Who is at Fault When a Car Accident is Caused by Bright Headlights?

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Will the General Motors Too-Bright Headlights Recall of 740,000 SUVs Impact Road Safety?

Will the General Motors Too-Bright Headlights Recall of 740,000 SUVs Impact Road Safety?

Mar 28, 2022

General Motors is recalling over 740,000 small SUVs in the U.S. due to headlight beams that can become “too bright” and cause dangerous glare for oncoming drivers, according to a report by the Associated Press (AP).

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Announced last week, the recall follows a declination from U.S. safety regulators in response to a request from the Detroit automaker to avoid the recall.

According to the AP, General Motors is recalling the following popular model vehicle:

  • GMC Terrain SUVs (model years 2010 through 2017)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that reflections caused by the headlight housings “can illuminate some areas with too much light,” according to the AP. As a result, the too-bright headlights can reduce visibility for other drivers, thereby increasing the risk or a car accident (or even a pedestrian crash).

We are still finalizing an actual remedy for the affected vehicles,” GM spokesperson, Dan Flores, said to the AP.

According to the AP report, Flores did not confirm how long it would take until the repair is ready. GM, however, expects to notify owners by letter beginning April 23.

The AP reported that official General Motors documents indicated that the company has only received a single complaint from a customer (specifically in reference to headlights shining into trees).

A report from Slate indicated that the GMC Terrain vehicle’s headlights are being recalled due to a “weird glitch” that causes the headlights to shine brightly at the side of the car (at up to a 45 degree angle). Accordingly, Slate’s report noted that the headlights can become “three times too bright.”

As Slate further notes:

For some time, some American drivers have been convinced that an epidemic of headlight-induced blindness is underway on the roads.”

In a 2018 Slate report, John Bullough, director at the Light and Health Research Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, pointed to three separate issues regarding driving with bright headlights:

  • SUVs and pickups have taller bodies and therefore higher lights that are more likely to shine in your eyes if you’re in a lower car or on foot.
  • Bluer LED headlights, common on newer cars, feel brighter to many people.
  • Some state vehicle inspections don’t even try to adjust the position of headlights, which tend to get bumped out of whack after a couple years of driving.

According to Slate, the share of SUVs and trucks on the road has continued to increase, which means more headlights that are more likely to shine in people’s eyes.

Slate also confirmed the following information relative to LED headlights:

  • The share of LED headlights is up.
  • Though they can easily be filtered (by manufacturer or buyer) to look warmer and yellowed, these usually have a bluer tinge than earlier generations of headlights.
  • LED headlights are subject to the same brightness rules as regular headlights, but many people insist they seem brighter (including the drivers who keep buying them for that reason).

Mark Rea, a light scientist at Mount Sinai in New York, explained to Slate that headlights are measured in lumens, a unit devised to assess how light impacts a central part of the eye. The part of the eye that lumens impacts is, according to a 2015 paper from Rea, more sensitive to higher-wavelength, redder light than lower-wavelength (bluer) light.

As Slate notes, “The very measurement system we use to calibrate headlights (and everything else) is not counting blue light, and so bluer lights will have to feel significantly brighter before they register as equal in lumens.”

“Imagine a car with two headlights, one halogen, one LED. They’d both meet the requirements. The light meter would say they’re the same, but the LED would look 40 percent brighter,” Rea said to Slate. This is one of the reasons why neighbors complain about LED streetlamps, according to Slate. The lamps may have the same lumen measurement, but the LEDs are actually brighter.

“This has implications for glare, energy efficiency, and safety, all based on something some guys came up with in the 1920s. They’re measuring light inappropriately,” Rea added.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed year requires that regulators approve a technology known as “adaptive driving beam” headlights by 2023. According to Slate, adaptive driving beam headlights use software-enabled LEDs that adjust the headlight beam to avoid other drivers and illuminate your surroundings.

When such headlights are implemented, it will signify an end to headlight glare for drivers on the road (although the rollout will occur slowly, as new cars will likely adopt this type of technology over several years). As a result, Slate notes that the new “adaptive driving beam” technology will help drivers see much better at night, hopefully improving traffic safety and reducing the number of car accidents due to overly bright headlights.

What Does California Law Say About Drivers Failing to Dim Headlights?

What Does California Law Say About Drivers Failing to Dim Headlights?
As vehicles are equipped with both high beam and low beam headlights, California Vehicle Code 24409 VC requires that drivers dim their headlights (from high beam to low beam) whenever approaching or following other vehicles.

Often referred to as “high beam headlight violations,” there are four distinct points in California Vehicle Code 24409 for drivers to note:

  • A driver that fails to dim his headlights must pay a fine of $238.00.
  • A driver that violates VC 24409 will also receive one point on his California State driving record. A driver risks getting a negligent operator license suspension if he receives a certain number of points in a specified amount of time (e.g., four points in 12 months, six points in 24 months, or eight points in 36 months).
  • Legal defenses are available to those drivers that wish to challenge a high beam headlight violation. It’s in the driver’s best interests, though, to consult with an attorney before raising one.
  • Motorists cannot disregard tickets for violating Vehicle Code 24409 VC. If a driver ignores, or even forgets about, a traffic ticket, he could get charged with a new law, failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508. ailure to appear may be charged as a misdemeanor.

California law requires drivers to dim their vehicles’ lights in certain situations, such as:

  • Whenever a motor vehicle is being operated during darkness (the driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, directed high enough and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a safe distance in advance of the vehicle).
  • Whenever the driver of a vehicle approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet.
  • Whenever the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle within 300 feet to the rear.

Who is At Fault for a Car Accident Involving Bright Headlights?

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV), the law requires you to use your headlights under the following conditions:

  • When it is cloudy, raining, snowing, or foggy.
  • If weather conditions require you to use your windshield wipers.
  • On frosty mornings, when other drivers’ windows may be icy or fogged.
  • Any time conditions (clouds, rain, snow, dust, smoke, fog, etc.) prevent you from seeing other vehicles. Other drivers may have trouble seeing you as well in such conditions.
  • On small country or mountain roads, even on sunny days. This helps other drivers see you and may help you avoid a head-on crash.
  • When necessary to get another driver’s attention.

But when you use your high beam headlights in situations that are not warranted, you are likely breaking the law.

California is a comparative fault law state, which means that a portion of liability is assigned to all drivers who are involved in an accident. In some cases, this means one driver accepts 100% of the liability. But in other cases, liability may be shared by all involved drivers according to a decision by the courts.

If you were injured in a car accident that was due to another driver using his or her high beam (bright) headlights in a negligent manner, you may be able to recover a financial damages award through a civil claim.

What Damages Can be Recovered in a High Beam/Bright Headlight Car Accident?

The most common examples of car accident injury damages in civil lawsuits are broken down below according to type.

Common California Car Accident Injury Economic Damages:

  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Emergency department treatment
  • Physical Therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Lost Wages
  • Lost Earning Capacity

Common California Car Accident Injury Non-Economic Damages:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Scarring or other serious injury
  • Compensation for loss of a limb or disfigurement

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Hiring a DLG car accident injury lawyer can help ensure your civil claim is maximized, and that you recover all applicable damages after an incident due to negligence. Our Personal Injury Division is led by Sam Dordulian, a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County with more than 25 years of experience helping injured victims secure the maximum financial compensation they deserve.

To learn more about how important it can be to have an experienced DLG California car accident injury lawyer handling your case, please visit our recent blog on how pain and suffering damages are calculated in personal injury civil claims.

Do I Need Hire a California Car Accident Lawyer to Win My Headlight Case?

Hiring a DLG car accident lawyer to handle your injury claim can be a wise decision for a number of reasons. In fact, injured car accident victims who hire private attorneys often secure greater financial compensation for their claims.

For example, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) recently conducted a study which confirmed the following:

  • Settlements for injured claimants were 40% higher when they had secured private legal representation.
  • The average insurance payout was 3.5 times higher for injured victims who hired private attorneys (when compared to those representing themselves).
  • 85% of all money paid by insurance companies for bodily injuries is received by victims who have secured representation from a private personal injury attorney.

Injured Los Angeles, California, car accident victims are encouraged to always consult with an experienced, trusted, and proven DLG attorney before:

  • Speaking to the at-fault party or their insurance company
  • Making any statement regarding your car accident
  • Signing any official documents
  • Accepting any type of settlement offer

With DLG, your car accident injury consultation is always free, confidential, and without any obligation. We’ll review the facts of your case and provide you with all available legal options to ensure your rights are protected and the maximum financial damages award you deserve is pursued. We serve car accident clients throughout California as well as the United States.

Some of the local areas we serve include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Glendale
  • Torrance
  • Long Beach
  • North Hollywood
  • Burbank
  • Pasadena
  • San Diego
  • Bakersfield
  • Sacramento
  • Fresno
  • Riverside
  • San Francisco
  • Granada Hills
  • Simi Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • Antelope Valley

Los Angeles, California, Car Accident Injury Lawyer Free Consultation

DLG’s car accident lawyers provide the best available legal representation based on a contingency fee basis. This means that, as an injured victim, you never have to worry about any upfront fees or out-of-pocket expenses. Moreover, we only collect a fee after successfully securing a maximum financial damages award for your car accident injury claim.

Contact us today at 818-322-4056 for a free consultation. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by ensuring that the insurance company or at-fault party does not take advantage of your rights after a car accident injury. You owe it to yourself to take every step towards avoiding financial loss after an unfortunate car accident injury that occurred through no fault of your own.

DLG’s Los Angeles, California, car accident injury lawyers have secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts for clients while maintaining a 98% success record. Don’t miss the deadline for filing your car accident injury lawsuit. Car, truck, motorcycle, and pedestrian accident injury victims who fail to file claims within the standard two-year statute of limitations typically waive their right to seek critical financial compensation for damages.


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