Every two hours, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic collision in the United States. Pedestrian accidents can happen to anyone, but in the state of Florida, the elderly are particularly vulnerable. Pedestrians over the age of 70 are twice as likely to be killed in pedestrian accidents as those under age 70. If you are injured as a pedestrian anywhere in Florida, and if a negligent driver is responsible for your injury, Florida personal injury law entitles you to full reimbursement for all of your medical care and all of your accident-related expenses.
For a pedestrian hit by a car, your personal injury claim will probably be against the motorist who collided with you. But if dangerous streets or a faulty traffic sign or signal play a role in an accident, the victim may also be able to bring a claim against the city or town where he or she was injured. If an injury is catastrophic or permanently disabling, the victim will need the maximum available compensation. In central Florida, pedestrian accident victims should seek the advice that an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer can offer.
If you are injured as a pedestrian in Florida, call the police immediately, take photographs or have them taken of the accident scene and of the car that collided with you, get witnesses’ names and contact information, and call your insurance company. Try to obtain the driver’s name, contact information, license number, and complete insurance information. The police will interrogate the driver, victim, and witnesses to determine who was at fault. They may make a finding on the spot or conduct a detailed investigation and make a finding later.
IF YOU DON’T SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT, WHAT CAN HAPPEN?
Don’t wait to obtain medical attention. If you don’t seek medical treatment at once after a pedestrian injury, the at-fault driver’s insurance company might contend that your injury happened before the accident or that you weren’t really injured at all. Insurance adjusters (and juries as well) usually conclude that if you do not obtain medical care immediately after the accident, you weren’t really hurt. It’s imperative for your health as well. The most frequently-suffered injuries in pedestrian accidents include:
- Fractures: What you think is just a sprain may, in fact, be a fracture. Some bone fractures can only be identified when a doctor examines you.
- Soft tissue injuries: Hand and chest bruises and sprains are commonly sustained in pedestrian accidents.
- Traumatic brain injuries: A blow to the head could indicate a brain injury; swift medical attention is imperative if you suffer a blow to the head in a collision. If a brain injury is not promptly detected, it can remain latent and emerge months later as a serious medical situation.
Who pays an injured pedestrian’s medical bills? It depends on a number of factors, but generally speaking, if the injury took place in a no-fault state like Florida, then the driver’s insurance company pays some or possibly all of the injury victim’s medical bills. If the injury did not happen in a no-fault state, then the pedestrian’s health insurer will normally pay the medical bills, assuming that the pedestrian has health insurance.
WHO IS AT FAULT WHEN A PEDESTRIAN IS INJURED?
Usually, if a pedestrian is hit by a car, the driver is considered at fault, even if the pedestrian was not in a crosswalk. Most states require drivers to pay attention to hazards on the road, and a pedestrian is surely a “hazard.” But if a pedestrian is not in a crosswalk, he or she does not have the legal right to walk into the street and expect cars to stop. Jaywalking is illegal in Florida. And if you injure yourself through your own negligence as a pedestrian, a personal injury attorney may not be able to help you. Distracted pedestrians are a growing concern in the U.S., especially adults impaired by drugs or alcohol and young people who are wearing ear plugs or texting.
Sometimes in pedestrian accidents, neither the driver nor the pedestrian is at fault. A pedestrian injury might be the fault of the city or town because of how the street has been designed or because of a faulty stop sign or a defective traffic signal. An obvious example is a defective traffic light. If both the pedestrian and the oncoming traffic get green lights, for example, a claim for negligence against the municipality might be appropriate.
A poorly placed crosswalk might be another example of municipal negligence. For example, a crosswalk that drivers come upon unexpectedly – set on the other side of a curve in the road, for example – would be poor street planning creating a hazard. In fact, the failure of a state or local government to maintain any road can conceivably make that road hazardous. If a pedestrian accident victim believes that a government or government agency in Florida is partially responsible for an injury, that victim should speak at once with an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer.
HOW DO YOU SUE A GOVERNMENT OR GOVERNMENT AGENCY?
Suing the government is somewhat more complicated than suing a private individual. Victims who claim they were injured by the negligence of the government or one of its employees in Florida have to play by a different set of rules, at least at the beginning. You’ll first have to provide a “Notice of Claim” that must be mailed within three years of the accident date to each government employee or agency involved and to the Florida Department of Financial Services.
No lawsuit can be filed prior to a 180-day investigation period unless the claim is formally denied by the state. If the claim is denied, a personal injury lawsuit against the government or government agency must be filed within three years of the date of the injury. If the claim is a wrongful death claim, however, it must be filed within two years. Inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections have one year to give written notice of their claim and three years in which to file the lawsuit itself.
When you drive, always be alert for pedestrians, and of course, use even more caution driving at night. As a pedestrian, don’t read, don’t text, and if you must speak on the phone, stop and step safely off the sidewalk. If you walk at night, do it only in well-lit areas or carry a flashlight. Obey all of the basic rules – look both ways when you cross a street. Pedestrian accidents and injuries are increasing, so use some caution and don’t injure yourself by distracted walking.