Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in Athens, Georgia
WATCH OUT FOR PEDESTRIANS IN THE ROADWAY – EVEN IF NOT IN A CROSSWALK
Athens is a vibrant, bustling college town – pedestrian friendly with a walkable downtown adjacent to the sprawling University of Georgia campus. Even in slow seasons or off weekends, pedestrians, bicyclists, runners, and foot traffic are ever present on campus, in downtown Athens, and everywhere in between. Admittedly, Summer in Athens – like in most classic college towns – slows to a relaxed pace with less traffic and far fewer cars on the road. Pedestrians, walkers, tourists, and runners enjoy the calmer, quieter Athens. But every Fall brings back cooler temperatures, students, and fun events. Add to this, the fact that Athens is striving to emerge from the COVID pandemic as an even more pedestrian-friendly town than it was before. Many restaurants now offer sidewalk or alley “café-style” seating, and the City of Athens has at long last designated sections of downtown for only pedestrian foot traffic: where no cars or vehicles are allowed. Downtown will be even more pedestrian-friendly and this trend will likely continue in other parts of Athens. All this means more foot, bicycle, and vehicle traffic. Drivers can expect more pedestrians and cyclists in and around the roadways as we share the roads.
Almost everyone learns at an early age to look both ways before crossing a road and to cross in a crosswalk where available. Because of this, if a walker is crossing the street outside of a crosswalk, drivers and pedestrians alike might reflexively think the collision and injuries are automatically a pedestrian’s fault. That is simply a wrong and dangerous belief. Georgia law does not adopt such a black-and-white approach to pedestrian-vehicle safety: there is no rule that allows a careless driver to strike a pedestrian just because the pedestrian is not in the crosswalk. Certainly pedestrians have to use due care for their safety, which often means yielding to vehicles, crossing in a crosswalk, and obeying pedestrian- and traffic-control signals. In fact, there is an entire section of Georgia statutory law for pedestrians. OCGA §§ 40-6-90 through 40-6-100. But the case law says that even if the pedestrian is not in a crosswalk (or might have done something else wrong), the car driver does not automatically escape his responsibility to use due care.
Drivers must always exercise “due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway.” OCGA § 40-6-93. This law is premised on the fact that there will be, and one can expect, pedestrians in the roadway. In fact, even OCGA § 40-6-92, which provides that “Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway” comes with the caveat “unless he has already, and under safe conditions, entered the roadway.” In short, the law reflects that pedestrians will at times be in the roadway, and drivers cannot operate as if pedestrians will never be in the roadway or that the driver will be exonerated if a pedestrian is not in a crosswalk. This aspect of Georgia law makes common sense. Though pedestrians should obey the rules of the road, the risk of serious injury to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle is far greater than to a vehicle that collides with a pedestrian. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle often suffers catastrophic life-changing injuries, whereas a vehicle driver that collides with a pedestrian is far less likely to suffer any injury at all.
A 2019 case provides some insight in this area. In Nash v. Reed, 349 Ga. App. 381 (2019), Nash was jogging in the roadway running in the same direction as traffic and wearing headphones. Reed was driving behind Nash in the same direction near an intersection with a traffic light, knew Nash did not see Reed’s vehicle behind him, and did not know which direction Reed was going at the intersection. Although Nash slowed his vehicle slightly, he did not honk to alert Reed of his presence or stop and wait to see which direction Reed was going. Instead Nash crossed the double yellow line into the oncoming lane of traffic to pass Reed. As Nash was reentering the lane while passing Reed, Nash’s vehicle struck Reed and broke his leg. It was for the jury to determine whether Nash drove negligently and, importantly, whether Nash even acted in bad faith in not taking any precautions with Reed’s safety in mind. The law was designed to protect Nash, as a pedestrian, regardless of whether Nash acted negligently in the lead up to the crash. Another case is a little more stark. In Mayo v. Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., 302 Ga. App. 19 (2009), a tractor-trailer struck and killed a naked pedestrian standing in the roadway with his hands up. Because the car in front of the tractor-trailer saw and safely swerved to avoid the pedestrian, the tractor-trailer should have been able to do so as well and was possibly following too closely to safely swerve. Clearly the man was not in the crosswalk! Any idea that “the road belongs only to vehicles” creates more dangerous roads and is simply not an accurate view of the law. While a driver will be protected from a claim when a pedestrian darts out into the roadway with no warning, as in Johnson v. Ellis, 179 Ga. App. 343 (1986), and Tucker v. Love, 200 Ga. App. 408 (1991), merely being outside a crosswalk is not an automatic defense.
Because pedestrians are often around areas of town where it is conducive to pedestrian travel, vehicle drivers must be on the lookout for them whether or not they are in a crosswalk. Just consider UGA campus on weekdays in-between classes, downtown Athens on football game days or during the Twilight Criterion, the Five Points district and its restaurants, and large apartment complexes, restaurant areas, and the like: pedestrians sometimes cross the street outside of crosswalks. This can apply to pedestrians in and around the road because of car trouble, or cyclists on the roadway as well. And Georgia courts have historically applied Section 40-6-93 to bicyclists. Howard v. Hall, 112 Ga. App. 247, 250 (1965). The rule in Georgia is clear that due care by drivers care is always due. The law recognizes that we do, in fact, share the road.
The takeaway for drivers is this: due care and precaution for pedestrians and bicyclists is required, even if they are not in a crosswalk or are otherwise in the roadway. If a pedestrian or bicyclist is struck by a vehicle, it is important to immediately call 911 and report the incident, seek medical attention, and identify witnesses who may have seen the incident. If there is possible insurance, notify your carrier quickly and contact a pedestrian accident lawyer Athens, GA to discuss the claim. The attorneys at Norris Law are here to help and offer our expertise if you need us.
As an Athens, GA pedestrian accident lawyer advises, be aware of your surroundings at all times and what is happening around you. Many pedestrian accidents can be prevented if someone is extra vigilant and remains on alert to the movements of car drivers. You cannot trust that a car driver will see you, even if you think your presence is obvious. If you were hit by a car driver as a pedestrian, contact us at Norris Injury Law now about seeking compensation for your injuries and loss.
Stay Off Your Phone
We use our phones to communicate and keep us busy, to prevent boredom. But these gadgets can pose a risk if we use them when in the presence of cars. By staring at a phone it means we are not watching what is up ahead, and run the risk of not noticing a hazard or upcoming traffic. This may sound like a difficult approach to take, especially if you walk long distances to get to work or other places, but being on your phone as minimally as possible as a pedestrian allows you to stay alert to your surroundings more readily.
Many people have been seriously injured or died because they did not utilize a crosswalk. If you cross the street where a car doesn’t expect a pedestrian to be, it increases the chances of being struck. Use a crosswalk whenever possible to reduce the odds of being hit by a car while crossing. There may be times when it poses an inconvenience to only cross within crosswalks, but as an Athens pedestrian accident lawyer knows, it could be what ultimately saves your life.
Make Eye Contact First
Never assume a driver sees you and even if they do stop to let you walk, be prepared for sudden maneuvers they may make around you. You may have a right-of-way as a pedestrian, but do not assume that a car that stopped has seen you, particularly at an intersection or stop sign. Make eye contact with the driver first before entering the crosswalk. At night it can be more challenging to make eye contact, but do your best. And consider wearing bright colors when traveling by foot in the evening hours.
Watch Out For Parked Cars
Do not enter the street in between a series of parked cars. Most drivers will not anticipate a pedestrian suddenly coming into view at that time. Because the parked cars essentially hide you from view until you are into the street, a driver may not have seen you clearly enough to avoid an accident. When walking near cars that are parked, make sure that there isn’t a driver inside who is ready to merge into moving traffic. Pedestrian injuries and deaths have happened in this type of situation.
If you were injured or someone you care about sustained injury or death as a pedestrian, then we urge you to contact us for assistance. An Athens pedestrian accident lawyer from Norris Injury Law has handled cases like these in the past, and while no situation is exactly the same, we understand the gravity that these incidents can have on the victim and their loved ones. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out for help now.
Why You’ll Need A Lawyer After A Pedestrian Accident
If you’ve been hit by a car, an Athens, GA pedestrian accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve. Read on to see some frequently-asked questions about what a lawyer can do for you, and reach out to Norris Injury Law for a free consultation.
Who Pays For My Medical Bills After A Pedestrian Accident?
Drivers have insurance for a reason. In the event of any kind of injury or accident, an insurance policy is supposed to cover the costs of medical bills, repair bills, and anything else that may have been caused by the accident – including the injuries of another person.
While insurance is legally required, there are still some irresponsible people on the road that aren’t insured at all. If you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver, you may have to deal with your own insurance provider.
Why Is It So Difficult To Deal With Insurance?
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that your insurance provider will pay you enough – or on time. It’s a common practice in the insurance industry to hold on to your money for as long as possible. It means an insurance company makes more money on interest, and it also means you may be left hanging when you need help with your bills.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with an uninsured (or underinsured) driver, you can contact a Athens pedestrian accident lawyer to help cover the cost of your injuries. However, it’s important to remember that you’ll be dealing with more than just medical bills.
What Are Lost Wages?
If you’ve been hit by a car, chances are you won’t be able to clock back in for work like nothing happened. A pedestrian accident can lead to serious injury, and potentially even disability. While you’re focusing on your recovery, you can’t collect your paychecks as usual. Unfortunately, this can make for a desperate financial situation.
You rely on your paychecks to pay for your rent, your mortgage, your car payments, utilities… the list goes on, and without a source of income, you may find yourself sinking fast. Insurance providers may compensate you for lost wages, but you’ll still need a lawyer to help you fight for that much-needed money.
What Is Negligence?
If you’re able to determine negligence, you’re able to pinpoint who is at fault for your injuries. And when you know who’s at fault, you may be able to file a lawsuit. Negligence takes many forms, and a lawyer can help investigate your case to see who should be held accountable for your accident.
For example, if a driver is texting at the wheel, that driver is neglecting his or her responsibility to maintain a safe road environment for everyone else. On the other hand, a poorly-designed intersection may mean the city itself was negligent when they planned the street. All the more reason to get in touch with lawyers who can investigate your case.
How Do I Find The Right Lawyer?
There are many pedestrian accident lawyers out there, but only a few offer an accomplished track record and personalized case management like Norris Injury Law. We provide free consultations and plenty of local experience to help you with your case.
Our team can help you fight with your insurance, and determine who should be held accountable for your injuries. Get in touch to contact an Athens pedestrian accident lawyer from our office today.