Proving Negligence After a Car Wreck in Georgia: People Riding Horses and Other Animals Must Follow the Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road for Horses

The road can be a dangerous place, and using it carries certain responsibilities. When someone gets hurt in the course of getting from point A to point B, one of the first questions that comes up is whether that someone — or someone else — has failed to live up to those responsibilities. In other words, is the injury the result of negligence?

In general, negligent behavior is defined as behavior that a reasonable person would consider likely to result in harm, and therefore would not engage in. As one might imagine, people often disagree on what a “reasonable” person would or wouldn’t do, but luckily, the law recognizes following the rules of the road as a bare minimum level of reasonableness. If someone causes harm by breaking one of these rules, there’s no need to argue over the subjective concept of reasonableness; that person’s behavior is automatically negligent, based on the legal concept of negligence per se.

There are as many ways to engage in negligence per se on the road as there are relevant legal statutes to break. Last week, we talked about statute OCGA 40-6-2, failure to obey an authorized person directing traffic. This week, we’ll look at OCGA 40-6-4, which concerns people riding animals on public roads.

OCGA 40-6-4. Persons riding animals or driving animal drawn vehicles

Every person riding an animal or driving an animal drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except those provisions of this chapter which by their very nature can have no application.

Like following directions from police officers and others who are authorized to direct traffic, this rule is fairly simple. People riding animals or animal-powered vehicles must behave like, and be treated like, any other drivers on the road.

What If I Was Injured While Riding an Animal?

If you’re riding a horse, a horse drawn carriage, a dogsled, or using animals in any other way to get around on public streets, you have the same rights as any other driver. Another driver who causes a collision by failing to recognize those rights is liable for the resulting damages. For example, if you have the right of way under the everyday rules of the road, but another driver fails to yield because your horse is slower than a car, resulting in an accident, that driver’s conduct falls under negligence per se.

What If I Was Injured in a Collision Involving Someone Else’s Transportation Animal?

The other side of this statute is the animal rider’s duty to follow the rules of the road. People using animals for transportation have the same rights as motorists, but are not entitled to special treatment. For example, if someone riding a horse fails to stop at a red light and you get into an accident while swerving to avoid them, or if someone is riding a horse on the sidewalk and it steps on your foot, the rider is liable for the damage.

What Damages Can You Recover After a Collision Involving a Transportation Animal?

The amount of your settlement, and whether you receive one at all, will depend on the judge and jury, the skill of your attorney, the damage caused, and whether you shared any negligence in the incident. No matter how illegal and reckless another party’s actions were, failure to follow the law yourself and take reasonable care to avoid accidents can count against you. Under Georgia law, you can receive a settlement as long as you are determined to be less than 50% responsible for what happened, though the dollar amount may be reduced depending on your percentage of negligence. Compensation awarded will fall into the category of either “special” damages or “general” damages, or in many cases, some of both.


You Can Recover “Special” Damages to Cover Your Losses If Someone Uses or Responds to Transportation Animals Incorrectly

This type of compensation covers the things that are easy to place a dollar value to, such as your medical bills, veterinary bills, lost productivity at work, or vehicle replacement. To receive special damages, you will need to prove that expenses were incurred, and that they were the direct result of the negligent party’s action or inaction. While these damages are easier to calculate than general damages, causation can be a topic of significant contention in court, especially when it comes to medical expenses. You can learn more about establishing actual or proximate cause here.


You Can Also Recover “General” Damages If Someone Uses or Responds to Transportation Animals Incorrectly

Whereas special damages cover losses with an obvious monetary value, general damages are intended to cover everything else. Common foundations for general damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment. For example, if your injuries prevent you from participating in activities that bring you happiness, or your beloved pet horse was killed in the accident, then you’ve lost more than the simple cost of your doctor’s bills and a new horse. While no amount of money can truly make up for these kinds of losses, general damages are the best compensation the law can offer in our imperfect world.


What If a Human Is Killed in the Wreck?

When the losses from a traffic collision include a human life, the case crosses over into a wrongful death claim, with its own rules. To learn more about wrongful death, click here.

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

No matter how cut and dried an incident may appear, there are always complications. Proving negligence to the satisfaction of the courts, even when it seems obvious, is a more involved, nuanced, and stressful process than many people expect. One misstep at any point along the way, from missing the chance to preserve evidence to falling for common traps in your interactions with insurance companies, can ruin any chance of a fair settlement. That’s why it’s so important to have not just any lawyer, but an excellent one, in your corner from the very beginning.

The experts at the Wetherington Law Firm have extensive experience presenting personal injury cases. We’ve obtained record-breaking verdicts and recovered millions for victims of traffic-related negligence alone. Some members of our team are former defense lawyers who’ve tried countless cases from the other side and know every trick in the insurance companies’ playbook. When you need fair compensation to recover from a car wreck, we’re the attorneys who can get it for you.

How to Hire the Best Personal Injury Lawyers in Atlanta

We take cases on a contingency basis only, which means we only take payment from the settlements we obtain for our clients. You pay nothing unless and until we win. For a free consultation on your case, call or email us today!

You Can Make a Lasting Difference in the Lives of Others by Hiring the Wetherington Law Firm

Our job is, first and foremost, to make sure our clients are fairly compensated for their injuries and losses, but there’s more than that to what we do, and to what our clients can accomplish. Many of our clients become advocates for change, raising awareness of what caused their injuries and protecting countless others from meeting the same fate. We stand proudly behind these clients’ choices, even when it makes collecting a settlement more challenging. Paying off the occasional lawsuit is often cheaper for rich, powerful corporate entities than instituting real change, and we embrace opportunities to deny them an easy way out. We believe that litigation should be a tool, not just for helping existing victims, but for solving underlying problems, and we’ll work directly with lawmakers and federal agencies to make that happen. To learn more about how your case can make the world a better place, reach out today!