In recent years, Florida pedestrians have had an increasingly difficult time. The most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that pedestrian accidents have risen nationwide, with fatal accidents rising approximately 9.5 percent in one year, which is statistically significant. While the cause of this spike in fatal accidents is only partially known, it is incumbent upon you and other pedestrians to know your rights. If you are injured, it can make a difference if you and your attorney have a good grasp of the fundamentals.
Statistics Show Disproportional Danger
While the national statistics show a sharp increase, Florida’s increase from 2014-2015, which is the most recent available data, is somewhat slower. Pedestrian accidents rose around 3 percent, while pedestrian fatalities rose 4.3 percent from the previous year. However, the data still shows an increase in pedestrians being injured on Florida streets, and it is important to try to figure out why such a phenomenon may be occurring. In Broward County, the rate of pedestrian accidents rose by approximately 3.5 percent, but in terms of total numbers, the county is second in the state in accidents (1,079). It is somewhat hazardous to be a pedestrian in Broward County.
A yearly study done by Smart Growth America (SGA) charts the rise of pedestrian danger in communities as a method of guiding potential urban planning. The trends found among both drivers and pedestrians give cause for comment. Perhaps most importantly, in almost 75 percent of accidents, the speed limit on the road was 40 mph or higher. This makes sense in terms of the percentage of accidents that were found to take place in urban areas or on arterial roads: approximately two-thirds.
Perhaps the most important statistic to be aware of, however, is that the index of pedestrian injuries and fatalities is somewhat skewed toward people of color and the elderly, for multiple reasons. In Florida, people of color make up approximately 46 percent of pedestrian deaths despite being approximately 35 percent of the state population. This also tracks with the increase in danger in lower-income areas, which are disproportionately populated by people of color and older people and also tend to be less well-maintained.
Know Your Rights
If you are in an accident as a pedestrian, you have roughly the same rights as you would if you had been driving or riding in a car – arguably more, depending on the nature of the accident. Florida law explicitly sets out the rules for roadway interaction between drivers and pedestrians, and breaching them will often render a driver liable. Most auto accident cases are mounted in civil court under a theory of negligence law.
There are four parts to a standard negligence case, and all of them must be shown, or you will not have proved your case.
- The first requirement is that it must be shown that a duty of care existed between the driver and the pedestrian – this is stipulated in the relevant statute.
- The second is that the duty must be shown to have been breached – that is, that the driver allegedly did not exercise due care in operating his or her vehicle. Many times, though not always, this can be shown by the nature of the plaintiff’s injuries or via accident reconstruction that may show, for example, a high rate of speed or failure to stop.
- The third showing that must be made is to say that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused directly by the defendant’s conduct with no supervening cause present. If a supervening cause is present, one can still allege that but for the defendant’s conduct, the plaintiff would not have been harmed, but it is a more difficult case to mount.
- The last factor that must be established is that the plaintiff actually suffered significant harm – not necessarily physical harm but damage to his or her person or mind that adds up to more than mere fright or minor injuries.
Seek Skilled Representation to Help You
Even if you are aware of all the statistics and you practice every safeguard you can, such as looking both ways, crossing only at crosswalks, and always being on guard, you still might be involved in an accident. If you have been injured as a pedestrian, The Law Office of Joseph J. LoRusso, P.A., can help. Contact our Fort Lauderdale pedestrian accident firm today to set up an initial appointment.