Whether it’s an effort to save gas or take advantage of gorgeous Floridan weather, walking or riding a bike could be one of the most dangerous activities in the Sunshine State. In fact, according to an article by the Sun-Sentinel, there were 1,675 pedestrian deaths in South Florida between 2010 and 2019. That equals 2.8 deaths for every 100,000 people.
And while there are circumstances where the pedestrian may share most of the blame for any incidents involving a vehicle striking them, the non-profit group Smart Growth America indicates roadways are designed for speed of travel, not the safety of pedestrians.
Pedestrian Safety Laws in Florida
Some may not realize that pedestrians, just like motorists, have rules to follow. For example, under Florida law, pedestrians are required to walk on sidewalks where they are provided — not on the actual roadway. In cases where no sidewalks are provided, pedestrians are allowed to walk on the road; however, they should always walk on the left shoulder in the direction of oncoming traffic. This is important because pedestrians and drivers who face each other on the road will likely be much more aware of each other’s existence, thus reducing the probability of an accident occurring.
Additionally, pedestrians who are not part of roadway maintenance crews or government personnel are not permitted to walk on freeways/highways with limited access or ramps that connect limited access highways/freeways to other roadways.
Understanding the Right-of-Way
Most people have a clear understanding that pedestrians have the right-of-way in marked crosswalks. However, it is important to note that those walking or crossing a roadway at any other point are required to yield the right-of-way to all motor vehicles. Moreover, to stay safe, pedestrians are encouraged to look left, right and left again prior to walking.
Pedestrians often learn the hard way that, even if they have the right-of-way, all drivers will not stop or yield. Drivers can be distracted such that they may not even see a pedestrian until it’s too late. That said, pedestrians should be sure to make actual eye contact with drivers prior to crossing the street — that way, they can be sure the driver has seen them.
If I’m Hit by a Vehicle, How Do I Get Compensated in Florida?
According to Florida law, pedestrians can essentially be any kind of “vulnerable road user,” like someone walking along the road, riding a bicycle, e-bike, scooter, moped, or even someone riding an animal. By law, if a driver strikes a pedestrian, they must stop and remain at the crash scene until they have fulfilled their legal obligations.
Leaving the scene of the crash could be considered a first-degree felony. If someone is hit by a car, they should take the same steps a driver in the same situation would take: call the authorities, seek medical treatment, collect evidence, and contact your insurance provider.
How to Recover Damages
Like most personal injury cases, the victim is tasked with proving the driver was negligent — meaning that at the time of the crash, the driver wasn’t focusing 100% on the task at hand like another driver would have in similar circumstances.
To prove negligence, the victim will need to establish the driver needed to be following the traffic laws but didn’t, resulting in the accident. The victim will also need to prove the driver did not follow the laws — for instance, if the driver was drunk while behind the wheel.
Then, the victim must prove that the driver’s negligence — driving drunk, like the example above — caused the victim’s injuries and those injuries negatively affected the victim’s life, thus requiring compensation to recover.
Each case is unique, but personal injury claims can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months.
What is the Claims Process for an Injured Pedestrian in Florida?
The claims process can be lengthy and complicated, even if a pedestrian-vehicle accident seems cut and dry. To keep profits high, insurance companies often offer low-ball settlements to victims. Getting all sides to agree on a settlement can be a timely process, so it’s best to exercise patience.
You should seek treatment after a crash and keep a record of everything. You should also notify your insurance provider that you were struck by a vehicle within a timely manner. Depending on the level of injury, you may be looking at a quick settlement; if the injuries sustained in the incident were severe, the process could take longer.
That process may involve an investigation, getting reports from law enforcement officials, and gathering evidence surrounding the accident. Once you know who is responsible and have enough evidence, you can send over a demand letter to get the claims process going.
A lawsuit may be necessary to get the compensation you or a loved one needs. Once all parties agree on the amount owed to the victim, then a settlement can be reached.
Who Pays for Damages?
In most pedestrian accidents, the at-fault driver will be held responsible and pay for the damages, economic loss, and possible ongoing medical care for the victim. Whether that’s the driver themselves or their insurance, the victim should be able to file for a settlement or a claim against the negligent driver.
Personal Injury Protection Claims
Florida requires its drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. Pedestrians are entitled to PIP coverage if they are hit by a car, as long as a member of their household carries PIP for their own vehicle. If the victim doesn’t have PIP, they will be covered by the driver’s PIP insurance. PIP insurance provides up to $10,000 for the victim to use towards medical expenses.
What Happens if the Driver Does Not Have Insurance?
Florida insurance agencies are required to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If the victim of a pedestrian-car accident carries the UM and the driver does not have insurance, they should be covered. The UM will take effect once other insurance payments are exhausted.
What if the Pedestrian was Distracted?
Pedestrian collisions aren’t always the driver’s fault. Distracted pedestrians are such an issue in some places that cities have installed sidewalk traffic lights to catch the attention of people looking down at their phones before they step into oncoming traffic.
Distracted walking is a form of negligence in the sense that it risks the individual’s life. A distracted walker is a danger to him or herself. Stepping out in front of an oncoming vehicle can result in serious or fatal injuries. Pedestrians who don’t pay attention while they walk and fail to yield the right-of-way to drivers when appropriate could be liable for their own injuries in Florida. The laws of comparative negligence will reduce the pedestrian’s compensation award by his/her percentage of fault for the injuries. A distracted pedestrian, therefore, might not be eligible for any recovery if he or she caused the accident.
Is Walking or Biking Safer?
The National Alliance’s 250-page study found that Florida has a 6.56 per 1 million people rate for pedal cyclist fatalities, compared to the national average of 2.17 per 1 million people. After Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia ranked among the bottom ten for similar low stats when it comes to non-motorist transportation safety, and by a wide margin, too.
Pedestrian fatalities were high in 2012, killing approximately 4,000 people and injuring around 76,000 people, and in 2013 4,735 pedestrians and 743 bicyclists were killed in accidents. Those numbers are scary for people who decide to bike to the office, or even take their dog on a walk. Drivers must pay attention to pedestrians.
Older adults, especially those over 65, appear to be the highest demographic to be injured or killed in pedestrian accidents. Most elderly men and women would rather walk versus drive, which can end up being extremely dangerous, especially if a driver is being careless and not paying attention to the pedestrians.
Children also can be involved in pedestrian accidents, as they spend a great deal of time playing outside resulting in accidents and sometimes even deaths. Too often, drivers are not paying attention, especially when they are in a rush, resulting in unnecessary accidents. Another dangerous action is looking down at your phone. you can easily miss seeing the young child in the road riding their bike or running out into the street to recover their soccer ball. Children also face the risk of being seriously hurt or injured in a pedestrian accident when they are going to and from school. Around one-third of all pedestrian accidents occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and a lot of the accidents involve children on bicycles. A lot of children take the bus, but if the school is close to their house parents often allow their children to walk or bike to school instead of driving them. Accidents like these still happen even in designated school zones when the speed limit is lowered.
Drivers can take many safety measures to avoid accidents with pedestrians. Paying attention to the surroundings is the key to avoiding any accident but especially pedestrian accidents. Taking these small safety measures while on the road just might save someone’s life.
Florida’s Safe Streets Initiative
In Florida, the distinct lack of sidewalks and crosswalks, along with the narrow shoulders and high-speed limits, makes it hard for bikers and walkers to travel safely, despite their best efforts—wearing bright clothing, obeying traffic laws, paying strict attention to their surroundings. These conditions lead to a higher rate of injuries and fatalities, and the state is currently trying to combat a severe problem with hit-and-run accidents. Although bearing down on offenders is one option, changing the state’s street systems and the traffic situations is another good place to start, personal injury lawyers in Fort Lauderdale recommend.
Lawmakers in the state are hoping to take the first steps towards turning the currently low statistics around, starting with a new initiative known as the Safe Streets Act of 2014, or S.2004 for short. The Act plans to implement a two-year program to make the state’s streets safer for bikers and walkers alike. If passed, the bill would require that all transportation projects using federal funds follow the “Complete Streets” model, which mandates that traffic engineers take into account the needs of all road users—walkers, bikers, and drivers. Right now, the state’s budget allots bicycle and pedestrian facilities only one half of one percent of the funds earmarked for transportation needs, including new plans for bike paths, wider shoulders, proper road signs, and more measures that would make it safer for these people to be out on the road.
Things to Remember as a Pedestrian in Florida
While Florida weather generally makes walking tempting, traveling alongside roads or even crossing them can be dangerous. Refer to these safety tips from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to stay familiar with the best practices of walking near vehicles.
A key point: jaywalking is illegal in most Floridan municipalities. If you jaywalk and are struck by a car, it could impact the amount of money you receive in a settlement or lawsuit.
In an effort to stay as safe as possible, pedestrians are also encouraged to make themselves highly visible by wearing light-colored clothing, and if walking at night, wearing reflective materials. Additionally, wearing headphones is not advisable since they may hinder a pedestrian’s ability to hear street noise and/or vehicle horns. Remaining alert is key when walking along roadways, so be sure to follow the rules and pay close attention to your surroundings.
Turn to a Trusted Fort Lauderdale Pedestrian Accident Attorney
After you or a loved one has been the victim of a pedestrian-vehicle car accident, it’s crucial to get the help you need to receive the maximum compensation possible.
The injury and accident attorneys at David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the complicated claims process and will work for you with insurance companies to get you the money you deserve.
Contact us online to get started.