As a victim of a pedestrian accident, you may suffer severe injuries. These injuries will make you struggle with your medical bills and undergo extreme pain and suffering. You may also be unable to resume your normal routine, as well as go back to work. As a result, you will lose your source of income, and you may even be unable to support your loved ones.
We at the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney understand all the struggles victims of pedestrian accidents undergo. Over the years, we have helped numerous victims in Jacksonville and the entire Florida area obtain compensation for their injuries. We will make sure you get the amount of compensation you deserve, and we won’t require you to pay any fees until you win your claim.
It can be challenging to determine the at-fault party in a pedestrian accident. Read on to know how you can prove liability in a pedestrian accident personal injury claim.
Who is a Pedestrian?
Pedestrians are individuals who walk on foot, and they may include joggers or people who walk for transportation or leisure purposes. According to Florida traffic laws, cyclists are not considered as pedestrians, but individuals in wheelchairs and roller skates are.
Pedestrian Laws in Florida
Typically, most pedestrian accidents in Florida are fatal, and they are classified in the same category as rollover crashes and head-on collisions. To prevent the occurrence of such accidents, the state of Florida has enacted several laws that regulate how pedestrians should behave while on the road to stay safe.
Just the way motorists should pay attention while driving to prevent road accidents, pedestrians should stay alert when they are crossing a highway or walking on a sidewalk. Below, we list for you some traffic rules that all pedestrians in Florida should observe:
- A person should not walk on a facility with limited access unless he/she is a governmental or maintenance personnel
- Where there are sidewalks, a pedestrian should walk on them and refrain from using the road
- Where there are no sidewalks, a pedestrian can use the road even though he/she may be more exposed to car crashes
- In places where there are no sidewalks, and the pedestrian must use the road, he/she should walk on the shoulder of the left side of the roadway to face oncoming traffic
- A pedestrian has the right of way in any marked crosswalk
- When a pedestrian intends to cross the road, he/she must ensure that it is safe to cross before doing so
- Pedestrians should only cross the street when the traffic lights are green, and they should obey all traffic signals
- No person should stand on a road primarily designed for vehicular traffic to solicit free rides, business, or employment from the vehicle occupants
You may face a civil penalty when you violate any of these rules. As per Florida Statute 318.14, any person who contravenes a pedestrian law is considered to have committed a noncriminal traffic infraction. This person may be elected to present himself/herself before a hearing officer, and pay a fixed fine as punishment.
When you break any of these rules listed above, you may contribute to the occurrence of an accident. However, you can still sue for damages even if you are partially to blame for the crash under Florida's comparative fault laws.
The Most Common Causes of Pedestrian Accidents
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 70,000 individuals sustain injuries each year from pedestrian accidents. Also, more than 4,000 individuals die from pedestrian-automobile collisions each year.
So, what are the most common causes of pedestrian accidents?
Various traffic law violations can result in pedestrian accidents. Most pedestrian accidents happen because the motorist didn’t pay attention while driving, or the pedestrian failed to watch out for himself/herself while using the road. Here are the most common causes of pedestrian accidents in Florida:
- Unmarked Crosswalks
A majority of car-pedestrian collisions occur in intersections, especially when these intersections are unmarked. Signaled crosswalks can dramatically reduce the occurrence of such accidents.
When there is an unmarked crosswalk, it becomes very challenging for both the motorist and the pedestrian to know when they should cross. Often, motorists concentrate on finding suitable pathways or parking spots, and they may overlook pedestrians who are using unmarked crosswalks. These motorists can easily run into them and cause a crash.
- Left-Hand Turns
A pedestrian accident can still occur in a marked crosswalk, especially where there are left-hand turns. Left-hand turns increase the risk of a crash by three times when compared to right-hand turns because they force both the motorist and the pedestrian to divert their attention. For instance, the pedestrian will be focusing straight ahead while the driver will be busy negotiating how to move around in the intersection. This will make them not to see each other and increase the probability of a collision.
Electronics are one of the significant causes of road accidents in Florida because they bring about distracted driving. For instance, a motorist who is listening to music from his/her earphones may lose focus while driving and fail to watch out for other road users, including pedestrians. Pedestrians also contribute to collisions, since most of them concentrate on sending text messages to their friends while walking. Such pedestrians are usually unaware of oncoming traffic, making them more vulnerable to collisions.
- Dark Clothing
Often, pedestrian accidents occur at night. Dark clothes largely contribute to the occurrence of these accidents, especially in areas with poor lighting. If you put on a dark cloth, a motorist may be unable to see you as you cross the road, thus increasing the risk of a crash.
Alcohol and drug abuse can endanger the lives of road users. When a pedestrian is walking while intoxicated, he/she may violate essential traffic rules and fail to observe oncoming cars. As highlighted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 37% of pedestrians who were involved in road accidents had a high level of blood-alcohol content.
Intoxicated motorists also contribute to the occurrence of pedestrian accidents. Such motorists have poor judgment and low concentration levels, and they may not even notice other road users, including pedestrians.
- Use of Improper Lanes
A bike on a sidewalk may hit a pedestrian, or even force him/her onto the road. When motorists utilize improper lanes, they increase the chances of a crash.
- Quiet Cars
As per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hybrids and battery-run automobiles have a 40% higher probability of striking pedestrians when compared to gas-guzzling vehicles, though they are considered to be ideal. This is because most pedestrians notice oncoming traffic with their eyes and ears, and they may be unable to detect a battery-powered moving car even if it is at a close distance.
- Arterial Roads
As cities become more populated, governmental entities have begun constructing multi-lane, high-speed roadways to ease traffic. Unfortunately, these roadways are hazardous to pedestrians due to the presence of too much traffic moving at high speeds.
Also, some of the arterial roads may be under construction; but their construction zones may be poorly marked. Lack of hazard markings can cause an accident because motorists will run into the construction zones unknowingly.
Not only is speeding a violation of Florida’s traffic laws, but it is also a major cause of pedestrian accidents. Speeding is considered to be reckless driving, and the court may hold a motorist liable based on the rules of negligence. Victims of pedestrian accidents who are hit by speeding cars sustain life-altering physical injuries, and some of them may even die because of the excessive force of the impact.
- Weather Conditions
Motorists may fail to notice pedestrians in certain weather conditions such as fog, snow, ice, or rain. Also, they may be unable to slow down or stop on slippery or slick roadways when they notice them, thus resulting in an accident.
- Backing Up
An accident can happen in a residential home when the driver backs-up the vehicle over a child he/she cannot see. Pedestrians may also be hit by backing-up cars when they are in parking spots that have too much traffic.
What to Do After a Pedestrian Accident
It is traumatic to become involved in a pedestrian accident. When you get hit by a vehicle, you may suffer severe physical injuries, and deal with psychological and emotional problems as well.
Some victims of pedestrian accidents may become unconscious after being struck, while others may be dazed. Those who remain conscious will most likely get into a state of physical or mental shock. Regardless of your situation, you should take some specific steps as soon as you start thinking clearly to ensure that none of your rights are violated. Here is what you should do after a pedestrian accident:
Get Medical Help
If you become unconscious after the crash, it is the responsibility of the motorist and eyewitnesses of the accident to ensure you receive medical assistance. However, if you remain conscious, you will have to seek medical help by yourself.
After an accident, the emotional and physical shock you feel may affect your judgment, and you may be unable to discern whether you have sustained a severe injury. You should call 911 to get immediate help. Also, you should receive a thorough medical evaluation even though you may believe you have not incurred any injury.
Document the Medical Treatment Process
You should record the physical injuries you have sustained and how the medical practitioners treated them. Maintain a list of all your caregivers, and request them to give you copies of medical bills and reports.
Contact the Police
You may jot down the events that led to the occurrence of the accident. However, you may not have the ability to recall information after you’ve been hit by a vehicle, depending on the magnitude of your injuries. This is why you should reach out to the police.
When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene, you should explain to them what happened before the accident. Also, you should request them to give you a copy of the report since it will be essential to validate your claim.
Avoid Discussing Fault
Even if you believe that you caused the accident, you should not apologize for what happened. Likewise, you shouldn't blame the motorist if you think that he/she caused the crash. Note that any admission of fault at the accident scene may be used against you in future legal proceedings. You should only discuss the accident with your attorney and insurer.
Contact your Insurer
You can reach out to your insurer if you have an automobile policy cover. Just tell them you were hit by a vehicle, and ask them if they can compensate you. Most auto insurance policies cover pedestrian accidents, and you can only know if you are eligible to receive compensation by reaching out to them.
As a general rule, you should not discuss the accident with the insurance company of the at-fault motorist because they will not vouch for your best interests. Also, you shouldn’t accept early settlement offers without consulting a personal injury attorney.
Call a Personal Injury Attorney
Often, you may not get the value of compensation you deserve when you initiate a claim with the insurance company of the at-fault motorist without professional legal help. The motorist’s insurer may deny your claim by blaming you for the accident. Other insurers may offer you a grossly undervalued settlement that does not reflect the degree of your injuries and the amount of money you lost because of the accident. When you hire a reputable personal injury attorney, he/she will ensure you are adequately compensated, and all your legal rights are protected.
Proving Liability in Pedestrian Accident Lawsuits
A pedestrian accident may be caused by:
- The pedestrian
- The motorist
- Both the motorist and pedestrian
The pedestrian might be the at-fault party if he/she violated essential traffic laws while walking. Likewise, the motorist may be blamed for the accident if he/she did not pay attention while driving or was negligent. In some situations, both the motorist and pedestrian may be liable for the accident. For instance, a pedestrian may have been walking on the wrong lane, and a motorist may have been driving under the influence. Since the motorist was intoxicated, he/she may have poor judgment and fail to notice the pedestrian. As a result, the motorist may hit the pedestrian.
As a victim of a pedestrian accident, you must prove how the motorist is responsible for causing the accident to obtain compensation. You should show how he/she was negligent when driving the vehicle. For you to prove negligence on the part of the motorist, you must demonstrate that:
- The motorist had a duty of care
- The motorist breached this duty of care
- As a result of the breach, you sustained physical injuries and experienced pain and suffering
If you are partly to blame for the accident, you can still recover damages under Florida’s comparative fault laws. In such scenarios, the court will award the plaintiff damages in proportion to the percentage of fault of the defendant. For example, if the total value of damages was $100,000, and you contributed to the occurrence of the accident by 10 %, you can only recover damages worth $90,000.
The term 'duty of care' refers to the legal obligation one person owes to another person. For instance, motorists have a duty of care to observe traffic signals and to give pedestrians the right of way. On the other hand, pedestrians have a duty of care to walk on the right lanes and stay observant of oncoming traffic.
As the plaintiff in a pedestrian accident lawsuit, you must prove that the defendant breached his/her duty of care. A breach may be brought about by failing to observe Florida traffic laws, or not exercising reasonable care.
After you have proved that the defendant breached his/her duty of care, you must demonstrate to the court how this breach led to your injuries. Causation is a crucial element in a personal injury claim, which all plaintiffs must prove before the court awards them damages. The plaintiffs must show the court that if the at-fault party had not acted negligently, they could not have incurred any injury.
If your loved one died in a pedestrian accident, you could institute a wrongful death lawsuit to obtain compensation. You will still have to prove negligence and breach of duty of care of the at-fault motorist, and assert that the motorist’s actions resulted in the death of your loved one.
Proving Liability in Pedestrian Hit and Run Accidents
It can be challenging to identify the at-fault party in a pedestrian hit and run accident. Sometimes, you may attempt to scribble down the details of the vehicle of the hit and run driver, but later, you find out that the information was incorrect.
After you have been involved in a pedestrian hit and run accident, you should call 911 immediately. Law enforcement officers can help you track down the at-fault driver. You should also talk to eyewitnesses of the accident to find out if they saw any crucial details that can help identify the hit and run driver.
If the hit and run driver remains unidentified, you can still pursue compensation. Victims of hit and run pedestrian accidents may have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that is available from their auto insurance policy plans. Your attorney will help you file a claim with the uninsured motorist coverage provider, and it will be processed just the way it would have been had you identified the at-fault party.
When to Institute a Pedestrian Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit
According to Florida's Statute of Limitations, victims of pedestrian accidents should institute personal injury lawsuits within four years from the date of the occurrence of the crash. Although this period may seem to be quite long, we advise you to discuss the accident with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid running out of time. This is because attorneys do not file pedestrian accident personal injury lawsuits immediately. When you retain them, they will first send a demand package to the insurer of the at-fault party to seek compensation. It is only when your attorney does not agree with the insurer about the value of the settlement when he/she can file a personal injury lawsuit.
Moreover, you will need eyewitnesses to prove your claim. These witnesses may not be helpful after a couple of years, because they will probably have forgotten the events that led to the accident. Human beings forget fine details naturally, and this is why you should not delay talking to an attorney.
Damages in a Pedestrian Accident Personal Injury Lawsuit
The court can award three types of damages in a pedestrian accident personal injury lawsuit: general damages, special damages, and punitive damages. Special damages cover the economic losses that the victim suffered because of the accident, including medical bills and lost wages. On the contrary, general damages cater for losses that cannot be easily quantified monetarily, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium. The court may award punitive damages to punish the defendant for his/her extremely reckless acts, especially in hit and run cases. The amount of punitive damages may be up to three times the total value of general and special damages.
If your loved one died in a pedestrian accident, you can institute a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation. The damages in a wrongful death lawsuit will cover burial and funeral expenses, loss of consortium, loss of support and companionship, and lost earnings.
Find a Pedestrian Accident Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you’ve been hit by a car in Jacksonville, you should contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney to avoid succumbing to the selfish demands of the at-fault party’s insurance company. We will help you fight for your compensation, as well as protect your legal rights. Call us today at 904-800-7557.