Hitting Fixtures on a Highway
Welcome back to our series on Georgia’s rules of the road, and how they can be combined with negligence per se to help establish liability in court.
Negligence per se is a legal concept, which holds that people have a right to expect each other to follow safety rules. Based on this idea, if a person breaks a safety rule and harms another person as a result, the rule-breaker is automatically liable for that harm.
All of the rules of the road count as safety rules, so each individual traffic statute is an example of a way someone might commit negligence per se.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about how this concept applies to various forms of hit-and run. Last week, we went over OCGA 40-6-271, which lays out a driver’s responsibilities after crashing into a parked vehicle. This week, we’ll talk about OCGA 40-6-272, which covers what a driver must do after hitting other kinds of inanimate objects.
What to Do After Hitting an Inanimate Object
If a driver collides with a fixture on or near the road, such as a lamp post, mailbox, or storefront, that driver has a responsibility to notify the fixture’s owner or caretaker. As well as acknowledging the accident, the notification should include the driver’s name, address, and vehicle registration number. If providing this information in person, the driver should be ready to show a driver’s license, if possible.
The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a fixture legally upon or adjacent to a highway shall take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of his name and address and of the registration number of the vehicle he is driving and shall, upon request and if available, exhibit his operator’s license.
Notifying the right person about a broken fixture might mean talking to a restaurant owner after knocking over some patio tables, or calling the local post office after crushing a public mailbox. The important thing is for the driver to make sure the fixture owner, whether public or private, has the necessary information to file an insurance claim if necessary.
What Damages Can You Recover from a Driver Who Hit an Inanimate Object?
A driver who damages public or private property is liable for that damage, assuming the collision was the driver’s fault. Instances do occur in which an innocent driver is forced into a crash by someone else who doesn’t actually end up a part of the collision, but the majority of one-car accidents are the fault of the one driver in question.
Regardless of the circumstances of the accident, a driver who hits an inanimate object is responsible for notifying the owner. Running away without trying to make contact with the right person is a violation of 40-6-272 in and of itself. At that point, the driver is also liable for any additional costs their avoidance may cause, under negligence per se.
If your property has been damaged by an at-fault driver, the damages you can recover will be divided into special and general damages.
Special Damages Reimburse Monetary Losses
When statute 40-6-272 applies to an accident, the most obvious monetary loss is the value of the damaged property. Your settlement should fully cover the repair or replacement of whatever was damaged, as well as any additional financial losses the arise from the damage. For example, if the driver knocked over your business’s sign, and you lost a significant amount of income due to customers being unable to find you, that loss would also qualify as a form of special damages. To collect this kind of settlement, you’ll need to provide a clear record of your losses, and prove that they were the direct or proximate result of the driver’s negligence. To learn more about the difference between direct and proximate cause, click here.
General Damages Honor Priceless Losses
You’ve likely heard about settlements being awarded to cover a victim’s pain and suffering during or after an accident. This is an example of general damages. General damage settlements account for the negative consequences of an accident that have no defined monetary value, but which deserve compensation nonetheless. Accidents that only cause property damage don’t result in pain and suffering in the way that physical injuries do, but they can cause other kinds of priceless losses. For example, if the driver crashed into an empty area of your home or business that would normally be full of people, you might experience symptoms of PTSD as you process what could have happened. Or, if the damaged property included items with strong sentimental value, simple reimbursement might not be enough to make up for the damage. A general damages settlement is intended to bridge that gap.
What If the Accident Killed Someone?
Statute 40-6-272 deals with damage to inanimate fixtures. If you know someone who’s been killed by a driver who left the scene without providing their information, the statute that applies is 40-6-270. The Wetherington Law Firm proudly represents wrongful death cases, including hit-and-run homicides, but the rules for these are different from those for property damage or personal injury. To learn more about wrongful death, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you’re looking for compensation for losses that are even remotely subjective, it’s absolutely essential to hire a good lawyer to help you establish the true value of your lost property and emotional damages. Even if your case seems relatively clear-cut, having a lawyer can still make the difference between getting the reimbursement you deserve, or being forced to settle for an insurance company’s lowball first offer, which will rarely cover your expenses. Working with a lawyer can also make the process go more smoothly, with less stress and uncertainty, and spare you a lot of trouble.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm works on a contingency basis, which means we only accept payment when and if we win. That payment will only ever be a cut of the settlement we secure for our clients; we never leave a client worse off than they started, or expect funds they don’t have available to them yet.
We’re passionate about making justice available to everyone. Our goal is to level the legal playing field between everyday people who need help right now, and large companies that can afford to drag cases out indefinitely. That’s why we never charge upfront or hourly fees, and once we take a case, we see it through to the end no matter what.
To talk to a lawyer today about your particular situation, just give us a call at 404-888-4444, or reach out through the contact form on the right.
The Wetherington Law Firm Believes Litigation Should Be a Tool for Good
Once we take you on as a client, our first priority is making sure you’re treated fairly. However, many of our clients want justice for more than just themselves, and we respect that. We’ll be happy to help you fight for a better world, or just a safer community, on behalf of everyone. For example, if the crash you’re seeking compensation for is just the latest in a pattern of accidents involving a specific delivery company, we’ll look beyond the individual driver’s mistakes to scrutinize the training and hiring policies of the company that allowed them to happen. To learn about how we’ve helped other clients leverage their cases to effect positive change, just give us a call and ask.