Who is Liable in an Accident Between a Pedestrian and a Vehicle in a Parking Lot in Georgia?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that there are approximately 60,000 accidents between motor vehicles and pedestrians each year. Clearly a vehicle traveling faster than thirty miles per hour will cause serious bodily harm or death. However, even a vehicle going ten miles per hour may still inflict serious injury on the pedestrian being impacted.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that approximately twenty percent of all accidents occur in parking lots. This means that even if the vehicles are traveling at relatively slower rates of speed, there still will be serious, and sometimes fatal, accidents in parking lots. Parking lots often are the sites of traumatic injuries and the question of negligence and liability becomes critical for recovery of compensation for medical expenses and other economic loss for those injured in these lots.
There are complications when an accident occurs in a parking lot – parking lots are often private property. This means that they are not subject to traffic laws that regulate roads and other thoroughfares. Therefore, the issues in a parking lot are compounded by the fact that a driver’s mindset changes when he enters a parking lot. People learn to be defensive when driving on the road. They are attentive to their circumstances and have a heightened awareness of the laws of the road. However, when a driver turns into a parking lot, his perception changes. He has arrived at his destination. There are no posted speed limits, few or no stop signs, and signaling no longer is a legal requirement. This creates a far more dangerous situation for the pedestrians. It also complicates the issue of liability.
In Georgia, liability follows the traditional rules of negligence. Pedestrians usually have the right of way, therefore the duty of care to act in a reasonable manner lies with the driver of the motor vehicle. The burden will shift to the pedestrian if he acted in an unreasonable manner, for example jumping out in front of or behind the vehicle or otherwise affirmatively acting in contravention of acceptable behavior. Absent these actions, it is the obligation of the driver to avoid contact with the pedestrian and the liability analysis will look at the actions of the driver.
What happens if you are involved in an accident with a vehicle in a parking lot? Although it is difficult to think about documentation when you or someone you love has been injured, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Call, or have someone else call, the police immediately. Although police often will not respond to an accident in a parking lot if there is no injury, once someone is harmed, police have an obligation to come to the scene and file an accident report. It is important to relate as many of the facts as possible at this time.
- Document as much as possible. Take pictures with either a camera or cell phone camera, if available. If you cannot take these pictures because of injury, try to enlist the assistance of a witness or responder to take pictures of you and the scene.
- Try to collect the information of all people present. These individuals will be important witnesses once a legal action is commenced, but if they leave the scene without providing contact information, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to track them down again.
- Make sure you get all the information from the driver who hit you if possible. Do not rely on the reports to obtain his name, contact information, insurance information, and vehicle details.
- Note any information about the accident that you can remember as soon as possible. Despite the fact that everything seems clear at the moment, memories will fade.
If you are involved in an accident in a parking lot with a vehicle, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
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For over 35 years, the experienced Personal Injury Lawyers from Montlick & Associates have been helping families in Georgia and throughout the Southeast. In addition to its goal of being the best personal injury law firm in Georgia, Montlick & Associates is also dedicated to giving back to the community through the firm's extensive public service programs, which have received extensive public recognition.
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