Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Obstructions of the Driver’s View or Control – OCGA 40-6-242
Posted by Wetherington Law Firm | Articles
Driving With an Unclear View in Georgia
Hello, and welcome back to our ongoing series on Georgia’s traffic statutes, and how each one can be used to establish negligence per se in a civil case.
In most civil cases, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant not only hurt them in some way, but did so as a result of behaving in a way a reasonable person would not. Negligence per se is the idea that breaking safety rules is always unreasonable. So, if the defendant broke a safety rule and hurt the plaintiff as a result, there’s no need to argue over the subjective areas of “reasonableness.” The defendant is automatically liable.
All traffic statutes qualify as safety rules, so each one represents at least one way of committing negligence per se. Last week, we talked about how this concept applies to OCGA 40-6-241, which governs the use of electronics behind the wheel. This week, we’ll talk about OCGA 40-6-242, which has to do with obstructions to the driver’s vision or control of the vehicle.
Overloaded Cars Are Unsafe and Illegal to Drive
Anything that interferes with a driver’s ability to control their vehicle and monitor their surroundings can be a serious hazard on the road, but statute 40-6-242 focuses specifically on obstructions caused by cargo and passengers.
(a) No person shall drive a vehicle when it is so loaded or when there are in the front seat such a number of persons, exceeding three, as to obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle or as to interfere with the driver’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.
If a car is crammed so full of cargo that the driver can’t clearly see the road ahead, or can’t check the side blind spots, that’s obstruction of vision, and it’s illegal. If items in the car are in danger of sliding under the pedals, blocking the gear shift, or getting in the way of turning the wheel, that’s obstruction of the driver’s control of the vehicle, which is also illegal.
The same rules apply if the space is over-filled with people instead of cargo. In vehicles with front bench seats, it’s specifically forbidden to allow more than two passengers to share the front seat with the driver at a time.
Passengers Can Be Negligent Too
Unless a driver is being carjacked or otherwise coerced, that driver is responsible for making sure that their vehicle is safe and legal to drive, as well as they can reasonably tell, before setting out on any journey. If a car is overloaded with either people or cargo, the driver should make any necessary changes before ever turning the key in the ignition.
However, it’s possible for passengers to become obstructive while on the road, even if they started their journey legally seated. A passenger who causes an accident by obstructing the driver’s vision or control can share liability for that accident, even if though they weren’t driving.
(b) No passenger in a vehicle shall ride in such position or commit any act as to interfere with the driver’s view ahead or to the sides or to interfere with his control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.
Obstructive acts by passengers can range from grabbing the steering wheel to simply leaning forward to adjust the stereo or temperature. Just like drivers and pedestrians, passengers should be aware of the general dangers of the road and take care not to make their journey any more dangerous than it needs to be.
What Damages Can You Recover After an Accident with a Driver Whose Vision or Control Was Obstructed?
If a driver willingly operated a vehicle that was too overloaded to be operated safely, that driver has committed and act of negligence per se and is liable for any resulting accident. A passenger who blocked the driver’s view or interfered with their maneuvering of the vehicle can also be held responsible under negligence per se, even if that passenger doesn’t even have a driver’s license. The settlement you’ll be able to recover after an accident caused by this kind of negligence will be divided into special and general damages.
Any Financial Losses Qualify as Special Damages
From your rental car to your medical bills, anything that has cost you money as a result of your accident counts as part of your special damages total. This part of your settlement should also include any income you would have received if not for the accident, such as your usual pay for any hours you missed at work, and any expenses yet to come, such as the cost of a replacement vehicle or ongoing medical care. Of course, the insurance company responsible for covering your losses will want to dispute these expenses, so it’s important to keep a thorough record and have a good lawyer to help you make your case. In addition to tallying up your expenses, you’ll also need to prove that those expenses were directly or proximately caused by the obstruction to the other driver’s view or control. To learn about how the Wetherington Law Firm can help with this, click here.
Any Losses That Can’t Be Expressed in Numbers Qualify as General Damages
Sleeping through the night without pain. Driving around town without anxiety. Saturday afternoons at the park instead of the physical therapist’s office. Dancing at your best friend’s wedding. A serious car accident can take all kinds of things from you that you’ll never get back. There’s no way of truly putting a dollar value on these kinds of losses, but a general damages settlement is intended to honor the fact that you’ve lost more than just the money a special damages settlement can repay. How much compensation you receive for your general damages depends heavily on the skill of your lawyer and can vary significantly from one case to another, even if the injuries are essentially the same.
What If Someone Has Died Because of a Driver’s Obstructed View or Control?
In this event, you have a wrongful death case instead of a personal injury one. Seeking justice for a lost loved one is never an easy experience, but the Wetherington Law Firm is always here to discuss your next steps. Before you decide how you want to proceed, you may want to look into the rules of wrongful death suits here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Your lawyer plays many roles in the course of your case. We’re expert advisors on the legal process, able to guide you through each step and ensure that you understand your options at every turn. We act as an intermediary between you and the negligent driver’s insurance company, protecting you from being harassed, misled, pressured, or conned. Insurance company legal departments excel at preying on unprepared accident survivors and turning their words against them, so having an expert to field these calls in your place can make a big difference to your final settlement. Finally, we advocate for you in court, explaining your losses and arguing for their full value so that you never have to worry about sounding needy or demanding in the course of pursuing the compensation you deserve.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm works on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid until and unless we win for you. That way, we get to take cases based on their merits, not on the plaintiff’s ability to pay, and you get to rest assured that we’re 100% in your corner. We’ll never waste your time or run up endless bills without results. When you work with us, there’s no chance you’ll end up worse off than you started, and a very good chance you’ll end up better off than you would have without a lawyer’s help.
To talk to one of our qualified attorneys about your situation and what we can do to help, just call us at 404-888-4444 or use the contact form on the right to get started with your free consultation.
Want to Make the World a Better Place? The Wetherington Law Firm Wants to Help.
Many of the clients we work with are interested not just in winning compensation for their accidents, but also in finding ways to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. We’re always glad to help someone fight the good fight, so if you’d like us to, we’ll investigate until we get to the bottom of what caused your accident and then work to solve the underlying problem. For example, if the driver of the overloaded vehicle was working for a courier company at the time of the accident, we’ll look into that company’s methods of managing routes and workloads so we can push for safer policies. To learn more about the causes we’ve already helped clients fight for, just ask!