can’t afford to pay.

Asked on July 30, 2016 under Accident Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You could only successfully sue if you can show that the city was at fault. To be at fault, you'd have to show that:
1) The city had knowledge that the light wasn't working--i.e. someone had phoned it in (which knowledge of the problem, they did nothing wrong);
2) In between when the light was phoned in and when you had the accident, there was enough time for the city to have done something about it--repair it; station police to direct traffic (if there wasn't enough time, they did nothing wrong); etc.
3) Your accident was *because* of the non-working light: that is, that had the light been working properly, you would not have had the accident (you need to eliminate other causes for the accident, other than the malfunctioning light)--unless the light actually caused the accident, the fact that it was not working at the time is irrelevant. 
As you can imagine, it can be difficult to prove these things in court, and it's also difficult to sue a city  in the first place--there are additional procedural hoops or hurdles you must jump through. You may not be able to recover your deductible. In the future, make sure you have a deductible you can afford, because there are many accidents in which you cannot recover money from others; you can't count on suing someone else to cover your deductible.


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