Moving to Safety After a Car Wreck in Georgia
Welcome back to our ongoing series on negligence per se and Georgia’s rules of the road!
Last week, we talked about OCGA 40-6-273 and what information drivers are required to exchange after an accident. Today, we’ll wrap up our discussion of drivers’ duties after a crash with an explanation of OCGA 40-6-275. This oft-misunderstood rule addresses when drivers should and shouldn’t move their vehicles after a wreck.
But first, a quick review of negligence per se.
Negligence per se is an extremely useful legal concept, which maintains that breaking safety rules is inherently negligent behavior. Ordinarily, holding someone liable for the harm they’ve caused means proving that they acted in a way that a reasonable person wouldn’t. Negligence per se bypasses subjective arguments about reasonableness and assumes that breaking a safety rule is unreasonable enough.
Negligence per se is especially important for determining liability after a crash, because the rules of the road all count as safety rules. That includes OCGA 40-6-275.
Does It Matter Whether I Move My Vehicle After a Wreck?
It does. OCGA 40-6-275 details when it’s appropriate to move a vehicle after a wreck, and failure to comply is a misdemeanor.
(a) Any other provision of this article or any other law to the contrary notwithstanding, motor vehicles involved in traffic accidents and the drivers of such motor vehicles shall be subject to the provisions of this Code section.
(b) This Code section shall apply to motor vehicle traffic accidents which occur on the public roads of this state as defined in paragraph (24) of Code Section 32-1-3. Any violation of this Code section shall be punishable as a misdemeanor pursuant to Code Section 40-6-1.
The point of OCGA 40-6-275 is to prevent as many accidents as possible, without aggravating the injuries of existing survivors or destroying important evidence. Leaving a vehicle blocking traffic after an accident can easily cause another accident, so drivers are supposed to move their vehicles out of the way whenever there’s no harm in doing so.
When Should I Move My Vehicle?
If someone has died or is seriously hurt, it’s important to leave all vehicles where they are, both for police investigation purposes, and to avoid further injuring anyone before paramedics can arrive.
However, if there are no fatalities or serious injuries, and your vehicle can still move safely under its own power, you have a duty to move it out of the lanes of traffic.
(c) When a motor vehicle traffic accident occurs with no apparent serious personal injury or death, it shall be the duty of the drivers of the motor vehicles involved in such traffic accident, or any other occupant of any such motor vehicle who possesses a valid driver’s license, to remove said vehicles from the immediate confines of the roadway into a safe refuge on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median or to a place otherwise removed from the roadway whenever such moving of a vehicle can be done safely and the vehicle is capable of being normally and safely driven, does not require towing, and can be operated under its own power in its customary manner without further damage or hazard to itself, to the traffic elements, or to the roadway.
It’s okay to ask one of your passengers to move the vehicle for you, while you catch your breath or exchange information with other drivers, as long as the passenger has a valid driver’s license.
The driver of any such motor vehicle may request any person who possesses a valid driver’s license to remove any such motor vehicle as provided in this Code section, and any such person so requested shall be authorized to comply with such request.
Don’t worry, the passenger won’t end up taking on any special legal responsibility for the accident just because they moved the vehicle after the fact.
Can I Get in Trouble for Moving My Vehicle?
As long as there are no injuries, and you don’t move the vehicle very far, and you still do everything else you’re supposed to do after an accident, no, you can’t get in trouble.
Moving the vehicle won’t change anything about your fault in the accident one way or the other.
(d) The driver or any other person who has removed a motor vehicle from the main traveled way of the road as provided in subsection (c) of this Code section before the arrival of a police officer shall not be considered liable or at fault regarding the cause of the accident solely by reason of moving the vehicle pursuant to this Code section.
You will still be responsible for exchanging information with the other drivers, and for filing a police report if there’s significant property damage, but as long as you fulfill these requirements, moving your vehicle a short distance out of the way does not count as failure to stop.
(e) This Code section shall not abrogate or affect a driver’s duty to file any written report which may be required by a local law enforcement agency, but compliance with the requirements of this Code section shall not allow a driver to be prosecuted for his or her failure to stop and immediately report a traffic accident.
(f) This Code section shall not abrogate or affect a driver’s duty to stop and give information in accordance with law, nor shall it relieve a police officer of his or her duty to render a report in accordance with law.
Any police officer responding to the scene will also have the same duty and authority as ever to help with the information exchange.
Who Cleans Up After a Traffic Accident?
The Department of Transportation has the authority to keep roads clean and free of obstacles in most situations. This might mean ordering owners to move non-working vehicles, disposing of abandoned vehicles, and picking up accident debris.
(g) Employees of the Department of Transportation, in the exercise of the management, control, and maintenance of the state highways, may require and assist in the removal from the main traveled way of roads on the state highway system of all vehicles incapacitated from any cause other than having been involved in a motor vehicle accident and of all vehicles incapacitated as a result of motor vehicle traffic accidents and of debris caused thereby when such motor vehicle accidents occur with no apparent serious personal injury or death, where such move can be accomplished safely by the drivers of the vehicles involved or with the assistance of a towing or recovery vehicle and will result in the improved safety or convenience of travel upon the road. However, a vehicle incapacitated as a result of a motor vehicle traffic accident with apparent serious personal injury or death may not be moved until the enforcement officer has made the necessary measurements and diagrams required for the initial accident investigation.
The exception is when a vehicle has been involved in a death or life-changing injury. In these cases, the Department of Transportation must wait for police to conduct an investigation and give the go-ahead before moving the remains of the vehicle.
What Damages Can You Recover from a Driver Who Blocked Traffic After a Wreck?
All drivers have a responsibility to stay alert and avoid accidents to the greatest extent possible, but avoiding unexpected obstacles can be difficult, especially if they’re right around a blind corner or visibility is low. Statute 40-6-275 is about an accident survivor’s duty to avoid becoming such an obstacle whenever practical.
If the drivers involved in an accident leave their cars in the middle of the road, even though they’re still drivable and no one is injured, and then you accidentally crash into the back of those cars and hurt yourself, those drivers are at least partially liable for your injuries under statute 40-6-275 and negligence per se.
The amount of compensation you’ll be able to claim will depend on your own percentage of fault in your accident, as determined in court, and the extent of your special and general damages.
Special Damages Reimburse Your Expenses
Medical expenses, vehicle replacement, and lost income are some of the most common forms of special damages. These are quantifiable impacts on your finances that can be repaired with simple reimbursement. However, calculating and justifying the total for that reimbursement can be anything but simple. You’ll need to gather thorough documentation of your expenses so far, and then work with your lawyer to estimate future expenses as well, for as long as your physical recovery and career disruptions are likely to continue. You and your lawyer will also need to prove that your expenses are the direct or proximate result of the other drivers failing to move their vehicles. To learn more about how this works and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help, click here.
General Damages Compensate Your Priceless Losses
Erasing the financial burden of an accident doesn’t erase all the harm it has caused in a person’s life. The purpose of a general damages settlement is to make up that difference, by accounting for the kinds of losses that have no price tag. If your injuries have made it difficult to take part in all the physical activities you enjoy, or if the pain interferes with simple everyday comforts like relaxing in your favorite chair or getting a good night’s sleep, those losses have value too. If you’re suffering from symptoms of PTSD, experiencing anxiety about getting behind the wheel again, or feeling depressed about the way your life has changed, that deserves to be acknowledged and reflected in the total of your settlement. Unfortunately, there can be a stigma attached to using money to make up for non-money losses, even though there’s no other way available to address them under the law. General damages are also inherently subjective in value, so arriving at a fair figure can be a challenge. To combat both of these issues, it’s crucial to have a good lawyer on your side, to make the importance of your losses understood.
What If the Accident Killed Someone?
If you’ve lost a loved one to an accident caused by a previous accident unnecessarily blocking lanes of traffic, you have a wrongful death case, rather than a personal injury case. The Wetherington Law Firm represents wrongful death cases as well, and we’d be honored to talk with you about your pursuit of justice. Wrongful death cases have unique rules, however, and it may be useful to familiarize yourself with them here first.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Tallying up the complex total of what you’re owed, explaining it in court, and establishing the other driver’s negligence is a highly specialized task. No one should be left to guess and improvise their way through it without an expert guide, especially not when their financial future and access to medical care depends on the outcome. A lawyer can help you make sense of things, avoid common pitfalls, and make sure every move is the optimal one for getting you the settlement you deserve. We also take most of the work off your shoulders, so you have more room to focus on healing, and we act as a buffer between you and the other driver’s insurance company. Avoiding paying out fair settlements in court is a major part of an insurance company’s business model, so they’re experts at tricking and bullying survivors into accepting less compensation than they need. When you work with a good lawyer, you get to avoid most situations where you’d be put under unfair stress and prompted to say something that would hurt your case.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm works on a contingency basis only, which means the only payment we accept is a percentage of the settlements we win for our clients.
We do this as a way of removing the financial barriers to pursuing justice. The only thing we consider when choosing our clients is the merit of their cases. Once we commit to a case, we’ll fight for as long as it takes, without ever charging hourly or per-service rates of any kind. We know that our job is to get you the compensation you need to put your life back together, and our work is pointless if that settlement goes straight to legal fees. We’ll never leave you worse off than you would have been without us, and if we can’t win for you, you owe us nothing.
To talk to a lawyer about the details of your case today, just reach out through the form on the right for a free consultation, or give us a call at 404-888-4444.
The Wetherington Law Firm Believes the Law Should Be a Tool for Good
The Wetherington Law Firm is a firm of idealists, and we love working with clients who share our passion for helping people. If you believe your case has the potential to make a positive impact on your community, don’t hesitate to let us know what you have in mind. For example, if your accident happened on a narrow street, where the survivors of the previous accident had few options for moving their vehicles, we’ll look into what improvements could make the street safer and more accessible. If drivers in your area are afraid there might be legal consequences to moving their vehicles after minor accidents, we’ll push for better public awareness on what the law does and doesn’t require. To talk about your ideas for your case and learn about how we’ve helped other clients change the world, just pick up the phone!