Florida’s crosswalk laws pertain primarily to pedestrians and vehicles. According to the Miami-Herald, nine of the 20 deadliest cities for pedestrians are all located in Florida, and Orlando was ranked as the deadliest. Over a 10-year span, 5,433 pedestrians died in Florida, giving the state a Pedestrian Danger Index of 182.0. The national Pedestrian Danger Index, for comparison, is only 55.3.
Crosswalk Rules for Vehicles
Florida statutes provide several rules for pedestrians and vehicles. While both bear responsibility for their actions, vehicles should always watch for pedestrians in crosswalks.
In most cases, the pedestrian will have the right of way.
- If an intersection with a crosswalk has a traffic control device in place, and the pedestrian has the signal—the right of way—the vehicle has to stop and let the pedestrian cross. Additionally, if the pedestrian is half-way through the crosswalk, the vehicle must wait for the pedestrian to finish crossing.
- If the crosswalk has signs, a vehicle must stop and let a pedestrian cross or finish crossing.
- In situations where a crosswalk doesn’t have signs or traffic control signals, a driver must give a pedestrian the right of way. The exception to this is when the pedestrian has an alternate crossing method, such as an overhead crossing or tunnel, then the vehicle has the right of way.
- A vehicle approaching a crosswalk where another driver is waiting for a pedestrian in the crosswalk cannot pass the waiting vehicle.
- The statutes also state that regardless of the rules, all drivers must take care to avoid running into a pedestrian in the crosswalk, including those with bicycles and other human-powered vehicles. Drivers must also watch for children and those who seem confused as they could step into the crosswalk at any time.
Drivers may receive a moving violation if they violate crosswalk laws. In addition to a lawsuit filed by an injured pedestrian or the loved ones of someone killed in a crosswalk, the authorities could even file criminal charges against the driver.
In some cases, a crosswalk accident happens because of the design of the crosswalk instead of the negligence of the driver or the pedestrian.
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.
Crosswalk Accident Injuries
The injuries you could suffer in a crosswalk accident depend on:
- The speed of the vehicle.
- Whether the vehicle hits you head-on or just nicks you.
- If another vehicle hits the vehicle that just hit you.
- The size and weight of the vehicle.
- Whether the driver sees you at the last minute or doesn’t see you at all.
Injuries could range from bumps, bruises, and scratches to serious injury or death. However minor you believe the injury, you should always seek medical attention immediately after an accident. Some traumatic brain injuries take time to show up. It could also be a few hours before you notice some internal injuries. The adrenaline rush you get during an accident often hides certain injuries, especially those not readily visible.
Additional injuries include:
- Soft tissue injuries, including pulled and torn muscles;
- Road rash;
- Strains and sprains;
- Simple and compound fractures;
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries; and
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
Open wounds, whether from the accident or from surgery to repair accident injuries, are easily infected, and those infections could lead to longer recovery times. Additionally, if you have an immunodeficiency, such as diabetes, wounds often take longer to heal. These instances are also recoverable in an accident injury case.
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.