Florida is among the most dangerous cities for pedestrians. According to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 9,356 recorded pedestrian crashes in Florida in 2018, 1,543 of which were incapacitating. The FLHSMV also recorded 720 Floridian deaths—which is by no means a small number!
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Car Accidents and Pedestrians: What to Know in Florida
When it comes to road accidents involving pedestrians, it’s natural for drivers to carry the larger buck in terms of responsibility. This rule exists because drivers benefit from having the structure they’re in bear the brunt of the impact, whereas the pedestrian does not.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that pedestrians themselves cannot be held responsible, especially if authorities found them engaging in distracting events while walking.
If you believe that a distracted pedestrian’s actions caused your car accident, contact your car accident lawyer in Florida immediately. He or she will have the necessary training needed to build your case and hold the erring party liable for negligence.
As one of the top law firms specializing in car accidents, we at Shiner Law Firm believe that an educated populace is more careful and can make better choices for personal safety. With that goal in mind, this article will discuss six facts about distracted driving that all motorists and pedestrians in Florida need to know, as well as the six things to do in accidents involving pedestrians.
Distractions aren’t for drivers only
Distractions aren’t reserved for drivers; they can happen to pedestrians as well. The most common cause of distractions is the use of smartphones, which are potent sources of distractions for both pedestrians and drivers alike.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, adults and teenagers are very prone to distracted walking. In an article published by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, adults are often seen checking email, while teens are more likely to be texting.
This behavior is dangerous, mainly because many pedestrians don’t even realize that they are running into danger—up until they suffer an injury or barely get away from one. Regardless of the extent of their injuries, pedestrians can still be held liable for distracted walking. This is especially true if their actions resulted in multiple-vehicle collisions.
Currently, there are no Florida laws that directly make distracted walking punishable. Instead of ticketing distracted pedestrians, authorities are pushing for educational campaigns. That being said, pedestrians causing accidents are not entirely off the hook.
A skilled car accident lawyer in Florida can make a case that a pedestrian committing traffic violations, such as failure to follow the right-of-way or jaywalking, can still be held liable. For example, pedestrians always have the right of way in marked crosswalks with no traffic lights. However, the same cannot be said in places with no clear demarcations, or if a traffic light exists to tell the pedestrian when crossing the street is legal.
Distracted walking is technically legal in Florida
With no specific law banning using smartphones while walking, distracted walking is technically legal. One of the possible reasons for this is that there are legitimate reasons for texting while walking. For example, a pedestrian may be dealing with an emergency or trying to get in touch with 911.
While walking while using a smartphone is technically legal, causing traffic accidents is not. If a pedestrian were to cause an accident by committing traffic violations (e.g., not using a designated crosswalk), then they could be held liable. In such cases, it’s not entirely unheard of to see erring pedestrians shoulder the majority of the fault, allowing drivers to recover damages in their claim.
Distracted walking affects drivers as well
Distracted pedestrians can cause other accidents—even as they narrowly escape their own! This happens when drivers have to quickly shift their attention to the oblivious pedestrian instead of focusing on the road and other cars.
Accidents happen when the driver goes out of their way to avoid the pedestrian, but they may hit other cars, road fixtures, and other passersby in the process. This type of accident usually involves multiple vehicle collisions, causing severe property damage, bodily harm, and complex insurance claims in the process.
Distracted walking can cause grave injuries
It may be difficult to imagine how the simple act of looking at your phone can cause serious bodily harm. The truth is, all it takes is one oblivious stroller and a few seconds of distracted walking to cause multiple crashes.
The most serious of distraction-induced crashes can lead to death. Those who are still fortunate enough to survive their ordeal may incur broken bones, skin lacerations, brain damage, and severe bruising. Even seemingly minor crashes, such as when a car clips a pedestrian, may still break their bones.
Given that the standard sedan weighs in at about 2,900 lbs, the force required to move them at even the lowest speed is enough to stagger a human body violently. This makes it easy to see why even the most minor car crashes can be life-threatening or, at the very least, lead to debilitating injuries.
There is a time limit for filing car accident lawsuits in Florida
In Florida, a plaintiff can file a car accident claim for up to four years from the accident’s date in question. However, this statute of limitations can be extended if the injuries are discovered at a later date. In this case, Florida courts can agree to extend the statute of limitations.
Florida adheres to the comparative negligence rule
It’s common practice to heap the blame on drivers who figure in crashes that involve pedestrians. After all, collisions are much more likely to kill pedestrians than drivers. Fortunately for drivers, Florida courts employ a much more nuanced view of liability.
In practice, pedestrian accidents are rarely caused by just one party. This is why Florida abides by the comparative negligence rule, which assigns percentages of fault to both parties in a car accident. The rule allows plaintiffs to receive compensation even if they were more than 50 percent at fault. Conversely, this also gives defendants the chance to lessen the damages they need to pay.
To determine fault, lawyers will use every possible factor that may have caused some form of distraction. The injured pedestrian’s lawyers may use the fact that the driver had passengers, such as rowdy children or pets, any of whom may have caused the driver to lose focus on the road. On the other hand, the driver’s side may show that the pedestrian was composing a text message or calling somebody while walking the street. They can also argue their right of way, especially if the pedestrian wasn’t using a crosswalk or was crossing the road illegally.
Insurance companies may also try getting out of a settlement through a series of confusing tests and processes. In this case, it’s crucial to have a competent car accident lawyer to defend your car accident claim.
What should I do if I get involved in a car accident with a distracted pedestrian?
After figuring in a car accident, your ultimate goal is to prevent further harm from happening to yourself and others. Taking action as quickly as you can also is a good idea, especially in the case of potentially fatal accidents.
Here are six things to do immediately after figuring in a car accident with a distracted pedestrian:
Call Emergency Services
Serious and fatal accidents are very likely to happen in accidents involving pedestrians. At the very least, the pedestrian will usually incur bruises, cuts, and scrapes. More serious internal injuries and broken bones are exceedingly common and will need to be addressed by competent professionals. Even mere moments of delay can spell the difference between life and death—which is why you should immediately call an ambulance to secure anyone that’s been hurt.
Besides emergency medical services, Florida laws also require that you notify the police immediately. It’s worthwhile to note that leaving the scene of a crime can get your driver’s license revoked. This is true for traffic accidents that involve physical injuries or property damage exceeding $500.
Responding police officers will help redirect the flow of traffic and gather information about the crash. It’s essential to note the investigating officers’ names to make securing a copy of the police report easier later. Don’t skip this vital step because the report’s paperwork can serve as evidence that either party can use to sue for negligence later on.
Get out of the street
More often than not, if you’ve made an abrupt stop, you’re likely to have ended up in the middle of the street, where your vehicle can confuse and cause accidents to others. In Florida, you are required to move your car to a safe spot on the side of the road to help prevent causing other collisions.
Often, authorities will explain this obligation to the one who makes the emergency call. The only exception to this rule is if the driver is sufficiently sure that doing so will endanger the pedestrian. If the pedestrian is in the way, then it might be wise to wait for emergency services first.
Take note of the details
In a car collision involving pedestrians, the car driver has all the advantages of being protected by the car. If the vehicle happens to have a dashboard camera installed, then they will have video evidence of the pedestrian’s actions leading up to the incident. Regardless, it’s best to recall and take down as much information as possible to recall it later.
Unfortunately, the pedestrian is not as fortunate. To the best of their abilities, a pedestrian should write down important details such as the driver’s license plate number, insurance data, and other personal details such as their name and contact details.
If the driver walks away, a pedestrian can file a complaint if they can at least remember the license plate number. The pedestrian can also use video evidence from any nearby traffic footage or eyewitness testimony to help bolster their claim.
Contact your car accident lawyer in Florida
Car accidents can get very hairy, so make sure to contact your Florida car accident lawyer immediately. It’s a good idea to let your lawyer notify your insurance provider as well to ensure that you don’t say anything that may jeopardize your claim.
Since car crashes are traumatic experiences for all parties involved, it’s not entirely uncommon to see drivers in a state of shock make incriminating statements to their insurance providers. Insurance companies will go out of their way to get out of paying settlements, so having a lawyer to represent you will help you get the best possible outcome.
Do not admit fault
While you should be cooperative with the investigating officer, by no means should you offer conjecture or any opinions regarding who caused the crash. This is true even if you sincerely believe that you are at fault.
During the accident, it’s likely that you may not be aware of all the possible factors leading to the crash. For example, the pedestrian may be using their phones to compose a text or make a call.
This holds true for pedestrians as well. Even if you think you caused the accident, the driver was likely also preoccupied with something else during the crash.
Proving fault is a complicated matter that should be left for your lawyers to argue and the jury to decide. Due to Florida’s adherence to the comparative negligence rule, it’s possible that both parties contributed significantly to the accident. If the courts find the plaintiff to have contributed 20% fault, the judge will reduce the compensation to be paid by the defendant by that percentage as well.
Keep Records and Receipts
As discussed earlier, distracted walking can cause multiple vehicular collisions, amounting to hefty property damages. Keeping records and receipts of repairs and rehabilitative procedures for the damages caused by the accident will help if the driver wishes to pursue a case with the erring pedestrian.
The same is true for pedestrians who incurred significant medical expenses. A comprehensive record of hospital bills, including future checkups and any necessary physical therapy, will provide courts with the basis on how much damages should be awarded to them.
Once the dust settles down, it’s essential to inform your car accident lawyer of future actions. Suppose you plan to sue for additional compensation. In that case, your lawyer will gather additional evidence, find eyewitnesses, and develop arguments that will help you achieve the best possible outcome for your claim. While it’s entirely possible to do so by yourself, the best method to gain the compensation you deserve is through the help of a specialist.
If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer in Florida, to help with a distracted walking case, then Shiner Law Group has you covered! As Florida’s top personal injury lawyers, we believe that nobody deserves to suffer because of circumstances that they did not cause. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.