Earlier this week a 19 year-old teen was hit by an Atlanta MARTA bus. She did not survive the injuries and passed away several days later at Grady Hospital. This accident has had a tragic end and our hearts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the deceased teen. This truly is a terribly sad time for them. Although the bus driver is unlikely to be charged in this tragedy, due to the early investigative report that the young woman was not crossing legally when the accident occurred, there are potential legal ramifications. Even if the driver is not charged criminally, this does not necessarily indicate the end of the legal options and the victim’s family could well file a civil suit against MARTA and others after further investigation. For example, under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-93 a driver must exercise due care not to strike a pedestrian regardless of the circumstances. This provision requires that if a driver observes a child or a confused or otherwise incapacitated pedestrian he or she must try to avoid colliding with that pedestrian. More investigation is needed to determine whether the bus driver violated this provision.
MARTA has issued a statement expressing sympathy to the family of this young woman. Since the accident just occurred, it might take some time for the public to understand just what happened in this tragic incident. Although in many instances, pedestrians have the right of way, that is not always the case. We have seen in recent years that more and more pedestrians are being struck by vehicles that are either traveling too fast or in which the driver is distracted. But there are some instances in which a pedestrian can be viewed by the law as having some responsibility for his or her injuries. Although the driver of a vehicle is responsible for exercising due care when in the presence of a pedestrian, there are limited situations in which the driver may not be held fully responsible for the injuries of a pedestrian.
In Georgia, we have legal doctrines that involve apportioning the blame for an accident or injury. These concepts are called comparative and contributory negligence. In many cases involving injury or death, a defendant will raise a defense of either contributory negligence, comparative negligence, or both. When a defendant claims contributory negligence, their position in the case is that the plaintiff failed to exercise due care and therefore would be barred from recovering at all. But in many states, including Georgia, a different approach is applied in which the judge or jury applies what is called “comparative negligence” to the facts of the case.
Some situations are very clear in terms of fault, but others are not. So if a driver is driving too fast on a roadway, but a pedestrian also has not used proper care and walks into a street but isn’t in a crosswalk when the traffic light is favoring the driver, the responsibility for the accident may fall on both in some measure. Georgia’s comparative negligence and contributory negligence doctrines are found at Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 51-11-7 and these doctrines allow the trier of fact to examine whether the plaintiff used ordinary care and whether the defendant should be relieved of any responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries or whether the plaintiff and defendant were each at fault in some measure and their liability should be apportioned, rather than the plaintiff being barred from recovery of any kind. This occurs when the plaintiff is viewed as less than 50% responsible for his or her own injuries.
Pedestrian injuries and fatalities are on the rise. And very often these are the fault of the driver, not the pedestrian. If you or a loved one has been injured in a pedestrian accident, please contact Scholle Law for a free consultation regarding the situation. An evaluation of the facts and circumstances surrounding a pedestrian accident can lead to the support and monetary recovery needed by a victim and his or her family after a tragic pedestrian accident.