Back-up in the crossroads “stragglers” must be prudent



Every driver knows this situation, which you have been in yourself numerous times: You enter an intersection at a green light and cannot clear it due to a backlog. Good advice is expensive. A court ruling ensures that the question of guilt is now once again on the touchstone. We tell you what you should pay attention to.

Traffic jams repeatedly form at busy intersections during rush hour in the city at traffic lights. During the green light phase, one has made it to the intersection, but can no longer get away because the cross traffic has already turned green. In this confusing situation, it is often unclear who may drive first. As a "latecomer" it is always an unpleasant situation: cross traffic is already rolling in from the side and other "stationary people" are pushing from behind. If you don't keep a cool head and misjudge the scene, you're out of luck.

The question of guilt

(1) Participation in road traffic requires constant caution and mutual consideration.
(2) Who participates in the traffic has to behave in such a way that no other person is damaged, endangered or more, than unavoidable according to the circumstances, obstructed or harassed.

If an accident occurs, the question of guilt must be clarified. Insurance companies usually blame both parties involved in such cases (accident after a traffic jam at the intersection). The courts usually assess these traffic accidents clearly: The main blame is borne by the road user who enters the intersection blocked by a backlog when the traffic light is green on his own side. In the assessment in such cases the accident was not unavoidable for any of the parties involved. In two out of three cases, the one who enters the intersection when the light is green is at fault.

As a result, a liability assessment is then carried out (§ 17 StVG). It is assumed that a person who has the right of way ("straggler"), due to the duty of consideration applicable in road traffic from § 1 para. 2 of the road traffic regulations (StVO) is obliged to give up his right of way in case of a traffic jam, so that he can contribute to the relief of the tricky traffic situation. A ruling by the Higher Regional Court (OLG) of Hamm (26.08.2016; Az. 7 U 22/16) overturns the previous interpretation of the law and holds latecomers responsible.

The halyard

A driver from Essen drove into an intersection at green light and then came to a halt behind the line of flight due to a backlog of left-turning traffic. After the traffic light she passed had been showing red for more than 20 seconds, she wanted to clear the intersection. It allowed some cars to pass from oncoming cross traffic before accidents occurred in the intersection area.

The damages incurred in the amount of about 13.The injured party claimed 900 euros from the owner of the vehicle and from his liability insurance company. The insurance company compensated two-thirds of the plaintiff's damage before trial. The remaining third, amounting to approx. 4.600 euros and further incurred incidental costs the plaintiff has claimed. Finally, in the second instance, this action was successful.

The verdict

The defendant had violated in a considerable manner the consideration requirement applicable in road traffic (§ 1 para. 2 Road Traffic Act), according to the Senate. As a latecomer, however, she should not have blindly relied on being let ahead by cross traffic. Rather, "stationary" had to leave the intersection area rather carefully under careful consideration of the incipient cross traffic with priority.

The requirements increase with the length of time the driver remains in the intersection area: the longer a "straggler" stays in the intersection area, the more likely he is to expect a phase change and approaching cross-traffic, according to the court. Since the defendant drove off unexpectedly and quickly, without paying attention to the approaching plaintiff's vehicle. With this driving style she had caused the accident to a considerable extent.

The driver of the plaintiff's vehicle is not at fault in this case. Since the valid green traffic light phase had already shown green light for over 19 seconds, the aggrieved party had to trust in a free passage and had no longer to expect stragglers from the cross traffic.


In every third case the decision is made to the detriment of the crossing clearer. The judgement of the OLG Hamm shows that latecomers no longer automatically get a "free pass" have to pay for backlogs in the intersection. This rate could increase in the future, however, if it comes after the hammer judgment in the future more often to bear.
Our tip: Keep a cool head and communicate with other motorists. Due to the particular complexity of traffic light intersections, it is advisable to consult a lawyer after such an accident in order to avoid any disadvantages in the settlement of claims.

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