Florida is home to nine of the top 20 cities with the highest rates of fatalities involving pedestrians. At the start of 2019, an online newspaper published the "Dangerous By Design" dossier that noted 35.7% pedestrian deaths in the period between 2008 and 2017.
During this time, a whopping 49,340 people died across the US, which translates to an upwards of 13 pedestrian-related fatalities in any given day. These disturbing statistics point to a negative trend, especially for a city that was built for speed. If you enjoy taking a stroll in the city streets or your neighborhood in Clay County, there is a likelihood of being struck by a vehicle.
Reports indicate that most accidents occur when there is low visibility – after nightfall – and most pedestrian accidents happen in the city as compared to rural areas. To this end, the NHTSA is working on revising the federal automobile safety standards to add "performance-based standards" for headlight systems. Every car model will be tested to see if its headlight system is correctly aimed at the road with particular consideration for height and lighting performance. More so, these encounters mostly happen on crosswalks or by the side of roadways, which points to drivers' fault.
With most actions of pedestrian accidents being a result of driver’s negligence, we at the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney advise you to seek compensation for damages and injuries sustained. We will help you file a compensation claim and ensure the driver is held liable for your damages.
What is Causing Pedestrian Deaths in Florida?
Apart from drivers cruising down the roads at high speeds, the rising number of pedestrian fatalities can be attributed to other factors. To start with, more people die in rough neighborhoods than in middle-income and wealthy areas. Also, minorities and older people stand a higher chance of being struck even when walking on the curb.
A driver could be intoxicated or distracted, thus leading them to veer off the lane and hit a pedestrian walking their dog or worse still, carrying their baby in a stroller. Distracted driving, in particular, is the leading cause of pedestrian crashes in the state and elsewhere.
It is not atypical to spot drivers shifting their focus to use electronic devices, adjust the radio controls, grooming, chatting with fellow passengers, or merely spacing out. These and many other distractions undermine road safety laws and expose law-abiding pedestrians to danger. Passersby can also be struck when jaywalking or crossing the roads at a slower pace than what drivers anticipate.
Other reasons why these pedestrian accidents happen are as follows:
- Drivers refusing to stop when the stop sign is up
- Slowdowns due to dense traffic, poor weather conditions, or high human traffic
- Losing control perhaps due to car maintenance problems
- Not yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk or failure to stop in time
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration derived that the rising popularity of trucks and SUVs has played a significant hand in these fatal incidents. The report found such vehicles are more likely to kill a pedestrian when an accident occurs as compared to the traditional sedans.
Smart Growth America and Complete Streets Coalition commissioned the "Dangerous By Design" study in response to the skyrocketing deaths involving pedestrians. They put forward a few suggestions to ensure that American roads are safe for all road users, thereby saving thousands of lives. Individual states need to design safer streets with slower traffic coupled with reasonable intersections, bike lanes, and sidewalks wherever they are required.
Parts of Florida, with booming retirement communities and high traffic of tourists, usually have more pedestrian deaths as more people flood the streets at any given time. Advocates for pedestrian safety have been asking for longer signal times to allow ample time for older people, the sick, and people with disabilities crossing roads.
Complete Streets Coalition in Florida
As noted earlier, the Sunshine State is devoted to realizing the aims of the Complete Streets Coalition, but there is a dire need to present training and educational workshops on these objectives. Innovation is yet another great avenue where officials could brainstorm on new methods of reducing pedestrian deaths in cities and rural areas.
The current roads were designed in an era of burgeoning growth patterns which necessitated wider roads and street engineering that prioritized driving at high speeds over pedestrian safety. Moreover, these early designs failed to factor in mass transit, and more people are opting to commute on foot or for exercise, to avoid traffic jams, or to keep their carbon footprint low.
In light of the above harrowing statistics, Florida must make radical changes to ensure that roads and highways are safe for everyone, and not just drivers. Holding drivers who crash into pedestrians accountable is not enough; these injuries and deaths must be prevented in the first place.
Changing procedures, reviewing road designs, training, and implementing new laws are noble, but these measures add up to naught without measuring performance periodically. This vital step begins with drafting new benchmarks of achievement for all modes of road usage to track safety parameters. Hard data will come in handy when gathering funds for additional road safety projects.
What are Pedestrian Laws in Florida?
It is easy to pass the blame squarely on bad drivers, but we cannot forget the role pedestrians play in causing these preventable crashes that end in injuries and fatalities. It is vital you familiarize yourself with the prevailing pedestrian laws in this jurisdiction.
Firstly, the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) highly recommends pedestrians only to cross the road at crosswalks and look both sides before crossing. Bicycle users must turn on their lights when cycling at night and wear reflective clothing to enhance visibility. The law also requires cyclists to move in the direction of traffic to avoid confusion with automobile users.
Other Florida statutes for pedestrians crossing roads are as follows:
- Pedestrians must cross at a right angle or via the shortest path unless when using a marked crosswalk
- If you pass the way away from a crosswalk, then you must yield to the right-of-way for all cars
- You must only cross intersections at diagonal angles unless told otherwise by an authorized traffic control device
- Nobody should stand in the portion of a road delegated for vehicular traffic, to conduct business, ask for a ride, or other purposes
- Pedestrians cannot cross between two adjacent intersections unless when using a marked crosswalk.
- You must adhere to traffic signals such as stopping at a red light and not leaving the curb until the light turns green
- Pedestrians cannot abruptly start walking or running into the path of traffic
- Walk or jog only on the right half of crosswalks
- If there is no crosswalk, pedestrians must use the left side of the road to remain in plain view of oncoming vehicles
- Pedestrians are prohibited from entering a bridge, or railroad crossing after a signal is conveyed
Even with these pedestrian laws in place, we still find many road users not obliging for one reason or another, and this becomes a huge problem for drivers. The state is unrelenting in its efforts to ensure pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers can use its roadways without getting injured or dying. In 2018, Florida embarked on a multi-dollar project to improve sidewalks and driveways, so they are safer for pedestrians, in addition to improving the drainage system.
The DOT also launched an initiative dubbed "Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow," which is focused on bolstering pedestrian and bicycle users’ safety, especially in the cities. This campaign is part of the Florida Transportation Plan (FTP) along with Florida's Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) for the same objectives. DOT has partnered with Jacksonville's Jaguars and other organizations to promote road safety for pedestrians across the state.
Types of Accidents Involving Pedestrians in Clay County
The above regulations and initiatives by Florida's DOT are noble, but they are not foolproof as evidenced by the rising cases of roadside crashes injuring and killing pedestrians. Accidents of various degrees can occur in several ways, and the impact on pedestrians is different.
These accidents usually unfold when a pedestrian is attempting to cross an intersection very quickly, but they miscalculated the time needed to complete it. An incoming driver may not have enough time to react accordingly, so they run into the pedestrian, injuring them in different ways. The degree of injuries varies depending on the speed they were hit at, among other factors such as the age of the victim.
Even simple walking to the front steps or across a parking lot is an arduous task for older people, let alone crossing a busy road. Their bones are increasingly brittle with age, and they cannot walk as briskly as younger people. Please note, anyone can be a victim of intersection accidents even when they are taking extreme caution by following the required traffic regulations.
Street vendors are ubiquitous in cities with high human traffic due to business or tourist activities such as Clay County. These vendors selling fruit, clothing, crafts, etc. stand a risk of accidents as drivers cruise past them. Food and ice cream trucks are beloved by children and should an accident occur; everyone queuing for meals or snacks is at risk of being injured or killed.
When a negligent driver fails to notice pedestrians after a bus or other car ahead of them has stopped, this kind of crash is called a passing accident. These drivers could be in a rush and attempt to pass the vehicles which have purposely slowed down or stopped as pedestrians cross.
Vehicles turn and merge accidents
These accidents happen when the driver tries to merge into traffic or make a turn, but they fail to check for pedestrians in the vicinity. Someone could be walking near the truck or another vehicle away from the view of side mirrors, and the car runs into them by accident.
These sorts of crashes are typical when a driver is backing up without using the rearview mirror or at least turning to see if there is someone behind the vehicle. A pedestrian standing by or walking past this vehicle in a parking lot or street parking gets hit, albeit at minimal speeds in most scenarios.
Accidents happen due to a pedestrian fault when they enter a road suddenly thus confusing drivers as they may not have enough time or room to swerve. In some instances, a dart-out accident can result from a driver's view being obstructed by another car, so it looks as if the pedestrian appeared suddenly. Walkers are called upon to be wary of such events, so they are not inadvertently hurt by drivers without a proper view of the crosswalk.
Types of Injuries Incurred by Pedestrians Struck by Vehicles
In any of the above fateful events, the pedestrian is likely to incur an array of damages on various parts of the body from the head to limbs, not to mention internal injuries. The level of damage is usually based on the size of the car, what speed the driver was going at, the center of gravity, height, and weight of pedestrians, the angle of impact, etc. If you are involved in any of the six accident scenarios described above, you could experience the following injuries:
Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
Head injuries are common when someone is struck by a vehicle at high speeds. You could suffer a mild concussion that lasts a few days or suffer severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) that could have life-altering consequences. For example, the trauma to certain parts of the brain can lead to personality changes leaving you vulnerable to volatile emotions, physical belligerence, diminished impulse control, and impaired memory impairment.
The resulting emotional anguish, lack of trust, and a plethora of unresolved conflicts can make life unbearable at work, home, and other social situations. People with TBIs are also at risk of hurting others with their verbal and physical aggression, a major red flag that can prevent you from holding down a job. In extreme cases of head and brain injuries, the pedestrian may succumb and die soon after or while undergoing treatment.
Face and Neck Injuries
When a car going at high speeds hit a pedestrian, they are likely to strike the hood or windshield upon impact, thus injuring the face or upper body region. Research shows that 38% of such victims end up with varied damages to the face, neck, and head. Apart from the TBI-related side effects, you could suffer lacerations across the face, break your nose, twist the neck, etc.
Being hit by a speeding vehicle exerts a blunt force that causes internal injuries that may not be detected right after the accident. Internal injuries may involve critical organs such as the bladder, liver, kidneys, or the pancreas, triggering more significant health problems. Treating these vital organs is a delicate process that may not yield the desired results even when specialists are involved. Internal injuries are detrimental, and you could end up with physical limitations that keep you from working and enjoying life in general.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The impact of intersection accidents can damage the nerves in the spinal cord, thus leading to partial, momentary, or full-on paralysis. Apart from the debilitating pain during rounds of treatment, you may need extensive rehabilitation to restore the spinal cord. Some injuries are so severe that physicians may recommend surgery to restore your spine, and these interventions don't come cheap.
These are yet another commonality in pedestrian accidents, and their severity means insurance providers usually take them more seriously. Insurance adjusters use a multiplier of 4 or 5 or more to compute the full settlement amount to cover medical costs and accompanying losses. Examples of hard injuries you may encounter include cracked limbs and dislocated joints such as the shoulder or hip, and they typically cause intense pain. A qualified physician may recommend hip replacement surgery and multiple sessions of physical therapy to restore your limbs.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD)
Being involved in a pedestrian accident – whether you were at fault or not – is adverse and the ensuing injuries can adversely impact your psychological wellbeing. The non-physical damage can be in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a mental health condition that comes after experiencing or witnessing a dreadful event.
PTSD symptoms include recurring nightmares, crippling anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the accident, insomnia, among others. The adverse outcomes don't stop there; you may feel emotionally numb, hopeless, and find it hard to establish and grow relationships. Symptoms can subside over time with proper self-care and other interventions like attending counseling and upholding an exercise regimen. If not handled well, PTSD could keep you from performing at your level best and holding down a job becomes an uphill battle.
You can expect some form of dental damage following an accident either from direct contact with the subject vehicle or land on the pavement. Harm to your mouth and teeth includes chipped teeth (a small part of your teeth may come off thus needing repair with a composite material); avulsed teeth (teeth coming off their sockets, so you need a crown); or dislodged teeth (teeth may be twisted upon impact). All these issues call for dental treatments that will cost money, not to mention the discomfort and time spent going for appointments.
Torso and Rib Injuries
Once again, blunt force trauma to the torso area is collective in pedestrian accidents, for example, if a drunk driver failed to yield at a designated stop sign. Penetrating chest trauma happens if an object pokes the skin and hurts the ribcage, for instance. Torso and rib injuries can lead to additional damage that could go undetected until a more significant health issue has manifested. There are various kinds of torso and rib injuries; a collapsed lung, sucking chest wound, and flail chest.
Compensation by Negligent Drivers in Pedestrian Accidents
Apart from reimbursing you for treating the above injuries, the driver who is at fault will be asked to pay for lost wages, permanent disability, emotional and physical pain, and loss of consortium. If the pedestrian dies, their family may file a wrongful death suit against the driver to pay for funeral expenses and take care of their dependents.
Estimating your total losses from a pedestrian accident is not an easy task as you could underestimate bills and end up taking a much lower settlement. Hiring our qualified Clay County personal injury lawyer means we get to handle this sensitive task on your behalf, so you are not bullied by the other person's attorney and insurance adjuster. With a broad perspective, we shall consider these extra expenses and loses, you may incur in the foreseeable future:
- Lost income during recovery and subsequent medical treatments
- Medical bills for additional treatments related to current injuries
- Loss of earning capabilities, e.g., having to abandon your trade
- Buying prescriptions and medical supplies
- Other loses linked to your diminished economic contribution
What Can I Do Following a Pedestrian Accident?
Personal injury cases involving pedestrians are common in Clay County and greater Florida as these accidents keep happening despite the enforcement of traffic safety laws. The driver may speed off to avoid taking responsibility, or they may stop then blame you for causing the accident. Call the paramedics for help, and if you are in a position to document the scene by taking photographic evidence with your phone. Ask for the driver information such as insurance details and their license number before the authorities arrive. You will also need to speak to witnesses to hear their side of things and take down their contacts as well in case your attorney needs to talk to them.
When dealing with these types of cases, our team of lawyers usually determine fault by examining the evidence gathered from these sources:
- Witness statements
- The official accident report
- Surveillance footage
- Mobile phone records
- Black box recording
- History of the driver
Even if you suspect you contravened pedestrian laws in any way, you should not admit fault until you retain an attorney to represent you. Clay County Personal Injury Attorney has a wealth of experience handling numerous personal injury cases and winning big for our clients. If you are in this predicament, do not hesitate to contact us at 904-494-8242 so we can start working on your injury settlement package.