Georgia Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Georgia, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, use the section number (only the numbers) provided under each law to search the Georgia code of laws database.

Here are the Georgia car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Section 40-6-91

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian is allows to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.
Section 40-6-91

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don't Walk are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Walk. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Don't Walk. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian's crossing on the Walk signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don't Walk signal is showing.
Section 40-6-22

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Section 40-6-91

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where a sidewalk is provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to stand or walk on an adjacent roadway unless there is no motor vehicle traveling within 1,000 feet of the pedestrian or the available sidewalk presents an imminent threat of bodily injury.

Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on its shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Section 40-6-96

Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Section 40-6-144

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.
Section 40-6-93

Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any intoxicated person upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary.

A person who is under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree which renders him a hazard must not walk or be upon any roadway or the shoulder of any roadway
Sections 40-6-93 and 40-6-95

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Section 40-6-20

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
  • Section 40-6-40

    Passing On the Left

    Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
    Section 40-6-42

    Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

    Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
    Section 40-6-44

    Passing On the Right

    Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

    • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
    • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
    Section 40-6-43

    Following Too Closely

    A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
    Section 40-6-49

    Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

    Except for emergency purposes, no person who has an instruction permit or has a Class D license and is under 18 years of age is permitted to use a wireless mobile device while driving.

    Except for emergency purposes, no person who has a Class C license and 18 years of age or older is permitted to use a wireless mobile device to write, send or read text-based communication while driving.
    Sections 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2

    Drivers and Intersections

    When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.
    Section 40-6-70

    Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

    A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
    Section 40-6-41

    Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

    A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
    Section 40-6-73

    Bicycling Laws

    Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
    Section 40-6-291

    Motorcycling Laws

    Motorcycles

    Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
    Section 40-6-310

    Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

    Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane.

    Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
    Section 40-6-312

    "Lane Splitting"

    Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as "lane splitting," motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
    Section 40-6-312

    Helmet Law

    All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways. If the motorcycle is not equipped with a windshield, then motorcyclists must also wear protective eyewear while riding on roadways.
    Section 40-6-315

    Motorcycles and Headlights

    Every motorcycle riding on a roadway must its headlights and taillights turned on at all times.
    Section 40-6-312

    Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

    Reckless Driving

    A driver who drives in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
    Section 40-6-390

    Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

    A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or damage to a vehicle must give their name, address and vehicle registration number, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any persons involved in the accident.

    Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
    Section 40-6-270

    Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

    A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give their name, address and vehicle registration number, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any persons involved in the accident. THe driver must also immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.

    Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
    Sections 40-6-270 and 40-6-273

    Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

    A driver involved in an accident resulting in property damage must give their name, address and vehicle registration number, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any persons involved in the accident. If the total damage to all property is $500 or more, the driver must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.
    Sections 40-6-270 and 40-6-273

    Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

    A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

    Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address and vehicle registration number.

    If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle.
    Section 40-6-271

    Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

    A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $500 or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.
    Section 40-6-273

    Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

    By the tenth day of each month, every sheriff and head of a law enforcement agency must report any deaths caused by traffic accidents in the previous calendar month to the Department of Transportation.
    Section 40-6-277

    Accident Report Forms

    The commissioner of transportation is responsible for uniform motor vehicle accident reports and reporting procedures that are used by all police officers, whether state, county, or municipal.
    Section 40-6-278

    Open Alcohol Container Law

    A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling or parked on Georgia roadways.

    An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in a locked glove compartment, the trunk of a vehicle, or behind the rearmost seat in place where a passenger would not normally sit. Passengers of a motor home or a hired vehicle can consume and possess an opened container.
    Section 40-6-253

    Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

    A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In Georgia, a driver is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
    Section 40-6-391

    Ignition Interlock Device

    A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

    An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
    Section 40-5-64

    Liability Laws

    Georgia Dram Shop Law

    Georgia has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

    A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

    Under Georgia law, a person who sells or provides alcohol is not liable for the personal injuries or property damage caused by the intoxicated person. Though, the person who sells or provides alcohol is liable for the actions of the intoxicated person if they knowingly sold or provided alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person who they knew would soon be driving or to a minor who they knew would soon be driving.
    Sections 51-1-40, 33-3-22 and 33-3-23

    Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

    In the State of Georgia, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

    • At least $25,000 per person
    • At least $50,000 for two or more people
    • $25,000 per occurrence for property damage
    Section 33-7-11

    Georgia Insurance Information

    For information about auto insurance requirements, see the Georgia State Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

    Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

    In Georgia, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

    If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
    Section 51-12-33

    Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

    One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

    Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

    After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

    Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

    The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

    In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
    Comparative Negligence: Section 51-12-33
    Right of Way: Section 40-6-41
    Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Sections 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2

    Georgia's No Fault Car Insurance

    In Georgia, a victim of a car accident can seek compensation by filing a claim with the insurance provider of the at-fault driver or by filing a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver. For information about auto insurance, see the FAQ page on the Georgia State Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

    Statute of Limitations

    Georgia has a four year statute of limitations for property damage and a two year statute of limitations for personal injuries. This means a victim of a car accident who seeks compensation must file a lawsuit within four years of the accident for property damage and within two years of the accident for personal injuries.
    Sections 9-3-31 and 9-3-33

    Small Claims Courts

    In Georgia, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $15,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs. For information about small claims court, see the Georgia Department of Law website.

    Georgia Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

    In Georgia, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
    Constitution of Georgia, Section 1-02-09

    Example

    If Melissa, an engineer with the Atlanta Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Atlanta would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.

    If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Atlanta can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

    To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
    Constitution of Georgia, Section 1-02-09
    NCSL

    Sources

    State Government of Georgia

    Georgia Department of Transportation

    Georgia General Assembly

    Georgia Department of Public Safety

    Georgia Code of Laws Database

    Georgia Department of Public Safety

    Governors Highway Safety Association

    Georgia Bar Association

    National Conference on State Legislature

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