Even as the number of fatal traffic accidents has fallen over the last 10 years, pedestrian accident deaths have spiked more than 35 percent. Florida claims 8 of the Top 10 most dangerous metro areas for pedestrians, according to Smart Growth America’s Dangerous by Design report. Cape Coral-Fort Myers ranked No. 8.
Of nearly 50,000 pedestrians killed between 2008 and 2017, more than 5,400 died on Florida roads. Tens of thousands more suffered serious injuries.
Filing Florida pedestrian accident lawsuits is slightly different than filing car accident lawsuits. Part of this is because no matter who was at-fault in a pedestrian accident, it is almost always the pedestrian who suffers the injury, and those injuries are often severe. That means there is much at stake in these cases.
A Fort Myers injury attorney can help answer your questions and fight for just compensation on your behalf.
Who is a Pedestrian?
Any person who is “afoot” is considered a pedestrian. That includes individuals using roller skates or a wheelchair, but not bicyclists.
Pedestrians are expected to use sidewalks where they are available. If there is not a sidewalk, pedestrians can walk on the road, but they must face traffic (reducing accident risk). Pedestrians do have the right-of-way in a marked crosswalk, but a pedestrian crossing the road at any other point must yield to all vehicles.
Pedestrians are expected to obey all traffic signals and only cross the road when the pedestrian light is on. It is illegal to stand in the road to wave down a friend, save a parking spot, or hail a cab. Pedestrians should stay on the side of the road.
Florida Pedestrian Accidents
There are three main reasons why Florida has so many pedestrian accidents:
- Our roads were built for cars. The lanes are wide, the speeds are high – and very few are equipped with sidewalks.
- Our population is rapidly growing. More residents mean more road users – both vehicles and pedestrians.
- Distracted driving. Drivers who are distracted raises the risk of a crash by 800 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health. The advent of smartphones means more drivers – and pedestrians – are constantly distracted.
Why Are Pedestrian Accident Lawsuits Different Than Car Accident Claims?
Florida is considered a “no-fault” auto insurance state. That means all drivers are expected to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits that will cover a portion of medical expenses and lost wages – no matter who was at fault.
If a pedestrian’s injuries cross the serious injury threshold (significant/permanent loss of important bodily function, permanent injury, significant/permanent scarring or disfigurement, or death), then they can file a claim that includes pain and suffering with the at-fault driver or their insurance company. If the negligent driver does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to cover the damages, those injured can file a claim with their own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Pedestrian accident lawsuits work a bit differently because pedestrians are not required to carry insurance to take a stroll. However, if an injured pedestrian does have an auto insurance policy (or are covered as a resident relative on another’s policy), you can file a claim with your own PIP policy carrier if you are struck by a car. (You do not have to be in the car for the policy to apply.)
If the pedestrian did not have a car or live with a relative who has car insurance, the driver’s PIP should cover the pedestrian’s medical bills. However, the driver’s PIP will not cover pedestrian injuries if you are not a Florida resident. But, as one Florida appellate court noted in the 2001 case of Maldano v. Allstate, “For the typical tourist who is struck as a pedestrian… the bad news is: You are not eligible to receive PIP benefits. The good news is: You can sue for all of your damages without regard to the no-fault threshold [as outlined in F.S. 627.737].” In other words, you will not be able to claim the $10,000 in PIP coverage, but you have a better shot of claiming damages for pain and suffering, which tend to be much higher than that.
If both the pedestrian and driver were at-fault, the driver can still be held liable – but the damages awarded to the pedestrian will be proportionately reduced by his or her own fault. So for example, if a pedestrian sustained $100,000 in damages but was 30 percent at-fault, he or she would only be entitled to receive $70,000 in damages.
If you are injured in the greater South Florida area, contact our injury attorneys at The Garvin Firm at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
Dangerous By Design 2019, Smart Growth America