Understanding Stop Signs and Yield Signs as a Driver in Georgia
Welcome back to our ongoing discussion of Georgia’s rules of the road, and how they can be used to establish liability after a car accident.
The rules of the road are a vital resource for proving liability, because of a concept called negligence per se. Under normal circumstances, when one person harms another, the person who caused the harm is only liable if their actions don’t meet the “reasonable person” standard. In other words, would a reasonable person have refrained from behaving the way the defendant did, because of the expectation that doing so might cause harm?
However, if the defendant’s actions included breaking a safety rule, like the rules of the road, that behavior is automatically considered negligent under negligence per se. With no need to debate what a reasonable person would do, the question of negligence becomes much simpler.
Last week, we talked about OCGA 40-6-71 and OCGA 40-6-120, which both have to do with left turns. This week, we’ll discuss the basics of stop signs and yield signs, and what they mean for driver liability.
Responding to a Stop Sign
Both stop signs and yield signs can be used in concert with each other, and with other traffic control devices, to indicate complex patterns of right of way. The ways local authorities may use these signals on public roads are covered in more detail in OCGA 32-6-50 as stated in the first sentence of the statute:
OCGA § 40-6-72. Stop signs and yield signs
(a) Preferential right of way may be indicated by stop signs or yield signs as authorized in Code Section 32-6-50.
For now, however, we’ll focus on what stop signs and yield signs mean in isolation, as covered by statute 40-6-72.
When faced with a stop sign, a driver is required to come to a complete stop before the corresponding limit line or crosswalk, if there is one. If there isn’t, the driver must simply stop before entering the intersection that the stop sign controls.
After stopping, the driver must check for cross traffic, and then may only proceed when there is no danger of colliding with another vehicle in or near the intersection.
(b) Except when directed to proceed by a police officer, every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no crosswalk, at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it. After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.
Just like any traffic control device, a stop sign can be overridden by a police officer directing traffic onsite. If an officer waves you through a stop sign, go ahead and follow the officer’s direction. You won’t be breaking the law.
Responding to a Yield Sign
The rules for yield signs are almost the same as the rules for stop signs. The key difference is that, when faced with a yield sign, a driver is not required to stop if it isn’t necessary for safety.
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a yield sign shall, in obedience to such sign, slow down to a speed reasonable for the existing conditions and, if required for safety to stop, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no crosswalk, at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it. After slowing or stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways. If such a driver is involved in a collision with a vehicle in the intersection after driving past a yield sign without stopping, such collision shall be deemed prima-facie evidence of his failure to yield the right of way.
In many cases, on quiet roads with good visibility, a driver approaching a yield sign will be able to check thoroughly for cross traffic before reaching the intersection. If the coast is clear, the driver may proceed through the yield sign without stopping. However, the yield sign should still be taken as a warning to slow down, employ extra caution and alertness, and be ready to stop if necessary.
If a driver gets into an accident immediately after passing a yield sign, the accident itself is proof that the driver did not obey the yield sign correctly and did not wait until it was safe before proceeding. That means the driver who ignored the yield sign is at fault, at least partially, and liable under negligence per se.
What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Disobeys a Stop or Yield Sign?
Stop and yield signs exist to keep people safe. Failing that, they can be invaluable in determining liability. If you’ve been injured by someone who ignored a stop or yield sign and crashed into you while you had the right of way, that’s one of the more straightforward examples of negligence per se. The at-fault driver will be liable for the damages, which will be divided into two categories for the purpose of calculating a settlement: “special damages” and “general damages.”
“Special” Damages Offset Your Financial Losses
Between medical care, vehicle replacement, and time away from work, the monetary cost of an accident can add up quickly. If your injuries were severe enough to require ongoing treatment, or interfere with your ability to work in the long term, you could be facing staggering monthly bills for the rest of your life. Even damages that seem minor can financially ruin a family that’s already living paycheck to paycheck. That’s what a settlement for special damages is for, to cancel out these losses and make sure you can continue to care for yourself and your family as you did before. Financial losses are the easiest kind to prove, but you will need thorough documentation of every expense. From there, we can help you demonstrate in court that your losses were the direct or proximate result of the at-fault driver’s actions. To learn more about proving direct or proximate cause, click here.
“General” Damages Help Compensate for Non-Financial Losses
If your job means more to you than just a way to support yourself, and you suddenly can’t do it anymore, replacing your lost income won’t truly make up for that loss. A career that brought meaning to your life is just one example of what a car accident can take away from you. You might also have lost the ability to participate in your favorite hobbies, go out with friends, play with your kids, or even sleep through the night without pain. These are the kinds of things general damage settlements are meant to address. Losses covered by general damages are, by their nature, priceless, so the totals are always subjective. What you receive might be drastically different from what someone else in a nearly identical situation will receive, and the difference will often depend heavily on the skill and experience of your lawyer.
What If Stopping or Yielding Could Have Saved Someone’s Life?
If the accident was fatal, your case moves from being a matter of personal injury to one of wrongful death. The Wetherington Law Firm represents these kinds of cases as well, but wrongful death comes with its own set of rules you’ll need to be aware of. To learn more about wrongful death and how we can help, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
In a case where someone ploughed right through a stop sign or yield sign and into your car, it might be tempting to try to handle things yourself. You might wonder what could possibly go wrong when you’re so obviously in the right, and in a perfect world, you’d have a point. Unfortunately, car insurance companies are experts at avoiding fair settlements, and no matter how right you are, they’ll do everything possible to pay you as little as they can. Worst of all, one wrong answer to a trick question can ruin your case beyond repair, so by the time you realize you’re in over your head, it’ll probably already be too late. At the Wetherington Law Firm, we know all the tricks. Some of our lawyers even have experience defending insurance companies, so we know what to expect and how to respond. With us in your corner, you can rest assured that we’re making all the right moves to get you the best settlement possible.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
If we take your case, it will be on a contingency basis, which means we don’t get paid until and unless we get results. You won’t pay a cent up front, and you’ll never, ever end up worse off than you started.
We do this for the same reason some of us decided to quit representing insurance companies and start helping the people who need and deserve it. We strongly believe that every case should be determined by who’s right, not by who can afford to outlast and outspend their opponent in court.
If you’ve been hurt by someone else’s negligence, you deserve the best representation, and you deserve a settlement that will truly compensate you for your losses and get your life back in order.
To get started discussing your case directly with one of our highly qualified attorneys, just give us a call at 404-888-4444, or fill out the form on the right for a free consultation.
When You Hire the Wetherington Law Firm, You’re Supporting Positive Change
We believe in using the law to help more than just our own clients. Many accident survivors come to us wanting not just a fair settlement for themselves, but some assurance that the same thing won’t continue happening to other people. While we can’t snap our fingers and make everyone on the road a responsible driver, there’s a lot we can do in the course of representing our clients to help make the world a safer, fairer place. For example, if the intersection where you were injured boasts an anomalous number of accidents, we’ll investigate what’s making it so unsafe. Perhaps a yield sign needs to be replaced with a full stop, or a two-way stop with a four-way stop. If the level of daily traffic through an intersection has risen beyond what it was designed to handle, it might be time to install a full traffic light. After identifying the underlying problem, we’ll help you leverage your case and push for positive change for others. To learn more about how we’ve helped other high-aiming survivors, reach out by phone or email today!