Stop signs only work, obviously, if people see them and obey them. This fact is demonstrated by a recent car accident near Geneva, Ontario County, New York. The Finger Lakes Times newspaper reports that two motorists were treated at Geneva General Hospital following a car collision in the town of Seneca, Ontario County, on December 1. Vincent Gleason was traveling south on County Road 20 when he failed to see the stop sign at the intersection with County Road 4. Gleason ran into a vehicle being driven by William Hart of Geneva as he was passing through the intersection. The police ticketed Gleason for failing to stop at a stop sign. Both drivers were wearing seatbelts. The car accident injuries do not appear to be serious (Seatbelts save lives — where them!)
In the U.S., more than 40,000 people die in automobile accidents each year. It is the leading cause of death for people under 40 years old. On average of 112 people die each day in car crashes in the U.S. Many of these deaths happen at intersections because a driver failed to observe a traffic control device (red light, stop sign, yield sign, etc.).
At Michaels & Smolak, we have handled hundreds of car crash cases where the collisions were caused by drivers failing to stop at stop signs. Think these are easy cases? They should be, but believe it or not, even when a driver “blows” a stop sign, and we ask his insurance carrier to compensate our innocent client, insurance carriers often won’t pay without a fight. They often take the position that the innocent driver, our client, was not truly “innocent”. Incredibly, they claim that our client should have seen the other driver as he was approaching the stop sign, that he should have observed that the other driver was not going to stop, and that he should have reacted in time by braking or otherwise avoiding impact! These insurance adjusters, and their lawyers, argue that it was the fault of BOTH drivers, and therefore they should get a discount on paying for our client’s pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses.
Generally, those arguments can be swatted like flies. Why? Because of New York State case law. In New York a driver has no duty to expect or anticipate that another driver is going to ignore a stop sign. In other words, a driver has a right to assume that other drivers are going to obey the law.
We don’t rely on this case law alone, though. We investigate the scene, the car damage, and all the facts. For example, if the damage to the cars shows that our client’s vehicle was hit on the side by the stop-sign-ignoring vehicle, this proves indisputably that our client had no time to react, since he was in the intersection first.