CAR VS. PEDESTRIAN: WHO HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY?
Have you ever wondered what happens after a car hits a pedestrian? Do you know who’s legally responsible for the damages? That’s what we’re going to talk about today, as we go over Georgia’s statute 40-6-91.
But first, let’s review the concept of negligence per se and how it affects civil liability after a car accident.
In everyday life, everyone has a basic responsibility not to knowingly endanger each other’s safety. This responsibility is especially important on the road, where momentary errors can cost lives. However, when someone gets hurt, that’s not necessarily proof that someone else was negligent in their responsibility. Sometimes, bad things happen that no one could see coming. Negligence only arises when someone does something that they should have known would be likely to cause harm to another person.
Negligence per se is the idea that breaking safety rules is always likely to cause harm, and everyone should know it. This makes proving liability much easier, especially in cases of traffic accidents, because all the rules of the road qualify as safety rules.
Last week we talked about statute 40-6-76, which has to do with the rights of funeral processions, and how violating this rule can make someone civilly liable for an accident under negligence per se.
Now, let’s have a look at how negligence per se applies to the rights of pedestrians at crosswalks.
Do Pedestrians Always Have Right of Way?
It’s a common misconception that pedestrians have the right of way at all times. In reality, carelessness and misjudgment can be just as dangerous on the part of a pedestrian as on the part of a motorist, and the law reflects this. However, once a pedestrian has safely and legally entered a crosswalk, that pedestrian does have the right of way until they reach the next safe spot on their path — generally the other side of the road.
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subsection, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel.
As statute 40-6-91 explains, if there is a pedestrian in a crosswalk, all approaching vehicles must stop at that crosswalk and wait for the pedestrian to pass, with one exception. If the pedestrian is more than a lane away from the center divider on the opposite side of the street — too far away for a collision to be a serious concern — it’s okay for a driver to pass first, carefully.
Pedestrian right of way applies not only to vehicles that are first in line at an intersection, but to those waiting behind them as well.
(d) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
Once a vehicle stops to let a pedestrian cross at a crosswalk, other vehicles may not try to get around that front vehicle until the pedestrian has passed.
What Are Unmarked Crosswalks?
Statute 40-6-91 is one of many that mention unmarked crosswalks. The rules of crosswalks apply to both the marked and unmarked varieties, so in the interests of safe, legal driving, it’s important to be able to recognize an unmarked crosswalk.
An unmarked crosswalk is the space connecting two stretches of sidewalk on either side of a four-way intersection. As the name implies, there does not need to be any special marking or indication for this space to qualify as a crosswalk.
Whereas marked crosswalks may be placed anywhere local authorities deem necessary, unmarked crosswalks only exist at intersections.
What Is Jaywalking?
Jaywalking is the popular term for crossing a street at someplace other than a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Contrary to popular belief, jaywalking is legal in Georgia, but pedestrians do not enjoy the same right of way in the middle of the street that they do at crosswalks. Any pedestrian crossing the street someplace other than a crosswalk must check for traffic first, making sure they have enough room to cross safely.
That said, drivers are required to exercise ordinary care at all times on the road and avoid accidents whenever possible. If a pedestrian crosses the street without waiting for a large enough gap in traffic, forcing a driver to brake in order to avoid a collision, and the driver doesn’t bother to brake, both the pedestrian and the driver could share liability for the outcome.
When Is a Pedestrian at Fault?
In simple terms, pedestrians are not allowed to dart in front of cars. If a reasonably alert driver doesn’t have time to avoid hitting a pedestrian who steps out in front of them, the pedestrian is the negligent one.
(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.
(c) Subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply under the conditions stated in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-92.
This principle applies even in crosswalks. If a pedestrian doesn’t appear to be trying to cross the intersection, and a car is already about to enter the crosswalk when the pedestrian has a sudden change of mind, the pedestrian is at fault for the resulting accident.
What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Doesn’t Observe Pedestrian Right of Way?
If you’ve been hit by a car while legally using a crosswalk, or if you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a pedestrian stepping into the road illegally, negligence per se will be key in securing a settlement to cover the damages. The Wetherington Law Firm will work with you to establish exactly what those damages are, and we’ll fight for fair compensation for both your monetary and emotional losses. Under the law, these are known as special damages and general damages.
Special Damages = Monetary Losses
Medical expenses, transportation expenses, lost time at work — these all qualify as “special damages.” If not fairly reimbursed, these expenses can quickly add up and drive accident survivors into debilitating debt. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we’ll help you take stock of all your special damages, gather your documentation, and calculate what further expenses you can expect in the future, especially if you’re unable to work or in need of ongoing medical care. To get these expenses covered, we’ll also need to prove that they were directly or proximately caused by the at-fault driver or pedestrian’s actions. To learn more about how we do this, click here.
General Damages = Emotional Losses
Pain, disability, psychological trauma, lost time doing what you love — these are all examples of “general damages.” These kinds of losses have no quantifiable monetary value, but they can be just as devastating to your quality of life as financial loss. While many people feel uncomfortable even discussing the value of their health, comfort, and peace of mind, it’s the role of an expert attorney to explain the preciousness of these things, so that you receive the best compensation possible in the form of a general damages settlement. Of course, no amount of money will ever restore exactly what you’ve lost, but it’s much easier to build a new life when you have adequate resources to work with and feel that justice has been served.
What If the Accident Was Fatal?
If you lost a loved one to the accident in question, your case will be one of wrongful death rather than personal injury. The Wetherington Law Firm has helped many family members seeking justice after a wrongful death. To learn more about wrongful death suits and how they differ from personal injury, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Even in the simplest and most straightforward of cases, accident survivors with professional representation fare far better than those who pursue settlements alone. This is in part because car insurance companies are highly practiced at avoiding paying fair settlements, and it’s nearly impossible for a layperson to compete with their knowledge of the legal process and how to turn it to their benefit. To be treated fairly, you need an expert on your side too. In the case of vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents in particular, there are many misconceptions about the law and its applications, so it’s especially important to have a good lawyer to clear up any confusion that places you at a disadvantage.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm believes in leveling the playing field between wealthy insurance companies and accident survivors in need. That’s why we work on contingency, accepting payment only when we win.
You don’t need to be rich or even making ends meet in order to work with us. Once we take your case, we’ll put in as many hours as it takes to get you the best possible outcome, without ever asking you for a dime up front.
To talk to one of our qualified attorneys today, just give us a call at 404-888-4444, or email us using the contact form on the right. We’re always happy to provide you with a free consultation.
When You Hire the Wetherington Law Firm, You Help Change the World for the Better
Many of our clients come to us looking for more than just monetary compensation. They want someone to acknowledge the problem that caused their injuries and get to work fixing it. If that’s the kind of legal assistance you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you were hit while crossing a street that really needs more marked crosswalks than it has. Maybe you’re being harassed by a scam artist who jumped in front of your car, and you suspect they weren’t working alone. Whatever the story is, we’ll keep digging until we get to the bottom of it, and we’ll push for the real change that’s necessary to protect the next potential victim. To learn more about the good we’ve helped our clients do in the world, reach out by phone or email. We love talking about our favorite part of our work.