Why You Could Be Held Liable for an Accident if You Are Walking Drunk
Everyone knows drunk driving is wrong, illegal, and dangerous, but did you know drunk walking can break the law as well?
Today in our ongoing blog series on negligence per se and Georgia’s rules of the road, we’re going to talk about statute 40-6-95, which concerns intoxicated walking on public roadways. But first, let’s review negligence per se — what it is and why it matters.
The rules of the road are designed to be enforced by traffic officers, with the goal of keeping public streets safe and orderly. If you receive a ticket or get arrested for drunk driving, that’s typical enforcement of the traffic code. However, these rules can also be useful in civil law, for determining liability after an accident.
This is because the rules of the road are safety rules, and when someone hurts another person by breaking a safety rule, the person who caused the harm is automatically liable under the concept of negligence per se.
Last week, we talked about statute 40-6-93 and how negligence per se applies to drivers who don’t take enough care to avoid hitting pedestrians. Now we’ll look at the other side and talk about how the same idea applies to pedestrians who are illegally walking under the influence.
What Constitutes Being Under the Influence?
For drivers over 21 years of age who are operating personal vehicles, Georgia’s legal definition of “under the influence” is a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. For the purposes of statute 40-6-95, however, there isn’t a set-in-stone cutoff point for how much alcohol a person can have in their system. Rather, it’s left up to local police to gauge whether an intoxicated pedestrian poses a hazard to others.
A person who is under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug to a degree which renders him a hazard shall not walk or be upon any roadway or the shoulder of any roadway.
A person can be moderately too drunk to drive and still be able to navigate the roads safely on foot, but someone who’s stumbling, weaving, wandering in front of vehicles, or being belligerent toward others on public streets due to intoxication is violating statute 40-6-95.
Alcohol isn’t the only intoxicant that can put a pedestrian on the wrong side of the law, either. Any drug that alters a person’s behavior enough to make them hazardous to others, even a legal prescription or over-the-counter drug, can be cause for an intoxicated pedestrian arrest.
How Should a Person Get Home While Intoxicated?
The easiest way to avoid running afoul of statute 40-6-95 is to avoid taking large amounts of intoxicating substances unless you’re already in a place where you can sleep off the effects, or you have an iron-clad arrangement for being driven home.
Of course, sometimes plans change. Maybe that last drink was stronger than you thought, or you didn’t account for how it would interact with your medication, or your designated driver let you down.
If you’re literally a few doors down from your home on a street with sidewalks, 40-6-95 allows for you to get there by keeping to those sidewalks. However, the moment you need to cross or walk along the side of a street, you’re breaking the law if you can’t walk straight and show awareness of your surroundings. Even for a very short trip, it’s best to call for a taxi or rideshare if you don’t have a reliable DD.
What Are the Consequences for Walking Under the Influence?
The maximum criminal punishment for walking under the influence is a $500 fine and a misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record.
Violation of this Code section is a misdemeanor and is punishable upon conviction by a fine not to exceed $500.00.
That’s nothing to sneeze at, but the civil consequences can be even more severe. An intoxicated pedestrian on a public roadway is liable under negligence per se for any damages their impaired judgment may cause.
As we discussed last week, drivers have an obligation to avoid hitting pedestrians whenever possible, and even to take extra care in the presence of intoxicated pedestrians, but this responsibility doesn’t cancel out the pedestrian’s negligence. For example, if a driver swerves to avoid an intoxicated pedestrian, hits a parked car instead, and is injured in the impact, the pedestrian would be liable for the driver’s injuries. If the driver instead fails to swerve, both driver and pedestrian might share financial responsibility for the outcome.
What Damages Can You Recover After an Encounter with an Intoxicated Pedestrian?
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by an intoxicated pedestrian in the roadway, you have the right to compensation. If you did everything possible to avoid the pedestrian and minimize the severity of the accident, then liability should be fairly straightforward due to the pedestrian’s negligence per se. Even if your reaction wasn’t perfect, as long as you’re found to be less than 50% responsible for the accident, you’ll still be able to recover some of your losses. Any settlement you do receive will be made up of special damages and general damages.
Anything with a Price Tag Qualifies as Special Damages
The most important expenses most accident survivors are looking to cover are their medical bills, but car accidents can impact a person’s finances in other ways too. If you’ve missed work, your lost income counts under special damages too. Any repairs to your vehicle, or a replacement if necessary, will qualify too. It’s important to account for future expenses as well, especially if you’re expecting to need long-term treatment, or if your injuries will permanently affect your earning power. To claim special damages, you’ll need documentation of all relevant expenses, and proof that these expenses were directly or proximately caused by the intoxicated pedestrian’s negligence. To learn more about direct and proximate cause and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help you demonstrate them, click here.
Anything without a Price Tag Qualifies as General Damages
If you’re looking at a life of long-term medical care or reduced career opportunities, your finances probably aren’t the only painful part of this equation. General damages are intended to cover things like loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, and pain. While money can never completely reimburse these kinds of losses, it’s the best tool we have for acknowledging them and giving survivors whatever comfort and sense of justice is possible. Even if you’re expected to make a full physical recovery and be able to return to work, the pain of your initial injuries and the time you’ve lost to your rehabilitation still count as general damages, and the Wetherington Law Firm can help you get the full compensation you deserve.
What If an Intoxicated Pedestrian Has Killed Someone?
If you’re seeking justice on behalf of a loved one you’ve lost to an accident involving an intoxicated pedestrian, the Wetherington Law Firm can help. This kind of case will be categorized as wrongful death rather than personal injury, and you can learn more about the particular rules for wrongful death here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Personal injury cases that follow car accidents almost always involve car insurance companies. The business model of these companies is built on collecting maximum premiums and paying out minimum settlements. This means, when your opponent is an insurance company, you’ll be facing people who minimize and squash legitimate cases like yours on a professional level. They’ll do everything possible to trip you up, make you doubt yourself, confuse the facts, and convince you to accept less than you need to cover your expenses. Add to this the naturally subjective nature of general damages, and it’s crucial to have an expert on your side who can cut through the tricks and nonsense to argue clearly and confidently on your behalf.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
Many accident survivors worry that they can’t afford a lawyer, but when you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, you don’t owe us a cent up front. We work on contingency, which means the only payment we accept is a share of the settlements we win for our clients — settlements which are typically much larger than what someone without representation could expect to walk away with.
We do this because we believe everyone deserves to have their case heard fairly, no matter their situation or the wealth of their opponent.
To discuss your case with a qualified attorney today, just reach out by phone at 404-888-4444 or email us using the form on the right. We’ll talk out the facts together in a completely free consultation.
The Wetherington Law Firm Helps Clients Change the World
Winning our clients the compensation they deserve is one of our favorite things. Our other favorite thing is helping our clients protect people who may not even know their names. If you believe your accident was part of a bigger problem, and you’d like to help others avoid the same fate, we’re behind you all the way. Maybe the pedestrian who stumbled in front of your car was part of an insurance scam racket you want to take down. Maybe they were under the influence of a prescription medication that didn’t provide proper warnings of its effects. Maybe the whole problem could have been avoided with more comprehensive and better maintained sidewalks. Whatever issues may have contributed to your accident, we’ll explore every angle and, with your permission, use your case to push for lasting solutions. To learn more about what we’ve helped our clients accomplish so far, give us a call! We love to talk about our best work.