Unfortunately, Florida is ranked as the most dangerous state for walking in the United States, according to Smart Growth America. In a 2019 report, the state was shown to have amassed a total of 5,433 pedestrian facilities from 2008 to 2017, giving the state a “Pedestrian Danger Index” (PDI) of 182. In fact, in that same report, half of the top 20 most dangerous metro areas for walking were from the state of Florida as well!
Smart Growth America defines PDI as a metric that measures the deadliness of a certain state or metro area for walking. It is based on the “number of people struck and killed by drivers while walking,” and subject to the number of people that live in that area, dependent as well on how many of those people were walking to work.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a pedestrian accident in Florida, contact your personal injury lawyer immediately. Aside from its necessity to provide a proper course of action for one in such a situation, filing pedestrian accidents is slightly different from your average car accident lawsuits. In fact, despite its prevalence in the state, many people are still not aware of their rights and are unsure of what to do when they become involved in a pedestrian accident.
In this article, we will be answering seven questions that people have asked us over the years regarding pedestrian accidents, and how our personal injury lawyers in Florida can help you.
1. What exactly is a “pedestrian?”
Before we dive into the specifics of pedestrian accident laws in Florida, we need to understand how the law defines a pedestrian.
According to Florida law, a pedestrian is “any person afoot.” Aside from the people simply walking or running on the street, pedestrians are also taken to mean those on wheelchairs, roller skates, or skateboards.
In general, an individual on a bicycle is not considered as a pedestrian, rather treating them as a motorist on the road. However, if a person were to cross the street on a crosswalk while pushing a bike along, that person will then be considered a pedestrian.
2. Why are pedestrian accidents so common in Florida?
The high number of pedestrian accidents in Florida is a product of three main factors: road design, population increase, and the rapidly rising cases of distracted driving.
- Road design – It’s no secret that the designs of modern roads were created with cars in mind and not people! The lack of sidewalks and the increasingly fast speed limits, especially in densely populated areas and wide roads, all contribute to pedestrian accidents.
- Rapid population growth – A bigger population simply means more people on roads, both in cars and on foot. With Florida attracting millions of tourists every year—131.4 million travelers in 2019 to be exact—it’s easy to see why pedestrian accidents have been on the rise.
- Distracted Driving – Distracted drivers raise the risk of a crash by more than 800%, according to the National Institutes of Health. The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles defines three kinds of distractions that can impair driving: visual, manual, and cognitive.
Visual distractions make drivers take their eyes off the road for any given time, while manual distractions result in them taking their hands off the wheel. On the other hand, cognitive distractions cause you to think of anything else other than driving.
Some activities are a combination of one or two categories. For example, talking to your passengers entails both cognitive and visual distractions, while food and drink consumption is both manual and visual. However, the most dangerous distractions combine all three, such as texting while driving.
According to the latest data from the FHSMV, distracted driving was the main reason behind 236 fatalities and 15,698 injuries recorded in 2018—3,100 of which were incapacitating.
3. Does Florida’s No-Fault Laws apply to pedestrian accidents?
The short answer is yes—subject to certain considerations, of course. For one, pedestrians are not expected to secure their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) before taking a stroll.
However, if the pedestrian who was injured happens to own a car and is covered by an auto insurance policy, then he or she can use that PIP coverage to pay for their own medical bills. This is because an injured PIP policy owner doesn’t have to be inside the car at the time of the accident to be covered. The same thing applies to people who do not have their own PIP insurance but is covered by another person’s policy.
If the pedestrian does not own any insurance and is not covered by anybody else’s policy, then their only recourse is to file a claim against the erring driver’s insurance provider.
As is the case with other kinds of personal injury lawsuits, a pedestrian can sue for pain and suffering, especially if they sustain injuries that have resulted in significant and permanent loss of bodily functions, scarring or disfigurement, or even death.
Another thing to remember is that you will need to be a resident of Florida to receive PIP benefits. If you are eligible, you can sue for more than the limit of $10,000 in PIP coverage—and have a better chance of claiming damages for pain and suffering, which are usually above that threshold!
4. Is the driver automatically at fault in a pedestrian accident in Florida?
While it may seem that drivers are usually at fault for such accidents, this is, in fact, not always the case. Florida has clear laws that define who has the right of way at any given moment. When it comes to determining the negligence of pedestrian accidents, Florida still follows the “pure comparative rule.”
The pure comparative rule accounts for liability in both parties, allowing plaintiffs to recover their percentage of fault even if it turns out that their contribution to the accident was more than 50%.
The rule also gives the defendants the chance to reduce the amount he or she needs to pay. Based on this law, in the example that a pedestrian was suing for $100,000 in damages, but was found to be 20% fault, that person would only be awarded $80,000.
5. What should I do in a pedestrian accident?
Both drivers and pedestrians have specific duties when it comes to a pedestrian accident. That being said, it must be expected that pedestrians will be the ones injured, given that the motorist is definitely better protected inside their vehicle.
Drivers must stop their vehicles immediately and park their cars on the side of the road. Next, attend to the pedestrian and call emergency services and police officers for assistance immediately.
If the need arises and you are sufficiently trained, administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, it is crucial to remember not to attempt to move the pedestrian!
If the pedestrian is relatively unhurt, then exchange names, insurance information, phone numbers, and other contact information. When the police arrive, cooperate and give truthful information regarding the incident.
If you are the pedestrian, it’s best to stay still and avoid getting up, even if you feel that you are able to. The body’s adrenaline response may mask your pain responses, causing you even more injuries by attempting to move. In this situation, your topmost priority should be receiving medical treatment. This is true whether it was a truck, car, or motorcycle that hit you.
If you are reasonably certain that you have not sustained serious injuries, you can exchange information with the driver. If possible, you should ask for an ID to confirm their identity. Make sure to get their contact number, email address, and insurance information as well.
Before the police arrive, it’s best to call your personal injury lawyer in Florida as well. These experts are capable of giving you expert legal advice on the things that you can and cannot say.
It will also be better to get your lawyer to inform your insurance company about your situation. This way, you can rest assured that no information that is potentially incriminating or detrimental to your case will reach your insurance provider.
When the police arrive, give out truthful statements. Remember to avoid providing information regarding who is at fault! Proving fault is a complex legal matter that is best resolved with your personal injury lawyer.
If your injuries are not serious, and if you are a legal resident of Florida with an insurance policy covering you, then you’ll most likely be covered by your PIP insurance.
6. Should I talk with the driver’s insurance company immediately?
No. If someone else’s insurance company calls you in the aftermath of an accident, then it’s a sure sign that it is trying to settle the damages for less. Unfortunately, this is common practice for insurance companies to do in order to avoid paying the full compensation that may be accorded to the pedestrian by law.
As any personal injury lawyer will tell you: don’t try to settle with an insurance company, even if the amount they offer is attractive. No matter what amount they offer you, it will most likely be lower than what should be awarded to you.
7. Is there anything I can do to avoid pedestrian accidents?
Accidents happen because one party usually does not have complete control of their personal situation. That being said, both motorists and pedestrians can be more aware of road regulations that are meant to reduce the likelihood of pedestrian accidents, making the road even just a little bit safer for everybody.
Here are a few things that drivers can do to minimize the risk of being involved in a pedestrian accident:
- Avoid distracted driving – A driver must always keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel. Their mind must also concentrate only on driving and the road in front of them. Avoid eating or drinking while driving, engaging in lively conversation, or using your phone for anything, even for navigation. If at all possible, do all of these while you’re still parked.
- Follow the Driver Yield Law – Florida’s Driver Yield Law states that drivers approaching a pedestrian legally crossing the street through the crosswalk must yield or stop, giving the person crossing ample time to reach the other side.
This applies regardless of the distance between the motorist and the pedestrian. As far as the law is concerned, a driver must slow down or prepare to stop as soon as they approach a crosswalk with people crossing.
In the same vein, drivers should never pass a car that is stopped or slowed down at a crosswalk. This is because a car stopped at a crosswalk is a sure sign that a pedestrian is using the crosswalk.
On the flip side, here are habits and practices that pedestrians can do to avoid pedestrian accidents as well.
- Be mindful of your surroundings
The dangers of being distracted while moving aren’t limited to drivers only. Pedestrians should avoid using their phones while walking, especially if they are at a crosswalk. This is especially true for roads without a stoplight, where pedestrians can walk onto the path of an oncoming car without noticing.
Signalized crosswalks, especially intersections, aren’t that much safer either. A distracted pedestrian may not notice the light changes while crossing, which will earn the ire of drivers at best, and result in an accident at its worst!
- Follow the traffic lights
While drivers are directed to yield to pedestrians in unsignalized intersections, this is not the same case for those that do come with a traffic light installed. In Florida, pedestrians are required to give right of way to motorists if they face a red light or a steady DON’T WALK signal.
- Stick to the sidewalk
Pedestrians must use the sidewalk as much as possible when walking down a street. In the absence of a sidewalk, pedestrians can use the road but should only do so while facing traffic. This way, they are able to see oncoming vehicles and exercise appropriate caution.
Prevention is always better than cure. This is why we believe that knowing your rights and responsibilities when it comes to pedestrian accidents is a good first step towards making our roads safer! Should you find yourself getting involved in a pedestrian accident, getting a good grasp of how you should act in such a situation should allow you to respond effectively. Doing so may help save lives, if not prevent the accident from happening in the first place.
Hiring a Pedestrian Accident Attorney To Assist You
That being said, a pedestrian accident always happens because of negligence. If you or someone you know was involved in a pedestrian accident, it’s best to seek the services of a personal injury lawyer in Florida.
Have you been involved in a pedestrian accident and are in need of a Florida personal injury lawyer to assist you? Shiner Law Group is a team of personal injury law experts in Florida. We represent those who have suffered losses through no fault of their own, fighting for their claims to get the compensation they deserve. We handle cases involving car accidents, medical malpractice, pedestrian accidents, and more. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!