Police officers and insurance companies often assume that if a pedestrian is crossing the road and they’re not in a crosswalk, they’re automatically at fault. However, the law on pedestrian accidents doesn’t give drivers the right to mow down pedestrians just because they aren’t crossing in a crosswalk and insurance companies and police are often wrong in blaming the pedestrian for the accident.
In fact, Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 40-6-93 requires that “every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway[.]” Further, the Georgia Court of Appeals case of Wallace v. Yarbrough says that “[a] driver has no right to assume that the road ahead of him is clear of traffic, and it is his duty to maintain a diligent outlook ahead.” Id., 155 Ga. App. 184 (1980). Under these laws, a driver has a duty to keep a lookout for pedestrians and to avoid hitting them, whether or not they’re in a crosswalk.
A wrongful death case our Georgia personal injury lawyers settled is a good example of this. We represented a woman whose husband was killed by a speeding car as he crossed the road at night. True to form, the police found the husband at fault because he was not crossing in a crosswalk and Progressive denied his wife’s claim for that same reason. The settlement was for the maximum amount of the driver’s Progressive insurance policy, and the husband and wife’s uninsured motorist coverage with USAA.
We’ll call the husband Mr. M. He was a tractor-trailer driver that lived in Texas and was hauling a load through Georgia. Around 1 AM, he stopped to get something to eat at a Waffle House on Tara Boulevard in Clayton County. The Waffle House was temporarily closed and, rather than drive his tractor-trailer across Tara Boulevard, Mr. M decided to walk across the road to another fast food restaurant. That section of Tara Boulevard has three lanes in each direction, is flat and straight, and is fairly well lit from street lights and lighting from stores and restaurants. Mr. M was halfway through the third lane when he was hit by a car. He died of his injuries at the scene.
After Progressive initially denied Mr. M’s wife’s claim she retained us to investigate her husband’s death. We interviewed and took a recorded statement from a witness on the police report who said that the car that hit Mr. M was speeding, that the road was well lit at that time of night, and that he himself was able to clearly see Mr. M as he crossed the street.
We then sent a settlement demand along with the recorded statement to Progressive arguing that, based on the witness’ statement that the driver was speeding and the law I’ve cited above, the driver was responsible for the accident. Progressive agreed to pay Mr. M’s wife the driver’s insurance policy limits. Mr. M also had uninsured motorist coverage with USAA, which also agreed to pay its policy limits.