More than 9,000 pedestrians have been involved in an accident since 2015. Out of these, more than 600 have died while more than 7,000 sustained injuries. You or your loved one could be a victim of a pedestrian accident, which could kill you or leave you with injuries, unplanned medical expenses, and undue pain and suffering. Thus, you will need to hire a personal injury lawyer to help in filing a compensation claim. You can contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney if you want help filing a personal injury claim after a pedestrian accident.
Overview of Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrians are non-motorists who are exposed to the risk of injury or death every day they use roads. Children and the elderly are more likely to be injured in pedestrian accidents.
Children and the elderly are vulnerable due to their poor judgment. For the elderly, it is hard to respond quickly in the face of an accident.
Pedestrian accidents could be due to the pedestrian’s negligence, negligence by motorists, or poor maintenance of sidewalks and walkways. The most common causes of accidents in Florida are crossing at intersections and poor visibility, especially during the night.
Other causes of pedestrian accidents include:
- Distracted Driving
It takes a moment’s distraction to cause an accident. Texting is the leading cause of distracted driving in Florida. While it is illegal to text while driving, many drivers still risk their lives and those of pedestrians. While texting, the driver may not see pedestrians as they get into the road. In severe cases of distraction, the driver might drive into sidewalks and hurt pedestrians.
- Improper Use of Crossways
Crossways are designed to provide pedestrians with a safe area for crossing busy roads. However, they have signals that indicate to passengers when to cross, and motorists on when to give way to passengers. If either the pedestrian or the driver fails to follow these signals, an accident might occur.
- Drunk Driving
Intoxication by alcohol or drugs impairs the driver's ability to make a proper judgment while on the road. It also increases the possibility of reckless driving, which can result in the injury of a pedestrian.
- Left-Hand Turns
Left-hand turns contribute to three times more accidents than right-hand turns. When making a left-hand turn, most drivers are focused on the traffic and making the turn, that it is likely they will miss a passenger crossing. The passengers are also more likely to be unaware of the car and get hit in the process.
- Poor Maintenance of Crosswalks and Other Areas Used by Pedestrians
When crosswalks are neglected, they are likely to lead to accidents. For example, an unmarked crosswalk increases the chance that the driver will not notice it, leading to an accident. Failure to maintain parking space can also result in accidents.
- Low Visibility at Night
Motorists are likely to cause pedestrian accidents as night because the pedestrians are not visible. Most pedestrians do not wear reflective clothing, making it harder to see them.
- Weather Conditions
Storms, snow, and fog are likely to lead to accidents. Storms and snow can make the roads slippery, making it easy for cars to skid and lose control. Heavy rains also reduce the visibility on roads, making it likely for a motorist to hit a pedestrian.
Types of Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrian accidents take many forms. Some of the most common ones include:
- Hit and Run Accidents
A hit-and-run accident occurs when a motorist hits a pedestrian and flees from the scene without leaving their information with the injured person. If you are a hit and run accident victim, it may be hard to trace the driver unless there are witnesses who might have taken the details of the vehicle.
Hit and run victims in Florida have the option of being compensated by the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund. The fund is provided for under the Florida Statutes 960.21 and compensates victims of crimes including hit and run accidents.
To be eligible, you have to have reported the accident within 72 hours of its happening, and file a claim within a year of the accident. In some rare cases, the period may be extended to two years.
The fund compensates you medical costs incurred lost wages, pain and suffering, burial, and funeral expenses in case your loved one died due to the accident.
- Intersection Accidents
Intersections are common areas that pedestrians are likely to get injured. Here, many cars are changing lanes, and moving in different directions, making it very easy to get hit.
- Back-over Accidents
Back-over accidents are those that happen when the car is moving in reverse. They happen mostly in parking lots. Children or people who are invisible to the driver are the likely victims of back-over accidents.
- Crushing Accidents
A crushing accident happens when a pedestrian is sandwiched between two cars in a collision. Crushing accidents produce more fatalities due to the impact of both cars on the pedestrian.
What to Do After a Pedestrian Accident
The moments immediately after an accident can be confusing to you. If you are still conscious, you need to seek immediate medical care by calling 911. In severe accidents, it is probable that emergency personnel will drive you to the hospital.
Collect the details of the motorist who hit you. If they are at fault in the accident, then they are supposed to compensate you for the damages you suffer due to their negligence.
You should also call the police. Collect evidence of the scene by taking pictures and where possible videos. Evidence is essential in helping experts reconstruct the scene of the accident. You should also request a police report of the accident. A police report will usually have a record of the crime, when it happened and the possible cause of the crime.
In cases of drunk driving, the police officers will take the BAC level of the driver to determine the level of intoxication.
Where the driver stops, record their statements as they can be used to show fault. In most cases, when the driver stops, they are likely to say statements such as “I was on a call and did not see you." Such statements are admissions of fault and can be used in court.
In addition, you should maintain organized medical records to show the costs incurred for treatment after the accident. Where witnesses are present, collect their contact information and details about what happened.
Contact your insurance provider so that they can take care of your medical bills, in the meantime. You should call even when you are not at fault for the accident. Your insurance provider will recover expenses from the crash from the at-fault party.
Keep a record of your injuries and changes, including new symptoms that show up after the accident. Document your feelings and emotions. Such records play a key role in determining the amount of pain and suffering you go through after a pedestrian accident and has a bearing on the number of damages you are awarded.
Do not discuss the fault with the insurance company. Insurance companies are in the business of making a profit. Therefore, giving them information at the scene, or without the permission of your lawyer, gives them the material to use against you in case you file a lawsuit. You should only share the events leading to the accident with your attorney.
In addition, you should not sign any documents presented by the motorist’s insurance provider. Your communication with them should be very brief, and best done by your lawyer, who understands the antics of insurance companies.
Get legal help as soon as possible. Personal injury lawsuits have a statute of limitations of four years from the time of the accident. The sooner you raise your case, the better the chances you stand. Personal injury attorneys understand the loopholes that exist in personal injury lawsuits. He or she will, therefore, help you avoid or take advantage of these loopholes.
Identifying the Party At-Fault in a Pedestrian Accident
Negligence is usually a prominent factor in pedestrian accidents in Florida. You, a motorist or both of you could be at fault for a pedestrian accident. Florida laws give motorists and pedestrians responsibilities and guidelines under which they should use the road. Failure to adhere to these guidelines could result in pedestrian accidents.
- Motorists Duty of Care
The law expects all drivers to exercise reasonable care when using roads in Florida. They should exercise reasonable care to other motorists, pedestrians, construction workers, and cyclists. Some of the actions expected to show reasonable care include:
- Driving at a reasonable speed depending on the traffic, the speed limit for the road and weather conditions
- Remaining vigilant to anticipate problems, avoid road hazards and avoid hurting pedestrians
- Maintaining proper control of vehicles (this bans actions such as texting when driving which can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle)
- Motorists are expected not to drive while intoxicated or while under the impairment of alcohol or drugs.
- Pedestrians Duty of Care
As a pedestrian, the law also requires you to exercise reasonable care while using roads. The main responsibility that pedestrians have to exercise reasonable care when crossing roads and interacting with motor vehicles.
In addition, you are supposed to follow all the traffic laws that apply to pedestrians, except with the direction of a traffic officer to do otherwise. It is also unlawful for a pedestrian to leave the curb suddenly and into the way of a motor vehicle, in a way, the driver has no chance to yield.
- The Right Of Way of Pedestrians
The right of way dictates who yield to the other in traffic. Both motorists and pedestrians have the right of way, depending on various traffic laws and signals. The right of way law is designed to ensure efficient use of the road while enhancing safety.
If one party fails to yield and leads to a pedestrian accident, then they are at fault for the accident. Some of the situations in which a driver should yield to a pedestrian include:
- A pedestrian enters a crosswalk, and the vehicle has the time to yield
- A pedestrian is in the same half of the road as the car
- Pedestrians approaching from the opposite side of the road are
- The traffic sign at an intersection shows it’s time for pedestrians to cross
Pedestrian injury cases come with the burden of proof, which means that the plaintiff has to prove that the respondent(s) was at fault for the accident. In some cases, you may have contributed significantly to the accident.
Courts apply the rule of comparative negligence to determine how much fault each one of you had in the accident. The damages will then be awarded depending on the fault of the respondent. For example, if the respondent had a fault of 90%, then the damages awarded shall be 90% of the total.
When you sue the respondent for causing the accident, you can prove negligence by showing that:
- The respondent had a legal duty of care to the pedestrian
- The respondent breached his or her duty of care
- The actions or inaction of the driver caused the accident
- The accident resulted in the injury of the plaintiff or their loved one
Types of Damages in Pedestrian Accident Claims
You can recover different compensations in a pedestrian accident claim, as follows:
- Medical Expenses
Pedestrian accidents lead to serious injury in most cases. The injuries require regular medical care, which can be expensive. Where the injuries are severe, you may have to spend a lot of time and money for recovery. Compensation for medical expenses covers past, present, and future medical expenses related to the accident. You have to provide receipts of past medical expenses for you to get compensation.
If you need future medical care for injuries sustained in the accident, then the court will determine the amount to award you by:
- Determining the type of care you need
- Estimating the length of time, you will need the treatment
- Estimating the cost of future medical care costs
A doctor will have to determine whether you need additional medical care (inpatient or outpatient) and the length you will need treatment.
- Lost Wages
If an accident impairs your ability to work and leads to a significant loss of wages, then you can be compensated. The at-fault party will have to pay the amount you would have earned if the accident did not happen.
If the accident leads to temporary or permanent disability, you can recover future lost wages and loss of earning capacity.
Some of the factors that determine the value of lost wages include:
- Your age
- The amount you earned at the time of the accident
- Your future earning potential
- Your education and training
- The present ability to resume your previous duties
- Pain and Suffering
The aftermath of the accident can be punctuated with a lot of pain and suffering. The pain can be physical, resulting from your injuries. In some cases, you may develop permanent pain where you are hurt.
Pain and suffering are hard to prove in court. Therefore, you have to gather enough evidence that will convince the jury of your pain and suffering; especially if it is not apparent to others.
You can keep a record of the pain you go through from the time of the accident. The records can be presented to the court as evidence. In addition, tell your doctor about the pain you experience so that they can determine whether it is a result of the accident.
- Mental Anguish
An accident can lead you or your family members into mental anguish. If you suffered an accident, it changes your life, including your mental state. The physical pain you suffer can bring mental anguish to you and your loved ones. Seeking compensation for mental anguish would only be fair as it helps you transition into living with the consequences of the accident.
- Loss of Consortium
If your spouse is the victim of an accident, you can ask for a loss of consortium damages. Your spouse may suffer debilitating injuries that kill him or her or leave them with a permanent disability that affects your relationship. In other cases, the spouse may be in mental anguish, which affects the marital relationship.
- Compensation for Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, pedestrians are more likely to die from pedestrian accidents due to the impact of metal on flesh. If you lose your loved one through an accident, where the motorist is at fault, then you can sue on behalf of the deceased. Wrongful death benefits are paid to the dependents and spouse of the deceased.
The damages from wrongful death claims cover burial and funeral expenses. In some cases, they cover the medical expenses incurred by the deceased after the accident. If the person did not die soon after the accident, you have to prove that the death was a natural or secondary result of the accident.
As part of the damages, you can ask for damages for lost parental care and guidance, lost wages, loss of consortium and pain and suffering.
How Much Is A Personal Injury Claim Worth?
Before you seek personal injury compensation after a pedestrian accident, you may want to know how much you are likely to get. The specific amount varies based on the circumstances of the case and the party at fault. Factors such as contributory negligence, the available evidence, the legal caps on the number of damages you can receive, and the skill of the lawyer determine how much you get.
Usually, your lawyer evaluates your case and gives you an estimation of what the case may be worth. The insurance provider of the motorist may also offer you an initial settlement offer. A skilled personal injury lawyer has experience in gauging the amount you can recover, therefore, look for one who has been in the industry for a long time, has had a successful and substantial pedestrian accident settlement and is licensed to operate in Florida.
Pain, suffering, loss of parental care, and loss of consortium are some of the non-monetary damages in personal injury cases that are hard to prove. They have the potential of increasing your claim substantially, and they can be denied altogether. Your ability to convince the jury that you are suffering due to the accident or death of a loved one from the accident determines the amount of compensation.
In particularly difficult cases, your lawyer may call upon the help of an economic expert. Economic experts are knowledgeable in calculating the amount a person is likely to earn in the future, what the medical expenses might be and future inflation, and calculate them in today’s dollar value.
Punitive Damages (Florida Statutes 768.72)
Punitive damages in Florida are awarded to some victims of pedestrian accidents to punish the respondent and discourage others from similar crimes. If the driver was grossly negligent or malicious, then punitive damages will be awarded. Punitive damages have a cap of three times the value of the total damages awarded or $500,000, whichever is higher.
For you to be awarded punitive damages, you have to prove gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Intentional misconduct refers to actions pursued even when the respondent knows that they are likely to cause injury or damage.
Gross negligence, on the other hand, refers to behavior that is so reckless and includes a conscious disregard or indifference to the safety and life of road users. Drunk driving is one of the acts of gross negligence since the respondent already knows that it risky to drive when drunk, but they still drive, therefore endangering the lives of other road users.
Pedestrian accidents change people’s lives, especially due to the unplanned costs. In other cases, families lose their loved ones, while others have to live with a disability, lose jobs, and become dependent on others for their needs. While money cannot replace what the accident takes from you, the compensation you get will make the transition easier and lighten the financial burden on you or your loved ones. If you lost a loved one, then you the compensation can go a long way in bringing closure. Contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney at 904-800-7557 for expert help on how you can file a personal injury claim.