What Georgia residents need to know about pedestrian accidents and their legal rights
There is an illusion of safety and stability that comes with crosswalks and sidewalks. But in many cases, they don’t mean unwavering safety. We often forget that walking can be just as dangerous as driving a vehicle — perhaps even more so since you aren’t protected by a vehicle’s metal shell or airbags. As a pedestrian, it is imperative that you always be on the lookout for potential hazards in your path, such as cyclists, other walkers and, of course, cars.
If you or a loved one were hit by a vehicle while walking and suffered serious injuries, it’s in your best interest to consult a Georgia pedestrian accident lawyer near you as soon as possible. During your free consultation at Scholle Law, we’ll examine your case and help you determine what the best move is for receiving compensation.
Common pedestrian-vehicle collision injuries
Being involved in a pedestrian-vehicle collision can be one of the scariest experiences you may ever face. As a pedestrian, you are completely vulnerable. Due to the lack of protection, a human body has very little chance to be able to withstand the force of being struck by a vehicle without injury. Motor vehicles weigh thousands of pounds, so the trauma of the impact on your body is much more severe than if you were a seat-belted passenger in a vehicle.
More often than not, pedestrian-vehicle collision injuries are catastrophic, or even worse, can result in death. Common pedestrian injuries include:
- Head trauma
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Broken bones
- Road rash
- Scrapes, bruises and lacerations
- Spinal and chest injuries
- Abdominal trauma
Catastrophic injuries could result in rehabilitation, high medical bills, or even permanent assistance such as a wheelchair. It is imperative that a pedestrian seek immediate medical attention following an auto accident. Shock can often suppress symptoms of more severe underlying injuries, such as internal bleeding.
Further, delaying medical treatment can undermine any claims you may make for personal injury. Beyond the physical injuries you may be facing, being hit by a car as a pedestrian can leave lasting emotional trauma too.
Pain and suffering, emotional distress and other damages following a pedestrian accident
When you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, it’s common to focus on the physical injuries that can occur, but not all injuries are physical. An often-unknown result that can occur in serious motor vehicle accidents is that you are at an increased risk for psychological problems, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop after any type of traumatizing event, including car accidents — especially violent collisions. These feelings may arise immediately after the accident, or in the days, weeks or even months following.
When people survive a traumatic event, it’s difficult enough to predict the short-term, let alone any long-term unseen repercussions the event may have on them. Therefore, it’s common to not fully realize that you have been emotionally affected by a traumatic event until some time has passed, especially if you are preoccupied with following the treatment prescribed by healthcare professionals attempting to properly heal your body physically.
If you or a loved one were injured by a motor vehicle while walking, you can seek to recover damages from the driver. “Damages” are financial compensation for losses caused by the accident, such as medical bills, lost wages, any out-of-pocket expenses, and even pain and suffering.
However, just like with car accidents in Georgia, what matters in a pedestrian accident is who is at fault.
Georgia pedestrian laws and right of way rules
The driver of the vehicle is often determined to be at-fault in cases involving pedestrians. This is because when operating a vehicle, the driver has a responsibility and an obligation to use care when driving, such as remaining aware of their surroundings. While this is often interpreted to mean being on high alert for other vehicles on the road, it also extends to include watching for pedestrians.
According to Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-92 section (a)):
“…every pedestrian crossing the street (crosswalk or not) shall yield the right of way to all vehicles unless he has already safely entered the road already.”
This means that if you are already on the road, either halfway or even just a good bit, and a car is coming along, they have to yield to you. Further, the driver must provide a pedestrian with enough room to move and give them the right of way when they are in crosswalks.
Additional pedestrian rights are laid out in the Official Georgia Code. Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-93:
“…every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway, shall give warning by sounding his horn when necessary, and shall exercise proper precautions upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.”
Proving fault (liability) in a pedestrian-vehicle collision
While there are many reasons why a driver could be found liable (such as reckless driving, negligence, or intoxicated driving), distracted driving is often the main culprit of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in this day and age. Cell phones that allow texting and video data can easily distract drivers. Even with officials in the state of Georgia and around the country passing more and more laws to deal with distracted driving, it remains the main cause of pedestrian accidents.
Many people assume that the at-fault driver’s insurance company should take care of all expenses, but liability must first be determined. This means that someone has to determine who the at-fault party is after an auto accident and which insurance company is liable.
Georgia is a third-party liability state, not a no-fault state. Under third-party liability, victims of car accidents have the right to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver for damages. Just like in car-on-car collisions, what matters in a pedestrian-vehicle accident is who is at fault.
Once liability has been determined and it is clear that the accident was not caused by you, the negligent driver’s insurance company should help pay for medical expenses and any other losses through that driver’s liability coverage, such as pain and suffering and lost wages. While it is rare for a pedestrian to be found at fault for an accident with a vehicle, it can happen.
How to prevent a pedestrian accident (safety tips)
No matter where you live, pedestrians generally have the right of way in crosswalks, on sidewalks, and on public roads. That being said, pedestrians also have a responsibility to pay attention to street signs and their surroundings when sharing the road with motor vehicles. Staying focused and aware of your surroundings, wearing bright colored or reflective clothing, and making sure that you do not jaywalk are all easy ways to help prevent a pedestrian-car crash.
What to do after a pedestrian-vehicle collision in Georgia
One of the most important things that you need to do after being involved in an auto accident as a pedestrian is to make sure that a police report has been filed. Further, a claim should also be made with your auto insurance company.
Often, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will attempt to contact you in order to obtain a recorded statement. They will inquire about what happened and your injuries following the collision. It’s vital that you NOT speak with them without proper legal representation. Giving a recorded statement too soon after the accident can lead you to make a mistake that results in you accepting a lower settlement amount than your case deserves.
If you are unsure about your specific case, you may want to consult an experienced Atlanta pedestrian injury attorney at Scholle Law to determine if you should pursue legal action. Your first consultation is free, so it costs you nothing but your time to learn about your legal rights. Don’t delay. The clock is ticking on your case.