The Georgia State Patrol is currently investigating a pedestrian accident that occurred shortly before 4 am on Monday, December 14th, 2020. According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Cheryl Farmer was walking just outside of Tennille when she was struck by a car traveling along Highway 15, and died on the scene.
Investigators reported there were no lights in the area, making it difficult to see pedestrians on the side of the road.
So, who’s liable for a pedestrian accident in such a case?
Georgia statistics for pedestrian accidents
The number of Georgia fatalities has been increasing over the last 5 years across the state. The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reported 261 pedestrian accidents in 2018 alone.
“The safety and accessibility of pedestrian walkways are critical issues throughout the state and in urban areas.”
Fulton and Dekalb counties have seen the highest increase in pedestrian deaths, despite the state’s best efforts to implement programs aimed at educating Georgia motorists in order to reduce these numbers.
Walking can be a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to driving a motor vehicle or taking a bus in Georgia. But with fatalities continuing to increase, it’s become a significant hazard.
What’s causing pedestrian accidents to increase?
While there’s no clear answer to this question, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have identified the following factors as top causes of pedestrian fatalities.
While the cause of the Washington County pedestrian accident remains unclear, it was reported that Farmer was walking along a road that lacked lights. This can mean that by the time a driver sees a pedestrian with their vehicle’s headlights, it’s already too late.
If a pedestrian isn’t carrying a light or isn’t wearing any bright or reflective clothing, this can also make it difficult for drivers to see them.
Poor road design
Georgia pedestrians are encouraged to walk…but where? A lack of sidewalks, crosswalks, and biking lanes for cyclists can make it hazardous for pedestrians to safely commute even in the middle of the day.
Texting while driving, fiddling with the radio, and talking to passengers in the car are common examples of distracted driving that can lead to pedestrian accidents.
It’s not always the driver’s fault for hitting a pedestrian or cyclist. A jogger may run across the street before looking and not see a car come around the corner. If a walker is listening to music while they exercise, they may not hear a car approaching before crossing the street. Sometimes people are in a hurry and cross a busy intersection without paying attention to street signs.
Failure to yield or slow at a crosswalk
Drivers running late to work may choose to ignore stop or yield signs on the back roads in favor of saving time, which can lead to accidents at intersections, neighborhoods, and downtown areas.
According to Georgia statute §40-6-93:
“Every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway, shall give warning by sounding his horn when necessary, and shall exercise proper precautions upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.”
Who can be held liable?
If a driver breaches their duty of care by failing to yield or warn pedestrians and cyclists of their approach, they could be held liable for hitting them. When that’s the case, pedestrians have a legal right to file a negligence claim against the defendant.
Georgia laws also address the responsibilities that pedestrians have when walking, jogging, or biking along busy streets and intersections. They could be held liable for an accident if they’re found doing any of the following:
- Texting while walking or jogging
- Talking on the phone while walking or jogging
- Walking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Walking or jogging with headphones at a high volume
- Ignoring street signs or other traffic rules
- Jaywalking (crossing a street outside of a designated crosswalk)
- Failing to monitor on-coming traffic while exiting or entering their vehicle
- Crossing the street outside of an intersection
- Suddenly running into the road
If a jury finds that a pedestrian is partly at fault, they may assign a percentage of fault to the pedestrian.
In order for the plaintiff (person filing the claim) to recover damages, that percentage must be less than 50 percent. This also limits the amount of compensation they’re able to receive.
For example, if you were struck while jogging and listening to music at a high volume, the judge or panel may consider you 40 percent at fault. If your total damages were $100,000, your recovery would be cut by 40 percent or $40,000. Therefore, you would only recover $60,000 in compensation.
Sometimes the driver nor the pedestrian is at fault. Other factors that may cause a pedestrian accident include poor weather conditions, bad road conditions, defective equipment, and poorly maintained roads.
The road Farmer was walking along didn’t have any streetlights to help make pedestrians visible to drivers, which means the party responsible for the maintenance of that road could be held liable.
But how can you successfully determine who’s at fault?
How a Georgia pedestrian accident lawyer can help
Victims in a pedestrian accident are entitled to compensation for lowered quality of life, pain and suffering, medical expenses, and emotional trauma. If you or someone you love is the victim of a pedestrian accident, our Georgia accident lawyers can fight for compensation on your behalf.
The legal advisors at Westmoreland, Patterson, Hinson & Moseley have recovered millions of dollars across the state of Georgia and the southeast by representing victims of pedestrian accidents. Don’t wait too long as you only have a limited amount of time to pursue a claim due to the statute of limitations.