With year-round sunshine, Florida is a popular place for pedestrians.
Unfortunately, it is also the most deadly place for pedestrians, with the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area being the most dangerous. In ten years, this region saw 295 pedestrian traffic accident deaths, according to a report by Smart Growth America.
Many of these deaths—and other severe injuries—resulted from accidents occurring while the pedestrian was in the crosswalk. Here is a look at Florida crosswalk laws and the process of seeking compensation after being injured in a pedestrian crosswalk accident.
What Are Florida’s Crosswalk Laws?
According to Florida’s traffic regulations on pedestrians, drivers in Florida must:
- Yield to a pedestrian who has stepped into the crosswalk when legally permitted.
- Remain stopped if a pedestrian is anywhere in the crosswalk on their side of the road or is approaching their side of the road and is within one travel lane.
- Refrain from passing other vehicles that are stopped at a crosswalk.
- Stop when turning, even on a green light, for a pedestrian in the crosswalk on the road they turn onto.
Note that Florida law considers all sides of an intersection a crosswalk, even if there are no crosswalk markings. That means that drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing at an intersection, even if there is no traffic signal indicating right-of-way or markings indicating that the pedestrian is in a crosswalk. The only exception is when street signage explicitly states that the intersection is closed to pedestrians.
Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right-Of-Way?
Contrary to popular belief, pedestrians in Florida do not always have the right-of-way. Pedestrians at crosswalks providing traffic signals must yield to other roadway users if the signal shows a steady Don’t Walk sign or the light is red. When entering a crosswalk with no signal, pedestrians are prohibited from crossing unless they have given approaching motorists adequate time to see them and stop.
How Florida’s Crosswalk Laws Assist Injured Pedestrians
If you have experienced an injury in a pedestrian accident that occurred in a crosswalk, the provision of Florida’s crosswalk laws can work in your favor. These laws designate that a crosswalk exists on all sides of the intersection, even if it is not marked. Additionally, laws may state that drivers must yield to you if you enter a signal-controlled crosswalk when during a lit Walk signal or at any non-signal controlled crosswalk. In these cases, courts should find the driver liable.
Why Does Liability Matter?
You cannot recover compensation without establishing legal liability! The personal injury claims process requires an individual to show that someone else’s negligence caused the accident.
Proving negligence requires these elements:
- The at-fault driver owed other roadway users a duty of care, which involves taking reasonable actions in a given circumstance to prevent the infliction of physical injuries and property damage on others. The general duty of care owed by motorists is to operate their vehicles safely and legally.
- The at-fault driver breached the duty of care upon approaching an intersection and failed to protect others from harm. This can include violating the state’s crosswalk laws by failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians entering or walking through the crosswalk. It can also violate other traffic laws, such as speeding, distracted driving, or alcohol-impaired driving laws.
- The breach resulted in a crosswalk accident and an injury. Your injury caused you to incur expenses and psychological effects.
The Evidence Needed to Prove a Crosswalk Accident Claim
Proving liability in a crosswalk accident may be possible with the following evidence:
- The police report. When an injury accident occurs, law enforcement personnel will generally go to the scene to investigate. Their investigation involves interviewing the parties involved and any eyewitnesses. The investigating officer will then put the details collected during their investigation into a report, including a narrative of how the accident took place.
- Photos from the scene. An injured pedestrian or a witness who can photograph the damage to the vehicle, visible injuries to the pedestrian, weather and traffic conditions, skid marks, and other features of the accident scene, can often determine how the accident occurred.
- Eyewitness statements. Eyewitnesses are often an important tool when attempting to prove liability. Individuals in proximity to the crosswalk can determine whether other traffic was stopped at the crosswalk, whether a signaled crosswalk indicated the pedestrian’s right-of-way, how fast the vehicle was going, and other details.
- Expert testimony from individuals such as accident reconstruction experts, who can examine the skid marks, the vehicle’s data recorder, and other evidence to determine how fast the motorist was traveling and whether they attempted to avoid the collision by braking.
In addition to the evidence listed above, you’ll need to present evidence to prove your expenses. This can include bills or invoices for medical treatment, pay stubs or other information from your employer that shows the income you lost due to missed time from work, opinions from medical experts about the future financial and psychological costs you will face from your injury, and testimony from mental health providers, family members, or even your employer about the psychological impacts of your injuries.
Other Florida Laws that Can Impact Your Crosswalk Accident Claim
In addition to crosswalk laws and general traffic code regulations, laws regarding your ability to seek compensation for your injuries can also impact your claim. Drivers in Florida must purchase at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
This coverage pays a portion of a driver’s medical expenses and wage loss after an accident, regardless of who fault for the accident. This coverage extends in many cases to the insured or those named on their policy for other accidents, including while walking or biking.
This coverage can be an important resource for an injured pedestrian, as it provides:
- Quick access to funds needed to pay for medical treatment or compensate for wage loss due to the accident.
- Compensation for less serious injuries that still result in medical expenses or missed days from work.
- Compensation for pedestrians who an unidentified hit-and-run driver injured.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is also an example of a Florida law that can impact a crosswalk accident claim. In Florida, if an injury occurs in a crosswalk accident, the injured party generally has four years from the accident to file their claim.
Suppose a family member of a pedestrian who died in a crosswalk accident wishes to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of their loss. In that case, they generally have two years from death to seek compensation. Failure to meet the statute of limitations can cost you the right to use the court system to seek compensation.
About Crosswalk Accidents in Florida
According to Metroplan Orlando, Central Florida just saw its highest number of pedestrian deaths ever recorded in a single year, with 89, just before the pandemic. Four out of every five fatal pedestrian accidents occur at night, and most pedestrian fatalities occur in working-age adults. National pedestrian accident statistics note that while three-quarters of these accidents occur in non-intersection areas of the roadway, close to a quarter occur at an intersection.
What Causes Crosswalk Accidents?
There are many reasons why crosswalk accidents occur.
Here is a look at some of the most common ones.
- Lack of visibility. Pedestrians are often difficult for drivers to see, particularly while wearing dark clothing at night.
- Inattentional blindness is not a medical condition but rather how the human brain processes information in a chaotic environment such as a crosswalk by focusing on the most significant hazards—such as large vehicles—while failing to recognize less imposing hazards, such as a person crossing the road.
- Distracted driving is a significant cause of all types of traffic accidents. Driver distractions include anything that causes the driver to take their hands from the wheel, eyes from the road, or minds from safe driving. One of the most common types of driver distraction is texting or cell phone use, as this is simultaneously a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction. Seconds of distraction are all it takes for a driver to go through a crosswalk without noticing pedestrians crossing.
- Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol can result in deficits in the skills a driver needs to operate a motor vehicle safely, including the ability to track moving targets (such as a pedestrian entering a crosswalk at the edge of the road) and make responsible driving decisions.
- Speeding decreases the amount of time a driver has to see a pedestrian entering a crosswalk and to respond by braking while increasing the distance their vehicle’s brakes need to pull the car to a safe and complete stop.
Road construction can force pedestrians to cross the road in an area where drivers do not expect to see them.
Contributing Factors to Crosswalk Injuries and Death
One of the biggest contributors to crosswalk injuries and death is the poor design of crosswalks. If a crosswalk is designed such that a driver cannot see around corners or his or her vision is otherwise impaired, the driver could easily hit a pedestrian.
The Florida Department of Transportation is looking into making its city streets safer for pedestrians. A report by the FDOT Transportation Symposium looked at several ways to slow vehicles down and make walking in Florida cities safer.
Some of the changes the Florida Department of Transportation is looking at include:
- Making certain crosswalks highly visible by changing them to special emphasis crosswalks. These would include crosswalks at school crossings, those in the middle of a block, and those at intersections with signals.
- Using fluorescent yellow/green sheeting on signs.
- Evaluating the placement of existing and new crosswalks, including performing engineering studies for areas that need additional crosswalks.
- Adding more visibility enhancements, including raised crosswalks (speed bumps), refuge islands for pedestrians, rapid-flashing beacons, in-street pedestrian crossing signs/gateways, and pedestrian hybrid beacons.
- Adding curb extensions.
- Adding warning lights in the middle of the road.
- “Road diets” to shorten turning lanes.
- Passive pedestrian detection at mid-block crosswalks.
- Connected vehicle applications.
Additional Contributing Factors of Crosswalk Accident Injuries and Death
In some cases, whether the crosswalk has a visibility problem or not, a defendant could be at fault because of his or her behavior. Driving erratically while distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol also contributes to crosswalk injuries and deaths.
Drivers are not always at fault. Florida law pertains to drivers and pedestrians. If a pedestrian is distracted by a cell phone and walks into a crosswalk without looking, he or she could suffer injuries or even death when he walks in front of a driver who already yielded and checked both directions before moving through the crosswalk.
The Type of Injuries Sustained in Pedestrian Accidents
Just as a pedestrian crosswalk accident can occur
in many ways, it can cause many injuries:
- Injuries to the lower extremities. For many pedestrians involved in accidents, the most severe injuries are incurred at the initial point of impact. For adult pedestrians, this is often the hip and leg area. Common injuries involving this area of the body include bone fractures to the hips, pelvis, legs, ankles, and feet, as well as damage to the joints of the knees and ankles or the muscles and other soft tissues of the leg.
- Head injuries. When a vehicle strikes an individual, the force can drive their body onto the hood or toss it through the air. Traumatic brain injuries can occur if the pedestrian struck their head on the vehicle’s windshield or the ground. Additional head injuries in a crosswalk accident may include lacerations to the face and damage to the eyes or teeth.
- Broken elbows and wrists from the pedestrian attempting to catch themselves with outstretched arms when falling.
- Road rash, also known as friction burn, comes from contact between the skin and a rough surface, such as asphalt.
Injuries to the spine or spinal cord from the impact of the crash.
In some cases, people who suffer crosswalk injuries need physical therapy, cognitive therapy, or psychological therapy. Physical and cognitive therapies could last weeks, months, or years, depending on the type of injuries.
After an accident that caused catastrophic injuries, the injured could require psychological therapy. Not working and long recoveries often lead to depression and anxiety. Gruesome accidents could cause a victim to suffer from the post-traumatic stress disorder.
In some cases, the surviving loved ones of a fatal accident might require psychological therapy to help recover from his or her loss.
Because the mind and body are different for everyone, doctors cannot tell how long a person might need therapy, regardless of the type. If your doctor advises you to schedule physical and cognitive therapy, let your attorney know as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one notice changes in your personality and/or changes in your life, such as insomnia, sleeping more than normal, feeling anxious or scared, aggressive behavior, or other changes, contact a mental health professional and let your attorney know if you start sessions.
Because you wouldn’t have required therapy but for the accident, you could recover the cost of those sessions, either through insurance or a cash settlement, if the insurance doesn’t cover all of the sessions you need.
When a driver injures or kills someone in a crosswalk, the injured person, or in the case of a death, the decedent’s estate, is often entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation you could receive depends on your injuries and losses. Florida has three types of recoverable damages available, including special (economic), general (non-economic), and punitive damages.
Special damages are those that have a monetary value. They include past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property, and funeral, burial, and cremation expenses.
Past medical expenses and lost wages are for those you incurred before a settlement or a trial award. Future medical expenses or lost wages are those your doctors expect you to incur after a settlement or a trial award. If doctors determine that your injuries caused a permanent disability, you could recover enough compensation to pay for medical expenses related to the accident for the rest of your life. You could also recover lost wages for the rest of your working life.
If you go back to work after an accident, but you can’t do your usual job and have to work for less, you could recover partial future lost wages. As with total lost wages, you could recover partial lost wages for the rest of your working life.
As with economic damages, non-economic damages are also compensatory damages, though general damages, or non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value. Additionally, courts usually order non-economic damages if they expect your injuries to last longer than a year or for the rest of your life.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress;
- Loss of companionship;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of quality of life;
- Excessive scarring and/or disfiguration;
- Loss of use of a bodily function or a body part; and
You could also receive punitive damages if the court determines that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional. Unlike economic and non-economic damages, which are compensatory damages, punitive damages are not. The court orders the defendant to pay punitive damages as a punishment for his or her actions.
As the plaintiff, you must show that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or intentional. If you cannot prove this to the court, it will likely deny punitive damages. Additionally, asking for punitive damages involves extra steps since Florida requires a bifurcated trial to obtain punitive damages. However, in some cases, it is well worth the trouble to seek punitive damages from the defendant.
Filing a Crosswalk Accident Injury or Wrongful Death Claim
After suffering injuries in a crosswalk accident or if you lost a loved one in a crosswalk accident, you have a short amount of time to file your claim.
Filing a Claim with the Insurance Company
Always let your insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurance company know you were in an accident. When you speak to the representatives, give them the date, approximate time, and the location of the accident; your contact information, and your attorney’s contact information.
The insurance companies will try to get more information from you. Refer them to your attorney. Even if you were not at fault, the representatives could attempt to twist your words to reduce a settlement or trial award, or to deny your claim. Attorneys are familiar with this tactic and know how to avoid this trap.
The amount of time you have to notify the insurance companies of your accident injuries depends on the insurance company. We advise notifying them as soon after the accident as possible—preferably the same or the next day.
Filing an Injury Claim with the Court
You have just two years to file a case with the court. If you decide to try settling first, it could take some time to work out a settlement. However, if the insurance company doesn’t come to a reasonable settlement, some of the work done, such as any accident investigations, review of medical records, and other evidence, is useful evidence at a later trial.
The time to settle a case depends on the insurance company, the amount of time they take to respond, and the offer they come back with. If you throw out a number, they will almost always try to talk you down. You do not have to accept any offer. If you believe that the insurance company’s offer is not fair and reasonable, you can withdraw from settlement negotiations and pursue a trial against the insurance company and defendant.
Orlando, FL 32814
My mom referred me to the law firm of Michael T. Gibson. She was involved in an auto accident and had a very positive experience with them. My experience was…