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Lawyer Explains Statute of Limitations (or Deadline) in Georgia Wrongful Death Cases
Client Story: Personal Injuries in Car Accident
Client Story: Personal Injuries in Car Accident

Who is at Fault for a Pedestrian Accident?

Most pedestrian accident cases revolve around the idea of “negligence,” which basically means that someone wasn’t being as careful as they reasonably should have been. Whether the driver who struck a pedestrian was negligent can depend on several circumstances, as you have probably heard if you have spoken with an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer. Those circumstances include the speed of the car, whether the driver was texting or distracted, the presence of a crosswalk, the lighting conditions, the time of day, and any nearby traffic signals or lights. Who was at fault for a pedestrian accident often depends on who had the right-of-way, which we discuss in more detail in the section below.

A pedestrian accident lawyer looks for several sources of evidence to determine who was at fault. Most pedestrian accident investigations start with the police report, which should contain the officer’s observations from the scene of the accident and provide statements from any witnesses with whom the officer was able to speak. Particularly in urban areas like Atlanta, surveillance cameras from nearby businesses may also show what happened, but a pedestrian accident lawyer has to move fast to find them because most businesses record over their surveillance footage in just a few days. Old-fashioned witness work is also important. Many witnesses may know more than they told the officer, or they may have simply given the officer their contact information and left the scene of the accident. A good lawyer will track them down.

If the driver who caused the pedestrian accident was drinking and driving or committed a hit-and-run, then it is usually very clear who was at fault. Drinking and driving constitutes negligence. A hit-and-run shows that the driver ran away from the scene, which indicates that he or she was not only at fault, but did not care about what happened to the pedestrian.

    Three-Lane-Road

    Pedestrians often have the right-of-way over cars under Georgia law.  If a pedestrian is crossing in a crosswalk, then the pedestrian has the right of way.  See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91 (these numbers provide the legal citation to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, and you can copy-and-paste them into a search engine if you’re interested).  Specifically, vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who are are in a crosswalk on the same side of the street as the side on which the vehicle is driving, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of that side of the roadway.

     

    For example, imagine a street that runs east-to-west with two traffic lanes and one center turn lane. If a vehicle is heading east and is therefore in the lane on the southern side of the street, then a pedestrian in a crosswalk would have the right-of-way if the pedestrian was in that eastbound lane or in the center turn lane walking south, i.e., approaching the eastbound lane. For example, in the illustration above, the man with a green shirt in the wheelchair would have the right-of-way over any car approaching from the left side of the page (from his right) even though he is still in the area of the center turn lane. See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91(a).

    There are some limitations on a pedestrian’s right-of-way. For example, a pedestrian must not ‘dart out’ in front of a moving vehicle without giving that vehicle time to stop, and if a pedestrian decides to cross a roadway even though an overhead crossing or tunnel is available, then pedestrian should yield the right-of-way to a car on the street. See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91(b), 40-6-92(b).

    What if the Pedestrian is Not in the Crosswalk?

    If a pedestrian accident occurs and the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk, then determining who is at fault for the accident depends on other factors. In general, a vehicle driving on the street has the right-of-way over pedestrians if there is no crosswalk. But if the car was speeding excessively or driving at night without lights, the answer could be different. If a pedestrian has already entered the roadway safely, and then gets hit by a vehicle that came out of nowhere, the driver of the vehicle is usually at fault even if there was no crosswalk. In the language of Georgia law, a pedestrian can have the right-of-way even if there is no crosswalk if, at the time of the collision, “he has already, and under safe conditions, entered the roadway.” See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-92(a).

    What Compensation or Settlement Can a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Obtain?

    If a car strikes a pedestrian and the driver is at fault, Georgia law requires that the driver compensate the pedestrian for any injuries that the accident caused. The is a commonsense principle that dates back to the “common law,” which refers to the body of judicial law that courts followed before statutory law like the Official Code of Georgia Annotated covered many of the issues. Like most states, Georgia follows this common sense, common law rule.

    So what kind of compensation does the driver have to pay after a pedestrian accident?  Basically, the driver (or the driver’s insurance company) must pay for the losses, or the “damages,” that the driver caused. Those damages include several categories.

    Past Medical Bills. The driver or his or her insurance company must compensate the pedestrian for any medical bills that the pedestrian incurred as a result of the accident, regardless of whether the pedestrian had health insurance (because the pedestrian may have pay the health insurance company back).

    Future Medical Bills. Medical treatment costs money. If the pedestrian accident caused ongoing medical issues that will require future medical treatment, the at-fault driver or the driver’s insurance company should compensate the pedestrian for those future medical expenses. In especially serious cases, a pedestrian accident lawyer will retain a specialist to create a “life care plan” that predicts what the future medical needs and expenses will be so that the insurance company will pay them.

    Past Pain & Suffering. It hurts to be hit by a car. Pedestrians are entitled to compensation for that.

    Future Pain & Suffering. If the pedestrian accident was serious enough to require future medical treatment, chances are that the pain from the accident is not over. For example, the pain from a low back injury may never entirely go away, or plates and screws installed in a pedestrian’s elbow to repair injuries from the accident may hurt every time the weather turns cold or the rain starts. A pedestrian accident lawyer can help to obtain compensation for ongoing pain.

    Lost Wages. If the victim of a pedestrian accident misses work because he or she is in the hospital or physically unable to work, then the victim is entitled to compensation for those lost earnings.

    Interference with Daily Living. Some pedestrian accidents are so severe that they affect the way a person lives. To use an extreme example, a pedestrian accident that severed a pedestrian’s spinal cord and caused paralysis would put the pedestrian in a wheelchair for the rest of his or her life. That would most definitely affect the pedestrian’s daily living. If a pedestrian accident interferes with the way a person has to live his or her life, Georgia law recognizes that the pedestrian should be compensated for those changes.

    Insurance Coverage for Georgia Pedestrian Accidents

    In very serious pedestrian accident cases, the “limiting factor” on the pedestrian’s monetary recovery may not be what the pedestrian is entitled to – the real question may be what funds are available. In other words, the unfortunate truth is that in serious cases, there may not be enough money to fairly compensate the victim of the pedestrian accident.

    For example, imagine that a driver has very little insurance, only Georgia’s minimum limits of $25,000. A driver with such low insurance limits likely has very few personal assets. Imagine that this driver runs a red light and strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk, causing injuries so severe that her leg has to be amputated. In this example, compensating the pedestrian for the loss of her leg, her medical treatment, and the pain she will endure would run well into the millions of dollars.  But the problem is that there is no obvious place to collect millions of dollars from – the insurance limits are low, and the at-fault driver has no assets to speak of.

    This is where a pedestrian accident lawyer’s experience with insurance can be helpful.

    Georgia law allows many types of insurance policies to cover pedestrian accidents. Usually, the first type of insurance coverage to apply is auto insurance.

    The insurance company of the driver who caused the pedestrian accident usually pays first. If that insurance policy isn’t large enough to compensate the pedestrian for his or her injuries, then other liability insurance may come into play. For instance, the at-fault driver may have a personal umbrella policy. Or, if the at-fault driver was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the pedestrian accident, then under Georgia law, the employer may bear responsibility under the principles of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. In that case, the business’s insurance policy (often a “commercial general liability” or “CGL” policy) may provide coverage.

    If there isn’t enough liability insurance to cover the pedestrian’s injuries from the accident, then often, the pedestrian’s own uninsured or underinsured motorist (“UM”) insurance may step in. This may sound counter-intuitive, but a pedestrian’s UM insurance can cover him or her for a pedestrian accident even though he or she wasn’t in a car when the accident occurs. If the at-fault driver’s liability insurance polices and the pedestrian’s UM insurance policies still aren’t enough to adequately cover the pedestrian’s injuries, then under Georgia law the UM insurance policies of the pedestrian’s “resident relatives” may be available. See O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11.

    If that still isn’t enough, there are a couple long shots that we can take to find additional insurance. Depending on the language of the policies, the auto insurance policies of the at-fault driver’s resident relatives may provide coverage. And sometimes in very particular circumstances, our firm has been able to force insurance companies to pay over their insurance limits.

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    Hit-and-Run Pedestrian Accidents in Georgia

    Georgia law takes hit-and-run accidents seriously. When a driver hurts someone and then drives off, that says two important things. First, the driver was probably at fault. Second, the driver did not care very much about the consequences of the accident to the pedestrian. In Georgia as in most states, it is illegal to drive off after causing any type of collision, including a pedestrian accident. See O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270.  In Georgia, a driver who commits a hit-and-run can be liable for punitive damages.

    There isn’t much a driver can do that is worse than running into a pedestrian, leaving the pedestrian lying in the street, and running away.

    Sadly, hit-and-run collisions are more common in pedestrian accidents than car-to-car accidents. There are no statistics or government studies to explain why, but most experienced pedestrian accident lawyers suspect that there are two reasons. First, after a pedestrian accident, the driver knows that the injuries are likely to be serious. That gives the driver a reason to run if the driver fears criminal prosecution or a lawsuit based on the injuries to the pedestrian. Second, the driver knows that he or she can get away. The pedestrian won’t be able to chase the car, especially after being struck by it. And pedestrian accidents rarely cause much damage to the car, so the car is almost always driveable.

    Pedestrian Rights under Georgia Law

    Because pedestrians are vulnerable, there are some specific rights granted to all pedestrians in Georgia. The law requires that drivers watch out for pedestrians and exercise “due care” to avoid them—even outside of crosswalks. Further, drivers are required to yield to pedestrians using a crosswalk, and pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks.

    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91: pedestrians have the right-of-way in Georgia crosswalks

    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-92: pedestrians entering the roadway outside of a crosswalk must yield to vehicles “unless he has already, and under safe conditions, entered the roadway”

    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-22: pedestrians with the “WALK” sign have the right-of-way

    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-144: vehicles emerging from an alley, building, private road, or driveway must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk

    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-203: drivers must not park their vehicles on sidewalks or crosswalks

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    Georgia Pedestrian Accident Lawyer

    If you were injured in a pedestrian accident, we can’t take your pain away. What we can do is build a plan and determine the best way to recover for your losses. We have reached favorable settlements for victims of pedestrian accidents and, where needed, won jury verdicts in pedestrian injury cases.

    In pedestrian accident cases, it is important to move fast so that the attorney can gather any evidence from the scene of the collision (like vehicle debris or surveillance videos) and find eyewitnesses (before their phone numbers change or they move away). Think carefully, and choose the right lawyer. If you call a law office and can’t get a lawyer on the phone, that’s a good clue – try someone else!

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