A 47-year-old Macon woman, now identified as Felicia Couch, was hit on Tuesday, April 20th at 11:02 a.m. Witnesses reported seeing Couch walking north on the southbound shoulder of the I-475 and I-75 split south of Hartley Ridge when a semi truck hit her.
Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said Couch initially refused medical treatment when help arrived and died at the scene. The Bibb County Sheriff’s office is investigating the accident.
While the accident is still under investigation, it’s safe to speculate the vehicle was commercially owned. But even if that’s the case, should Couch have been walking along the interstate in the first place?
Undoubtedly in a case like this, liability is an important question.
Truck accident liability for a fatal pedestrian crash
Contrary to popular belief, pedestrians struck on roadways outside of crosswalks (or their families) may still be able to make a personal injury claim under Georgia law.
Georgia is an at-fault state. So if the driver causes the accident, they’re responsible for covering any damages. This includes medical expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering. If the employee is driving for their job at the time of the accident, the driver’s employer can be held liable under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.
Depending on the circumstances, any of the following parties can be liable for truck accident damages:
The truck driver
Speeding, drowsy driving, and driving too many consecutive hours can all lead to serious accidents. When a truck driver’s negligence contributes to an accident, they can be personally liable for any resulting injuries and fatalities.
The trucking company
Negligent corporate policies may contribute to a trucking accident. For example, many trucking companies pay their drivers by the mile. This policy encourages truckers to speed and drive too many consecutive hours, which leads to drowsy driving. These companies can also be held responsible for negligent hiring practices, inadequate training, and poor truck maintenance.
The insurance company
The law requires that trucking companies carry a minimum amount of insurance that is much higher than that of passenger vehicles. When a person sues a trucking company for a personal injury or wrongful death, this insurance comes into play. But when a lawsuit is filed against the trucking company, their insurer can be sued directly.
The manufacturer of a defective part
Sometimes a third party is responsible for a crash. For example, a manufacturer of a part or the vehicle itself can be held liable if a defective part caused the crash. This type of case falls under product liability law, and the manufacturer may be forced to pay damages toward the accident victim.
The truck or trailer rig owners
Some truckers are independent contractors. They own their trucks and lease their services to several different companies. In cases such as these, the owner might be liable for an accident involving their vehicle.
The cargo loading company
Regulations are in place to specify how trucks should be loaded and how much they can carry. Certain materials also have special loading restrictions, such as when a trucker is hauling hazardous materials. If a load isn’t properly balanced, secured or is too heavy, which causes the truck to rollover or crash, then the shipping company responsible for loading the truck can be held liable.
Pedestrian liability for an accident
On the flip side, pedestrians also have a duty of care for their own safety.
OCGA § 40-6-91(b) states:
“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.”
Pedestrians are also legally obligated to obey traffic control devices. This means if they jump out into traffic or cross the street where there is no marked crosswalk, they could be held liable.
So if Couch was walking on a stretch of roadway prohibited to pedestrians, she may be held partially responsible for her actions—which could reduce any potential wrongful death claim her family were to file.
Georgia vehicle and pedestrian laws
It’s important to note that there’s a limited amount of time to file a truck accident lawsuit because of the statute of limitations that applies to personal injury and wrongful death cases in Georgia. After this deadline, the law prevents you from pursuing a lawsuit.
According to Georgia law, all drivers are responsible for providing a duty of care. This means when they see a pedestrian, they must avoid hitting them by sounding their horn and exercise proper caution. If this care is breached, that is considered negligence and the driver could be held liable.
Georgia code §40-6-96 outlines the duties pedestrians have when walking along the road or highway.
“(c) Where a sidewalk is not provided but a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride only on the shoulder, as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway.
(d) Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway, and, if on a two-lane roadway, shall stand or stride only on the left side of the roadway.”
If Couch failed to follow these or any other traffic laws, her family might encounter challenges with filing a lawsuit against the semi truck driver or trucking company.
Contact a Macon truck accident lawyer today
While not every case is the same, our team has seen our fair share of pedestrian and truck accidents. We’ve successfully represented Georgia clients for over 50 years. The personal injury law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson is dedicated to ensuring the maximum amount of damages is awarded to you.
If your family has recently lost a loved one due to a driver’s negligence, a Georgia pedestrian accident lawyer can help. With offices conveniently located in Macon, Albany, and Warner Robins, we help clients throughout South Georgia and across the Southeast. Don’t hesitate to call our offices today to schedule your free initial consultation.