Pedestrian accidents may lead to devastating consequences. A vehicle travelling at a speed of 10 mph can seriously injure a pedestrian. It is understandable that when vehicles hit pedestrians at higher speeds, catastrophic injuries and deaths may occur. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has reported that over 7,000 pedestrians die in traffic or non-traffic incidents in any given year. Non-traffic incidents typically occur on non-traffic ways such as parking lots, driveways or other private property. In Florida, the rate of pedestrian accidents is higher than in many other regions of the country. The Sun-Sentinel recently reported this trend in an article published in March 2021. Based on an analysis by the pedestrian-safety organization, Smart Growth America, the Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach-Miami is among the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians.
The facts of a pedestrian accident case may be complicated. The person who becomes injured as a result of a driver’s negligence will want to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for the damages. To prove negligence in a lawsuit, the injured party or “plaintiff” must show that the defendant was responsible for the following: had a duty to not cause harm and failed in this duty; the plaintiff suffered injury as a result of the defendant’s careless actions.
Common causes of pedestrian accidents
Similar to other car accidents, pedestrian accidents are most commonly caused by the following:
- Distracted driving
- Impaired driving
- Driving at high speeds
- Driving without using car signals
- Driving through crosswalks rather than stopping
If a driver has hit a pedestrian, the following steps may be taken:
- Focus on safety and call 911 for immediate medical attention. It is important for any bystanders to not initiate medical treatment beyond the lifesaving CPR prior to the paramedics arriving.
- The following should be contacted: medical care providers and the police
- Provide information to the law enforcement officers about how the accident happened
- If you were under the influence or engaged in any illegal activity that contributed to the accident and may have criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney right away
- Be sure to exchange contact information with those involved in the accident if the pedestrian is not incapacitated. If family members of the victim are present, exchange contact information with them. Include names, phone numbers, email addresses and insurance information. However, it is important to not provide more information such as an emotional statement that admits fault. If you admit fault, even verbally, you may be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit.
If you have been hit and injured by a driver as a pedestrian:
- Work with a medical provider to calculate the severity of your injuries
- Keep all your medical records. You will need them in the case of a personal injury lawsuit, and you are seeking economic damages
- Keep record of other expenses associated with the accident, including proof of lost income, any transportation costs associated with the accident. For example, if you could previously walk or bike to certain locations and are left unable due to the accident, keep track of the costs of vehicle transportation associated with your change of transport
- Work to calculate your total economic losses by obtaining your medical bills, proof of lost income and necessary home and vehicle modification bills
- Work to assign a monetary value to your total non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium and mental anguish damages. In a personal injury case that involves severe and permanent injuries, a jury or judge will typically look at non-economic damages
- Contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney may be able to negotiate with the parties involved before going to trial
Who is liable for pedestrian accidents?
Vehicle accidents use negligence to determine who was at-fault. Generally, if someone, whether the driver of the vehicle or the pedestrian, is found to not have exercised a reasonable degree of care, then they may be found negligent. The police will ask those involved in the accident what happened, along with any witnesses, to create a police report. Insurance companies will also send insurance adjusters to the scene of the accident. The vehicle insurance adjusters will also evaluate any damage to your vehicle that occurred as a result of the crash and make a determination about fault based on the available evidence.
Every vehicle driver has a duty of care. There are a number of traffic laws that drivers must obey, including speed limits, traffic signals and watching for pedestrians during crosswalks. If a driver fails to exercise a duty of care and hits a pedestrian, they may be liable for any pedestrian injuries that are caused.
Pedestrians may also be liable for an accident. If a pedestrian makes it impossible for a law-abiding and cautious driver to avoid hitting them, then they may be held liable. Examples include:
- Purposefully moving into a traffic area
- Walking on a highway or high-speed road at night while wearing clothing that makes them less visible
- Walking in an area that is off-limits for pedestrians
Government entities may also be liable for pedestrian crashes. For example, if a pedestrian crosswalk is damaged, such as the traffic lights, the municipality where the accident occurred may be liable. Further, if the sidewalk at the crosswalk is damaged, creating an unsafe walking environment, and the pedestrian becomes injured after being unable to keep themselves safely on the sidewalk, the municipality may be liable as well.
Wrongful death pedestrian accident
If a family member or loved one has died in a pedestrian accident, a wrongful death claim may be filed. Driver negligence may occur during the following:
- Distracting driving (using a phone while driving)
- Driving without a valid driver’s license
- Failing to stop at a stop sign
- Running a red light
- Failing to yield where indicated
- Driving while intoxicated
How a lawyer may help if you have been involved in a pedestrian accident
Individuals involved in a pedestrian accident will need an experienced personal injury attorney to navigate their particular situation. An attorney may negotiate with an insurance company on the victim’s behalf as well as hold the driver liable for their injuries and damages that occurred as a result of the accident. If the driver is found liable for the accident, a victim may recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering. If the pedestrian and driver are both found to be at-fault for the accident, the damages awarded will be based on the percentage of fault. For example, if the driver is found 80 percent at-fault, then the pedestrian will be awarded 80 percent of the recoverable damages. To preserve the right to file a legal claim, a victim must seek legal action within four years from the date of the accident and in wrongful death claims the statutory limits require that legal action must be taken within two years of the accident.