Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Pedestrians on the Highway – OCGA 40-6-96

Accidents Caused by People Walking on Public Highways


Last week, in our ongoing discussion of negligence per se and Georgia’s rules of the road, we talked about statute 40-6-95, which has to do with walking under the influence. Today, we’re going to continue the pedestrian discussion with an analysis of statute 40-6-96, which explains the rules for walking on public highways.

But first, let’s review negligence per se. Negligence per se is the legal concept that breaking a safety rule is inherently negligent behavior. This means that when someone hurts someone else by breaking a safety rule, the injured party doesn’t have to prove that the defendant acted in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t. Just breaking the rule is unreasonable enough.

All the rules of the road are considered safety rules, which makes them extremely useful for establishing liability under negligence per se. So, without more ado, let’s have a look at how this idea applies to pedestrians walking on the highway.


Defining Pedestrians and Highways

Before talking about the rules for pedestrians on highways, it’s important to get our terms straight. A pedestrian is anyone who is not currently using a vehicle, whether they’re running, walking, dancing, or even just standing around.


(a) As used in this Code section, the term “pedestrian” means any person afoot and shall include, without limitation, persons standing, walking, jogging, running, or otherwise on foot.


The word “highway” is often used colloquially to refer to a freeway, but legally, as defined in statute 40-1-1, a highway is simply a public road of any kind. This means the rules set forth for pedestrians in statute 40-6-96 apply in every situation, whether the pedestrian is stranded on a freeway, traversing a busy surface street complete with sidewalks and bike lanes, or out jogging on a quiet dirt road.


Use of Sidewalks and Shoulders

We’ve already talked quite a bit about the rights and duties of pedestrians on the road, including common misconceptions about jaywalking. Contrary to popular belief, pedestrians are allowed to cross the street almost anywhere they wish so long as they yield to vehicular traffic, but the emphasis is on cross. As explained in statute 40-6-96, pedestrians may not walk along (or stand around in) lanes of traffic, unless they have no alternative or the road is very empty.


(b) Where a sidewalk is provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to stand or stride along and upon an adjacent roadway unless there is no motor vehicle traveling within 1,000 feet of such pedestrian on such roadway or the available sidewalk presents an imminent threat of bodily injury to such pedestrian.

(c) Where a sidewalk is not provided but a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride only on the shoulder, as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway.


Whenever a safe, open sidewalk is available, pedestrians are required to use it, unless there are no vehicles for at least 1,000 feet around. If there’s no sidewalk, but there’s enough room on the shoulder to walk without blocking traffic, pedestrians must use this space and stay as far out of the way of cars as they reasonably can.


With or Against Traffic?

When faced with a road that has no sidewalks and no shoulders, many pedestrians find themselves racking their brains for a half-forgotten and seldom-used bit of advice. Should they walk with or against traffic?


The answer is against, and it’s more than good advice; it’s the law. At least, on two-lane roads it is.


(d) Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, any pedestrian standing or striding along and upon a highway shall stand or stride as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway, and, if on a two-lane roadway, shall stand or stride only on the left side of the roadway.


Walking on the left side of the street allows pedestrians to see vehicles coming in time to yield and let them pass, as they’re legally required to do.


(e) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.


Although statute 40-6-96 doesn’t require pedestrians to do the same on larger streets, walking against traffic is always the safest way of navigating streets without sidewalks or shoulders as a pedestrian.


Bridges and Railroads

It may seem like common sense, but statute 40-6-96 also graciously takes the time to forbid pedestrians from crossing automatic barriers or gates used to close bridges and railroad crossings.


(f) No pedestrian shall enter or remain upon any bridge or approach thereto beyond the bridge signal, gate, or barrier after a bridge operation signal indication has been given.

(g) No pedestrian shall pass through, around, over, or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad grade crossing or bridge while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.


The danger of standing on bridges or train tracks when a ship or train is approaching go without saying, and most of that danger is to the pedestrian. However, if someone else gets hurt because of a pedestrian standing in the way — if a train conductor attempts to brake suddenly and causes whiplash to the passengers, for example — the pedestrian is liable under negligence per se.


What Damages Can You Recover If a Pedestrian Uses a Highway Illegally?

When interpreting statute 40-6-96, it’s important as ever to remember that drivers always have a duty to avoid hitting pedestrians whenever possible. A driver who does not make an adequate effort to avoid a collision may share responsibility for the outcome, even if the pedestrian should not have been on the roadway at the time. However, if you did everything you could to avoid hitting the pedestrian and suffered injuries of your own as a result — or even if your fault in the accident was less than 50% — you’re eligible for compensation. Your settlement will be determined based on your share of the fault, and on the special damages and general damages you sustained.


Special Damages Are Your Financial Losses

Car accidents almost always take a heavy financial toll. Medical expenses will usually account for most of your special damages, although damaged property (including your vehicle) and lost wages also qualify for compensation as special damages. To recover special damages, you’ll need to provide documentation of your expenses and prove that they were directly or proximately caused by the negligent pedestrian. The Wetherington Law Firm can help you do this. To learn more about direct and proximate cause, click here.


General Damages Are Your Emotional Losses

What would you be doing if you hadn’t been in your accident? Would you be attending an event you had to back out of? Playing with your kids? Sleeping through the night and waking up pain-free and ready for the day? General damages are intended to reimburse you for all the priceless little joys of life without a car accident. Of course, there’s no perfect calculation for the value of priceless things, so general damages vary considerably from case to case, even when the injuries are almost identical, depending on the attitudes of the judge and jury. To get a fair general damages settlement, it’s crucial to have a skilled lawyer to help you make your pain understood.


What If a Pedestrian in the Roadway Caused a Fatal Accident?

If a pedestrian using the road illegally has caused the death of someone else, the case against that pedestrian is one of wrongful death rather than personal injury. To learn more about wrongful death and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help you find justice for your lost loved one, click here.


Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

As mentioned above, the skill of your lawyer can make a big difference in the subjective calculation of your general damages settlement. However, even if you’re not too concerned with your general damages and just want to make sure your expenses are covered, it’s still important to have an expert to walk you through the process and prevent any costly errors. Sadly, the process of getting your losses covered after a car accident is rarely as simple as explaining honestly what you need and then cashing the check. Car insurance companies will always do everything they can to pay out as little as possible, and it’s easy to be taken in by false promises and underhanded tricks if you don’t have someone with you who knows the ropes. Whenever the outcome of a case is important to your family’s financial well-being, hiring a lawyer is the right call.


How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta

The Wetherington Law Firm works on contingency, which means the only payment we take is a share of the settlements we win for our clients. Once we take your case, we’re with you to the end, no matter how long it takes, and we’ll never ask you for hourly or upfront payments.


Too often, cases are determined by who can afford to keep them going longer, rather than by who’s right. That’s why we do what we do, to make sure ordinary citizens have the backing they need to take on wealthy companies, like insurance providers, and receive fair compensation when they’ve been injured. We believe no one should ever have to drop a legitimate case for fear of spending too much in legal fees. Our job is to take away the financial worries your accident has caused, not add to them.


To get started talking to a lawyer about the specifics of your case, just reach out to the Wetherington Law Firm for a free consultation. We’re available by phone at 404-888-4444 every day.


The Wetherington Law Firm Believes in Using Litigation to Make the World a Better Place

Georgia’s sidewalks are notoriously unsafe. If you believe your accident was less the fault of an individual pedestrian, and more the responsibility of a city that provided that pedestrian with no safe place to walk, the Wetherington Law Firm can help with that too. Many of our clients come to us wanting to protect others from future accidents, and we’re happy to help. We’ll research what other incidents like yours have happened in the past, get to the bottom of the real problem, and use your case to push for meaningful change. To learn more about how we’ve already helped our clients make the world healthier and safer than they found it, just give us a call and ask!









Have you or a loved one been injured during a car accident?

The Wetherington Law Firm works on contingency, which means the only payment we take is a share of the settlements we win for our clients. We believe no one should ever have to drop a legitimate case for fear of spending too much in legal fees.