Pedestrians almost invariably have the right-of-way relative to cars, trucks, and buses. A person walking along the side of a road is very vulnerable relative to a motor vehicle moving at high speeds. That is why the law imposes a duty on drivers to be aware of and to yield to pedestrians when their paths intersect.
If you or a loved one has been injured because you were struck by a motor vehicle while walking in South Florida, it’s wise to get legal advice as soon as possible after the accident. Seeking counsel from an experienced injury attorney in West Palm Beach without delay can help secure the compensation you deserve. Kogan & DiSalvo are among the area’s top personal injury firms, and we are eager to hear your story and see how we can help.
Causes of WPB Pedestrian Accidents
The Florida lifestyle lends itself to time spent outdoors. From the beautiful beaches to the bustling nightlife, Floridians are out in the streets. However, walkers as well as drivers are prone to distraction, and pedestrian accidents, wherein a person is hit by a motor vehicle are all too common across the state. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, one out of six people who died in a vehicular accident was a pedestrian. That year, more than 7,000 pedestrians were killed. West Palm Beach residents and visitors are wise to keep that alarming national statistic in mind as they enjoy their daily exercise or simply cross the street.
With so many rules of the road, it’s fair to ask how pedestrian accidents can happen. There are many ways in which pedestrians are vulnerable to being hit by a motor vehicle. A driver’s momentary lapse in concentration can be enough to cause a collision with a pedestrian. Taking one’s eyes off the road for even a mere second could reduce reaction time enough to leave a person in harm’s way. Though pedestrian accidents are often the result of such momentary lapses, many are a consequence of intentional distracted driving. A driver who is not fully engaged in the act of operating their vehicle is not fully aware of their surroundings. Using a cellphone to send a text, eating behind the wheel, or applying makeup while driving can all take a driver’s attention off the road.
Failure to Heed Traffic Laws
A motorist may cause a pedestrian accident because they failed to adhere to local traffic laws. These laws exist not simply to punish people who drive recklessly, but to protect the other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians sharing the road. Speed limits, right of way rules, road signs, following at a safe distance, stopping at intersections, and yielding are just some of the many ways drivers can help ensure the safety of others.
For instance, Florida Statute §316.130 establishes that drivers must yield to pedestrians using a crosswalk. If a driver receives a ticket at the scene of a pedestrian knock-down for failure to yield, the injured party may have a stronger claim for damages. Whether a collision between a pedestrian and a motor vehicle is the result of a traffic violation, your lawyer will investigate every angle of the accident and build a case that exposes where the driver went wrong.
Many infractions can result in injury to a pedestrian. Rolling stops, illegal U-turns, weaving in and out of traffic, running a stop sign, and failing to stop appropriately for a school bus are other examples of traffic infractions that can cause a pedestrian accident. When a driver fails to apply commonsense safety standards, they tend to move their vehicle in a way that a pedestrian cannot anticipate, placing the walker in serious jeopardy.
Dangerous road conditions, heavy rains, and poor visibility due to fog or darkness present additional risks to both pedestrians and drivers. Under these circumstances, drivers should exercise a higher degree of caution and actively look out for their own safety as well as others.
Impatience and Impairment
Pedestrian accidents often happen due to driver impatience. Drivers speeding to catch a yellow light run the risk of striking those in the crosswalk who are anticipating the vehicle will stop. Children and seniors especially lack the quick response needed to change course in time to avoid being struck.
Driver impairment is another cause of pedestrian accidents. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a big problem on Florida roadways. Not only does intoxication impair your judgment and your choice to drive, but it also slows down reaction time placing unseen pedestrians at risk of a knockdown. Impairment can also be caused by simple lack of sleep. Drowsy driving is dangerous. Drivers who can’t keep their eyes open need to pull over and rest.
Common Injuries Sustained by Pedestrians
Pedestrians stand to suffer serious injuries as a result of being hit by a car even if the collision occurred at a slow speed. Pedestrians often suffer broken bones, severe scrapes and bruises, dislocated joints, and spinal cord injuries. More catastrophic injuries include internal organ damage, paralysis, loss of limbs, or traumatic brain injury. Recovery from these types of injuries may require surgery, extensive physical therapy, and significant time off from work. It may be quite a long time before victims lives are restored to the quality they previously enjoyed. For some, their lives might never return to normal.
What if the Pedestrian Was Killed in the Accident?
Too often, pedestrian accidents end in death. In Florida, wrongful death claims must be brought within two years of the victim’s passing. Failure to bring a claim before the statute of limitations expires could end with a case dismissal. Two years is really not a lot of time for grieving families. Losing a loved one after an accident is a shattering experience, and litigation may be the last thing on the family’s mind. Just remember that handing the legal aspects over to a qualified professional can help set your mind at ease knowing that someone is looking out for your best interest.
What To Do if You are Struck by a Vehicle in Palm Beach County
The most important thing to do in the aftermath of a pedestrian accident is to self-assess your injuries. Accept medical care if paramedics arrive at the scene. Adrenaline can override any pain, and other symptoms may take time to develop. It is always a good idea to see a doctor within a day or two and document your injury with any doctor reports, hospital records, and photos.
If you are not taken by ambulance away from the scene, make sure to file a police report and exchange contact information with the driver and any witnesses. It is a good idea to retain legal counsel soon thereafter. When you are represented by a personal injury accident attorney, opposing lawyers representing the driver and the driver’s insurer will be unable to contact you directly. They will have to communicate with your attorney. These communications may happen quickly, so the sooner you retain an attorney, the sooner they will step in and get to work on your case.
Car and pedestrian accident lawyers have plenty to do in preparation for filing a lawsuit. Among their many tasks, your attorney will:
- Negotiate with the driver’s insurance company on your behalf
- Help with filing for No-Fault Benefits
- Obtain the police report documenting the accident
- Place any potentially liable government entities on notice of the claim
- Locate witnesses identified in the police report
- Engage the services of a private detective or other professional to obtain additional witness statements
- Work with experts to analyze the scene of the accident, take pictures, look for debris, identify skid marks, etc.
- Examine all medical records to assess injuries and prove damages
- Gather employment records and expense reports that show time away from work
What is the Deadline to File a Pedestrian Accident Claim?
The statute of limitations controls how long a plaintiff has to file a claim of negligence against a defendant. The time for bringing a case differs depending on whether the injured pedestrian lives or dies.
According to Florida Statute §95.11, the statute of limitations in personal injury cases is generally two years subject to certain exceptions. Working with a Florida personal injury attorney is the best way to preserve your legal rights and ensure that your lawsuit is filed before the statute expires.
Compensation for Victims of Pedestrian Knockdown Accidents
Damage awards will vary according to the age of the person injured, the severity of the injury, the impact of the injury on the plaintiff’s life and work, whether the pedestrian shares any liability for the accident, and other factors. In negligence lawsuits, damages fall into three types: economic, noneconomic, and punitive.
Economic damages are the actual financial losses incurred as a result of the collision. Examples of economic losses include ambulance and hospital bills, future medical expenses, lost wages to date, and future anticipated lost income.
Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, permanent scars and disfigurement, loss of intimacy with a spouse (known as “loss of consortium”), and loss of enjoyment of life. Compensation for non-economic damages tends to be a hotly contested part of the litigation.
Though punitive damages are less common in personal injury cases, Florida Statute §768.72 allows them if the evidence shows the plaintiff has a reasonable basis for the claim. The trier of fact (i.e. judge or jury) must also have clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is guilty of “intentional misconduct” or “gross negligence.” A defendant found guilty of committing such an offense will be ordered to pay an additional amount on top of the compensatory award.
Do Pedestrian Accident Cases Always Go to Trial?
Many people assume that to collect compensation for any type of personal injury, their case will first have to go to trial. While this is certainly an option for injured pedestrians, there are other ways to receive damages following an accident caused by negligence. In fact, in Florida, trial is not always the preferred route toward a monetary award.
If liability and injuries are uncontested, an injured pedestrian may be able to collect a fair settlement award through the driver’s insurance company. In some cases, this is possible without ever having to file a complaint. Depending on the circumstances of any car accident, settlements are sometimes preferable to trial. The process of filing an insurance claim is often simpler. Court cases can be unpredictable, time-consuming, and parties have no control over the outcome. A smooth settlement means that the pedestrian agrees to the award offered, and both parties can quickly move on with their lives. But be careful! Any offer received should be discussed with legal counsel prior to accepting. Low-ball offers are all too common in the insurance industry.
Most insurance carriers are not so quick to make a fair offer. These companies will fight to protect their profits. If liability is in question or the injuries are under scrutiny, they have no reservations about conducting a full investigation to shift blame onto the injured party and require medical evaluations by their own doctors. It is, therefore, highly recommended, that injured pedestrians send their attorneys to the negotiating table rather than attempt to settle alone.
Tell Kogan & DiSalvo About Your Pedestrian Accident
If you or a loved one were injured or killed in a pedestrian accident in West Palm Beach or elsewhere in South Florida, Kogan & DiSalvo offers an opportunity to win justice. Our dedicated team of lawyers, support staff, medical experts, and investigators will fight tirelessly on your behalf to secure fair compensation for your injuries and losses. Contact our offices today to learn more about your rights under Florida law. We look forward to hearing from you.