Increasingly, people in urban areas are walking for health and pleasure. However, going for a walk can also be hazardous. According to statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, pedestrian deaths account for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States. In Georgia, 260 pedestrians were fatally injured by a car in 2017. As in many cities, Atlanta area residents are heavily dependent on cars for transportation. Fulton and DeKalb counties had the highest number of pedestrian deaths. Also, the Atlanta area has the highest fatality rates in the country for males, Hispanics, and those in the 15 to 34 and 35 to 54 age groups.
Were You the Victim of a Pedestrian Accident in the Atlanta Area?
When a car hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian is nearly always injured, often seriously. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center reported that almost three out of four pedestrian fatalities occur in urban areas. Approximately 26 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occur between 6 and 8:59 p.m. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. According to the CDC, one out of five children between the ages of 5 and 9 who died in traffic accidents were pedestrians. Individuals aged 65 and older account for 18 percent of all pedestrian deaths. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, you need to speak with an experienced Atlanta pedestrian accident lawyer to learn about your legal options.
Common Causes of Atlanta Pedestrian Accidents
All kinds of circumstances can lead to an accident. Heavy traffic, left-hand turns, unmarked crosswalks, quiet cars, and distracting devices in the hands of both the driver and the pedestrian are just a few of the causes of pedestrian accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists some of the factors that contribute to pedestrian accidents:
- Urban and suburban areas have a high rate of pedestrian accidents
- SUVs and other high horsepower vehicles are often involved in pedestrian crashes
- Most accidents happen in low visibility conditions, or at night
- Accidents are often on roads that are busy or are major arteries
- Accidents often happen outside of intersections
- Design of roads, cars, and lighting
- Inadequate speed limit enforcement
Other common causes of accidents involving vehicles and pedestrians include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An estimated 48 percent of pedestrian deaths involve drinking on the part of either with the driver or pedestrian.
- Distracted driving
- Drowsy driving
- Failing to come to a complete stop at a crosswalk or intersection
- Failing to obey all street signs and signals
- Backing up without checking to see if a person was behind the vehicle
- Not slowing down at a crosswalk
Georgia’s Laws Protecting Victims of Pedestrian Accidents
Like victims of other accidents involving motor vehicles, pedestrians who are injured due to a negligent driver are permitted to seek compensation for their injuries through a third-party claim with the driver’s insurance company or through a personal injury lawsuit. Here are some of the highlights of Georgia’s personal injury law:
- Victims generally have up to two years in which to file a personal injury lawsuit.
- Damages typically awarded in pedestrian accident cases include medical expenses, lost wages for time away from work while recovering and traveling to and from medical appointments related to the injury, pain and suffering, modifications to the home or vehicle that are necessary for accessibility after a disabling injury, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. It should be noted that punitive damages may also be sought in some cases, such as if the driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs at the time the accident occurred.
- For a successful outcome in a pedestrian accident case, you must prove that the driver who hit you was behaving negligently and breached the duty of care to obey all traffic laws or otherwise driver in a safe manner, resulting in your injuries.
- Georgia follows a modified comparative negligence rule in which you can only sue another party for negligence if you were less than 50 percent responsible for the accident. For example, if it was discovered that you were disobeying traffic signals when the accident occurred and that was 60 percent of the reason for the accident, you will not be eligible to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. However, if it was determined that your negligence was 40 percent responsible for the accident, you may seek damages. It is important to note that your award will be reduced by the percentage of responsibility you were determined to have had in causing the accident. This motivates the defense to shift as blame to the victim as possible to avoid some or all liability. An experienced pedestrian accident lawyer understands comparative negligence and will shield you from these tactics and pursue the best outcome for your case.
When a car, which is large and traveling fast, hits a pedestrian, who has little or no protection, the pedestrian is likely to be badly injured. The type of vehicle, the speed, and the pedestrian’s age and physical condition all affect the severity of his injuries. However, in a pedestrian accident, injuries to the head, chest, abdomen, and extremities are likely. Here are the most common injuries sustained in pedestrian accidents:
- Head trauma. Injuries to the head and brain may be minor, but in many cases, they are catastrophic.
- Spinal cord injuries. The spinal cord contains the nerves that transmit messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Therefore, spinal cord injuries are very dangerous and can lead to paralysis or other permanent forms of disability.
- Internal injuries. Internal bleeding, kidney damage, and other internal injuries may go undetected for days but have serious consequences.
- Pelvic injuries. Pedestrians that get hit by a car may suffer from various types of pelvic fractures.
- Bone fractures. These are common injuries in pedestrian accidents and can lead to complications such as infection.
- Wrongful death. In many cases, a pedestrian accident may be fatal.
Seeking Compensation for Pedestrian Accidents in Atlanta
If you sue for damages after a pedestrian accident and the court rules in your favor, you might receive punitive and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are rare and typically only awarded in extreme cases. Georgia law requires a driver to willfully run down a pedestrian with their vehicle to award punitive damages. Drug and alcohol use is one exception that might cause a Georgia court to award punitive damages in a pedestrian accident case.
In most personal injury cases, courts award compensatory damages to an injury victim for losses incurred as a result of the accident and their injury. Here are the most commonly awarded compensatory damages in Atlanta pedestrian accident cases:
- Medical expenses including ambulance, emergency room visit, hospitalization, surgery, X-rays, aftercare and medication
- Future medical costs when a severe injury results in permanent disability, requiring continued medical treatment
- Rehabilitation expenses for physical therapist visits and assistive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, and artificial limbs
- Lost wages for an injured person’s time away from work due to injury and hospitalization
- Lost future wages when a catastrophic injury prohibits an injured person to return to their job
- Non-economic losses such as pain and suffering, loss in quality of life, loss of consortium, and others which might apply to a specific case
In the event you have lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, contact Brauns Law as soon as possible to discuss the viability of a wrongful death claim. Surviving family members might be able to recover damages depending on their relationship with the deceased.
Pedestrian Accident Fatalities in Atlanta, GA
Pedestrian Safety Tips
The Georgia Governor’s Office for Highway Safety offers the following safety tips for pedestrians:
- Always walk on the sidewalk if possible, facing traffic.
- Cross only at intersections or crosswalks.
- Always look before you cross the street. Even if you have the right-of-way, not every driver is going to obey traffic laws or yield the right-of-way. If a vehicle is obstructing your view as you attempt to cross the street, step out far enough into the street so that you can clearly see if traffic is approaching from any direction.
- Because lack of visibility is a major danger for pedestrians at night, you should always wear bright clothing and reflective stripes when walking at night.
- Extra caution is necessary when drivers are making right turns. Because drivers are permitted in many cases to make right turns on red, you should attempt to make eye contact with turning drivers in order to ensure that they see you and are not going to turn into your path.
- Watch out for vehicles who are backing out of driveways and may not be looking for you or able to see you. If you notice a vehicle backing out in your path, stop and wait for it to finish backing out before you attempt to cross.
- Never play in the street and don’t allow your children to do so either.
How Can a Pedestrian Accident Attorney Help Me?
All states have a time limit to file a personal injury case. This is called the statute of limitations. If you have been injured as a pedestrian, it is important to consult a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Our experienced, dedicated attorneys can review your case, discuss your legal options, and work zealously to obtain the compensation you deserve. For more information or a free consultation, call (404) 418-8244 or contact us at Brauns Law online today.