Unlike motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents can be uniquely catastrophic to the parties involved because of the lack of protection pedestrians have while traversing public roadways. As a result, pedestrians struck by motorists face permanent injury resulting in long-term disability or possible death.
At Joel Thrift Law, we are here to help if you or a loved one need assistance from an Atlanta pedestrian accident attorney. We can provide legal services and advice to navigate an otherwise tumultuous and confusing time for many.
What is a Pedestrian Accident?
A pedestrian accident typically includes an accident where a motor vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, utility vehicle, etc.) strikes a person on a roadway while that person is on foot. A pedestrian accident can occur on a public or private street, sidewalk, hiking or bicycle trail, or any conceivable place a motor vehicle can operate.
Fatality and Injury Rates for Pedestrian Accidents in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta residents know the reality of traffic in our fantastic city: it is awful. Most motorists suffer from unending wait times and traffic, and pedestrians are always at risk of being hit by a motor vehicle with little to no defense preventing significant harm.
According to data compiled by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) from 2019, non-motorist (pedestrian and bicycle accidents) in the State of Georgia are rising. Non-motorist fatalities per year have increased 38% between 2010 (186 fatalities) – 2019 (257 fatalities).
Other data compiled by GOHS relating to the Atlanta metropolitan region in 2019 shows:
- 69% of all pedestrian accidents occurred in the Atlanta metropolitan region.
- Fulton County experienced the highest percentage of pedestrian accidents: 727. 23%, which either resulted in a fatality or severe injury.
- Addressing pedestrian-related hospitalization and treatment costs for motor vehicle accidents in Georgia cost approximately $171 million.
What Causes Pedestrian Accidents?
Most roadways these days are riddled with defects and issues posing numerous hazards for even the most conscientious drivers. Furthermore, even pedestrians walking on perfect roadways still face an even greater cause of injury: driver error.
Below are some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents from motor vehicles:
- Distracted driving.
- Driving while intoxicated, impaired, or drowsy.
- Speeding or reckless driving.
- Inexperienced drivers.
- Running traffic lights.
- Engaging in improper lane changes and turns.
- Failing to signal.
- Failing to obey proper traffic directions.
- Recklessly driving through construction sites.
- Driving during inhospitable weather conditions.
- Driving at night.
- Snow or icy roads
- Vehicle malfunctions.
- Defective vehicles.
- Broken or malfunctioning headlights or taillights.
- Potholes or debris on the roadway.
What Types of Injuries Do Pedestrians Face After Being in a Motor Vehicle Accident?
Pedestrians face a much higher chance of experiencing catastrophic injury resulting in permanent damage or death from a motor vehicle accident. Below is a non-exhaustive list of the most common forms of pedestrian injuries.
Soft Tissue Damage
Soft tissue damage can manifest in various ways, including contusions, lacerations, muscle sprains and tears, and dislocations. Unlike other injuries, many soft tissue injuries can heal over time, leaving minimal scarring or lasting damage. However, these injuries can cause infection, permanent scarring, and other long-term effects if left untreated.
Bone Breaks and Fractures
Like soft tissue damage, bone breaks and fractures are common injuries caused by pedestrian accidents. Regular breaks and fractures occur to the wrist, hand, arms, collarbone, legs, back, and ribs. Although these injuries can be excruciating, they are some of the most treatable injuries a pedestrian can experience. Uncommonly, a combination of severe soft tissue and bone damage can result in amputation.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Head and brain injuries are one of the leading causes of permanent damage or death to pedestrians after a motor vehicle accident. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs after receiving one or more forceful strikes to the head. TBI can result in many symptoms, including headache, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, dizziness, light/sound sensitivity, alteration in mood, depression, and internal bleeding. Because TBI can manifest in multiple symptoms, pedestrians must seek medical treatment immediately after experiencing an accident. Without proper treatment, TBI can result in permanent brain damage or death.
Spinal Cord Injuries
A spinal cord injury occurs when one or more vertebrae that comprise the spinal cord and spinal column are damaged from traumatic impact. Spinal cord injuries can result in loss of feeling and movement in one or more body areas, permanent paralysis, or death. In addition, spinal cord injuries usually result in some of the highest medical costs for patients.
Understanding Georgia Negligence Law
Virtually all pedestrian and motor vehicle-related accidents arise from the legal theory of negligence. An attorney’s role is to apply the law to the facts of each unique incident and serve their client’s best interests. Representation starts with understanding negligence.
What is Negligence?
A person is negligent when they act or fail to act as a reasonably prudent person in society. Negligence looks at a person’s conduct in a particular set of circumstances and weighs whether that person’s actions (or omissions) met their duty as a similar person in a similar set of circumstances.
Generally, negligence is comprised of a four-part test used by courts and juries to determine whether a person (defendant) was negligent:
- Duty of Care: What was the duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant?
- Breach: Did the defendant breach their assigned duty?
- Causation: Did the defendant’s actions or omissions cause harm to the plaintiff?
- Damages: What quantifiable harm did the plaintiff suffer?
Comparative Fault Negligence
Georgia has adopted a modified form of negligence known as comparative fault negligence. Comparative fault negligence helps fact finders (courts and juries) determine liability when more than one party is involved in an accident, and each party contributed to the accident.
Under a comparative fault framework, if a plaintiff files a suit against the defendant, and the fact finder finds that the plaintiff contributed to the accident, the plaintiff’s damage calculation is reduced. For example, if a plaintiff has contributed 25% to the cause of the accident and was initially entitled to $100,000 in monetary damages, the plaintiff will only receive $75,000. Furthermore, under this same framework, if a plaintiff is found to be liable for 50% or more of the accident, then the plaintiff is not entitled to any damages.
Comparative negligence is more relevant when more than one motor vehicle is involved in an accident. Often, drivers are held more liable than pedestrians because drivers must proceed with more caution when operating their vehicles as opposed to pedestrians on foot. Further, pedestrians have far less protection than motor vehicles.
Calculating Damages for an Atlanta Pedestrian Accident
The value of damages associated with an Atlanta pedestrian accident depends on the unique facts of each case. However, typical damage calculations incorporate economic and non-economic injuries suffered by the plaintiff.
Economic damages usually include the tangible costs associated with an accident. Economic damages can be much easier to calculate because many economic damages require evidence of a bill associated with the injury. Non-economic damages can be more challenging to calculate because a plaintiff must attach a dollar figure to expenses and losses that are not easily quantifiable and often subjective in nature.
Examples of economic damages can include, but are not limited to:
- Medical bills, intensive care, emergency room, and surgery costs.
- Lost wages because of time off to recover.
- Lost earning potential for debilitating or crippling injuries.
- Medication costs.
- Medical device costs.
- Associated costs for treatment, like travel expenses.
- Physical, occupational, and psychological therapy.
Examples of non-economic damages can include, but are not limited to:
- Pain and suffering: compensable damage to a person caused by physical discomfort or emotional distress.
- Permanent damage to a person’s body: scarring, disfigurement, and amputation.
- Loss of life enjoyment for significant life activities.
- Loss of consortium: plaintiff’s inability to engage in the personal aspects of relationship or marriage with their spouse or significant other.
Obtaining Compensation After a Pedestrian Accident
Because each pedestrian accident differs, an experienced pedestrian accident attorney can work with their client to determine the best course of action for compensation for the pedestrian’s economic and non-economic damages. Below are the typical avenues a pedestrian can take to obtain compensation for damages.
Sometimes, the best course of action for pedestrians to seek compensation is through their health insurance company. This can occur when the cause of the pedestrian accident is uncertain or inconclusive. A pedestrian’s health insurer often must provide initial care for any injury and seek reimbursement later. An experienced Atlanta pedestrian accident attorney can help their client navigate the complexities of insurance policies and coverage.
Automotive Insurance of the Motor Vehicle Operator
All Georgia motor vehicle operators must maintain a certain threshold of insurance coverage by state law. All insurance policies must include a minimum of $25,000 for each person and a minimum of $50,000 per incident. Thus, a pedestrian may seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance.
State or Local Governments
A fact finder may determine the cause of the pedestrian accident was not a vehicle operator’s fault but a road or public infrastructure condition that led a driver to cause the pedestrian harm. State and local government officials have personal immunity from personal injury lawsuits unless the facts demonstrate the official acted outside their official duties. However, pedestrians can still seek compensation from the public body if the evidence demonstrates the public body’s actions or omissions caused the accident.
If the motor vehicle operator was an employee operating the vehicle on behalf of their employer, the pedestrian may be able to seek compensation from the employer. An employer is typically liable for the actions or omissions of their employee under a theory of vicarious liability. However, if the employee deviated from their job duty so that their actions fell outside the scope of their employment relationship, they may be held personally liable.
Sometimes parties to a pedestrian accident claim had nothing to do with the circumstances that led to the accident. Instead, the motor vehicle in the accident malfunctioned because of a defect. Therefore, manufacturers may be liable under a theory of product liability where a defect in the vehicle’s design, manufacturing, or delivery caused the vehicle to malfunction.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal injury lawsuits are always a last resort for experienced pedestrian attorneys. Although lawsuits allow fact finders to weigh the law and the facts regarding an accident and determine fault, attorneys use a gauntlet of legal tools to obtain compensation for their client before filing a lawsuit.
Steps to Take After a Pedestrian Accident
Although pedestrian accidents can be traumatic, pedestrians who remain conscious or regain consciousness soon after the accident should take the following steps.
Seek Medical Treatment
Anyone involved in an accident, pedestrian or otherwise, should always seek medical attention after the accident. Medical professionals can ensure that all injured parties receive proper medical care through medical treatment. Further, seeking medical attention after an accident creates evidence of the harmed party’s injuries. At-fault parties and insurance companies may argue that a plaintiff’s injury or residual treatment resulted from other factors unrelated to the accident.
Provide a Statement to Law Enforcement
Parties to an accident should speak openly and honestly to law enforcement about their experience to establish evidence of the accident. A pedestrian should never opine or assign fault when speaking with law enforcement.
Take Photos of the Accident
Parties should take their photos of the accident, including the vehicles involved, road conditions, and any apparent injuries as evidence.
Exchange Contact and Insurance Information
All involved parties should exchange contact information. Further, a pedestrian can ask for the motor vehicle operator’s insurance information.
Do Not Provide an Opinion of the Accident
Pedestrians should never provide their opinion of the cause of the accident, nor should they apologize for their conduct before or during an accident. Pedestrian accidents can be very complicated, with multiple factors attributing to the accident. Therefore, pedestrians are not able to acknowledge fault after an accident. Instead, fault can be decided between the parties or by a fact finder once an investigation has been conducted.
Contact an Attorney
An experienced pedestrian accident attorney can provide the necessary legal expertise and counseling to address injuries and obtain compensation on the client’s behalf.
Services Provided by an Atlanta Pedestrian Accident Attorney
Pedestrians involved in motor vehicle accidents should strongly consider contacting an experienced Atlanta pedestrian accident attorney. Below are the types of services an attorney can offer a pedestrian who suffered injury from a recent accident.
Investigating the Accident
Many pedestrian accident attorneys have years of experience conducting investigations on behalf of their clients. This can include reviewing relevant documentation associated with the accident, including accident photos, insurance policies, medical bills, and other documentation. Attorneys will also contact and interview third-party witnesses to the accident. In addition, personal injury attorneys typically hire or contract with professional licensed investigators to gather additional facts about the accident.
Negotiating with Relevant Parties
Attorneys will identify the relevant parties of a pedestrian accident and negotiate with those parties to determine each party’s position regarding the accident and devise the next steps. Attorneys are instrumental when negotiating with insurance companies. Insurance adjusters and their attorneys are trained to identify issues with an insurance claim. Adjustors will find numerous reasons why a complicated insurance policy does not cover certain accidents under certain circumstances, resulting in specific injuries. Experienced pedestrian accident attorneys can cut through the minutiae and seek compensation for their clients.
Experienced pedestrian accident attorneys can calculate a reasonable damage figure based on all the injuries and expenses associated with the pedestrian accident. This provides the client with reasonable expectations of what they can expect damages can be and help the attorney advocate for their client’s best interest.
Preparing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Although anyone has the right to file a lawsuit on their behalf and represent themselves, civil litigation is full of procedural and legal landmines that can undermine a legitimate claim for damages at the start of the process. Experienced pedestrian accident attorneys have the expertise to generate civil complaints, identify and utilize legal arguments, respond to discovery, and seek resolution to a lawsuit in an efficient manner.
These days, most civil matters settle outside the courtroom—sometimes even before a lawsuit has been filed. As a result, pedestrians that have suffered injuries may feel that settlement is “giving up” or “failing” to get justice for their injury. This is an understandable position for many after suffering the life-alternating nature of a pedestrian accident. However, litigation can be costly and time-consuming for all parties involved. Thus, in many cases, settlement can provide an efficient and effective resolution to a process that can take years.
Contact Joel Thrift Law Today
If you or a loved one has suffered a pedestrian accident, do not wait to contact an Atlanta pedestrian accident attorney at Joel Thrift law. By contacting our office, our experienced Atlanta pedestrian accident attorney can investigate your claims and devise a strategy to obtain compensation for your injuries. Contact us using our online form today.