Yesterday's New York Daily News ran a story about how New York City is plagued by malfunctioning traffic signals governing intersections, leaving pedestrians and motorists guessing what to do. There is no question that this is an extremely dangerous situation.
But that doesn't automatically mean that the City will be held liable for an accident that occurs at one of these intersections either.
As noted in "Why a Malfunctioning Traffic Signal Alone Isn't Enough to Hold NYC Liable in Negligence," a plaintiff that is injured at an intersection with an inoperative or faulty traffic control device is still required to prove that the accident was caused - at least in part - by the failure of that traffic signal. In legalese, this is called "proximate cause." Otherwise, the claim will be dismissed by the Court.
Perhaps the City should worry less about installing countdown clocks at busy intersections, and make sure that the standard-issue traffic signals that are already in place actually work. That might have a greater effect on reducing car and pedestrian knock-down accidents across New York City.
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