One person is dead and two children were injured in a pair of pedestrian wrecks in DeKalb County. What do these incidents tell us about pedestrian accidents in general?
As an unnamed woman in her 50s was crossing Rockbridge Road, a speeding car hit her and killed her almost instantly. A few hours earlier, another car hit two young children near the intersection of South Hairston and Mainstreet Park. First responders rushed both children to a nearby hospital, but they are expected to survive.
Both the drivers remained and the respective scenes.
What Causes Pedestrian Crashes?
Most pedestrian accidents occur outside marked crosswalks and on through streets, highways, or semi-rural roads. So, excessive velocity is often a factor in these incidents. That’s unfortunate, because speed is also one of the leading factors in pedestrian fatalities. At impact speeds of under 20mph, the pedestrian fatality rate is only about 5 percent. The death rate skyrockets to 85 percent at impact speeds of 40mph or greater.
Speed also increases the risk of a collision. At 30mph, most vehicles travel about six car lengths in the time required for drivers to see hazards ahead, move their feet onto the brake, apply the brake, and safely stop the car. This stopping distance triples to eighteen car lengths at 60mph.
Legally, excessive speed could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule. More on that below.
Driver inattention also causes a number of pedestrian crashes. Much like rapid cape movement attracts bulls in bullfights, rapid movement attracts drivers’ attention when they are behind the wheel. Examples include fast-moving cars and color-changing traffic signals. Slow moving pedestrians are not on this list. So, often due to a combination of inattention and speed, some drivers do not see some pedestrians until it is too late. That’s especially true if the victim was a small child and the street or intersection was relatively busy at the time.
Pedestrian Injuries and Medical Bills
Since they are completely unprotected in these incidents, pedestrian crashes often cause spine injuries and other catastrophic injuries. In cases like these, the medical bills alone could exceed $4 million. Generally, these injuries are degenerative. Treatment delays make the situation worse. Most health insurance companies refuse to pay accident-related costs, and most Georgia families do not have the resources to pay them themselves.
Other pedestrian injuries are almost as serious yet hard to identify. Head injuries are a good example. Doctors frequently misdiagnoses these injuries as shock from the accident. Additionally, the victims often do not accurately report their symptoms. The brain often effectively conceals its own injuries. That’s why concussed soldiers want to get back on the battlefield. They legitimately feel fine.
So, it’s always important to see a Marietta personal injury attorney after an accident. You do not know how much compensation you might be entitled to unless you ask a professional. Additionally, attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.
Driver error causes over 90 percent of all car crashes in Cobb County. So, as mentioned above, most of them involve ordinary negligence or negligence per se.
Negligence is a lack of ordinary care. Noncommercial drivers usually have a duty of reasonable care. Commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, normally have a higher duty of care. Drivers who breach the duty of care and cause injuries are liable for damages. Negligence usually falls into one of three categories:
- Behavioral: Frequently, negligence begins before drivers get behind the wheel. For example, the duty of care requires drivers to be well-rested and sober. Fatigue and alcohol impair motor skills and cloud judgment abilities.
- Operational: Speeding is one of the best examples of operational negligence. Other examples include making an illegal turn, changing lanes without signaling, and reckless driving.
- Environmental: Even if the driver was travelling below the posted limit, speed could still be a factor in an accident. Many drivers do not slow down in adverse environmental conditions, even though the duty of care requires them to do so.
In court, victim/plaintiffs must establish ordinary negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If first responders gave the tortfeasor a citation, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law, because of the negligence per se (negligence as such) rule.
Damages in a car crash case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Frequently, the negligent driver is legally responsible, but not financially responsible, for the wreck. Uber drivers are a good example. If a ridesharing driver causes a crash, the company is usually financially responsible for damages.
Vicarious liability theories like respondeat superior employer liability are often important in catastrophic injury claims. Georgia has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, many negligent drivers do not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation. Third party liability gives victims an additional source of recovery.
The Sudden Emergency Defense
Even if the driver got a ticket or there is clear evidence of ordinary negligence, the driver might not be legally responsible for a pedestrian crash, mostly because of doctrines like the sudden emergency defense. This legal loophole excuses negligent conduct if the tortfeasor:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency.
In court documents, insurance company lawyers often say things like the pedestrian “darted into traffic.” Such language sets up the sudden emergency defense.
However, this defense usually does not apply in these situations. Under Georgia law, a sudden emergency is a lightning strike, tire blowout, or another completely unexpected situation. A jaywalking pedestrian is unusual, particularly on a highway. But drivers should expect hazards like these and be ready for them.
Contact an Aggressive Lawyer
Pedestrians risk serious injury almost every time they cross the street. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Home and hospital visits are available.