If you spend time walking, especially in Florida, you are at risk of being hit by an automobile and sustaining serious injury. In the United States, the 10-year period between 2009 to 2018 had an increase of 53% in pedestrian fatalities. Five states (Florida, Texas, Georgia, California, and Arizona) accounted for 47% of those fatalities. Florida had 368 pedestrian fatalities between January-June 2019. If you are a pedestrian who is hit by an automobile, you need to speak to a pedestrian accident attorney. They will be able to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Keep reading to learn what a pedestrian accident attorney can do for you.
What to Do If Hit and Injured by an Automobile
Knowing what to do if you become injured in a pedestrian-vehicle accident is important so you can receive all the compensation you deserve.
- Get to a safe location—move off the street.
- Make sure the driver of the vehicle does not leave.
- Call 911—getting a police report of the events is important to your case.
- Take photos of the area and gather information from any witnesses.
- Do not make any statements that indicate you were in any way at fault.
- Seek immediate medical attention for any injuries you suffered—this is important for substantiating your claim of suffering an injury.
- Call an experienced pedestrian accident attorney.
Things to Be Aware Of
If you are injured, the insurance company will try to disqualify your claim. They are out to make money, not pay claims. Be aware of the following:
Police Report is Important
Calling 911 and obtaining a police report validates your claim. The police report will include how the accident occurred and names and contact information for any witnesses.
Immediately following the accident, seek medical treatment for any injuries you receive. Insurance adjusters will assume that a failure to seek immediate medical treatment means you did not suffer any serious injuries.
You can call the driver’s insurance company to open a claim, but do not give them any detailed information. Only state that you were a pedestrian hit by the driver, and provide the date, time, and location.
If you choose to make this call, do not give the insurance company any further information about the accident until you have met with an attorney. You do not want to say something that could harm your case. Do not agree to or sign any settlement documents they send you and do not cash any checks sent until you have talked with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Keep all receipts for expenses related to the accident. This includes medical bills, lost wages, and more. Do not destroy, repair, or clean any clothing you were wearing during the accident.
Be aware of any claims of inoperable traffic lights or other traffic control devices. While your main claim will be against the driver of the vehicle, if there were other contributing factors, you may be able to file a claim against the local municipality as well.
Even if you did not use the crosswalk, the driver is generally found to be at fault in a vehicle-pedestrian accident. This is because the driver has a legal obligation to operate their vehicle safely and prudently.
Pedestrians also have a duty of conduct to follow. The Florida Statutes 316.130 on pedestrians and traffic regulations sets forth the duties and obligations of both drivers of automobiles and pedestrians.
Pedestrian Accident Causes
There are a variety of reasons for accidents involving pedestrians and automobiles, including driver negligence, inattentiveness, distraction, or aggressive driving. Pedestrians can also contribute to the cause of an accident.
Being aware of your surroundings is essential to pedestrian safety. Distracted walking while messing with a cell phone can lead to pedestrian error. Be mindful of where you are walking, so you do not accidentally walk out in front of a vehicle.
You also need to be especially attentive when using crosswalks for drivers who may be making turns through an intersection or pulling out of parking areas near the crosswalk. Follow pedestrian walk/don’t walk signs at intersections.
Even if you, as a pedestrian, made an error resulting in the accident, do not admit this to anyone. Speak with an accident injury attorney who will know how to fight a comparative negligence claim.
Why You Need to Contact a Pedestrian Accident Attorney
When you are struck by an automobile, you will most likely sustain serious injuries. These can include emotional stress, physical injuries, loss of wages, and expensive medical bills.
While you are struggling to recover, the auto insurance company will try to claim you were at fault and may offer you a low-end settlement. A mistake people make when desperate to pay bills while off work is accepting such an offer. Once you accept a settlement, you will not be able to recoup the full compensation you are due.
Before you attempt to negotiate a settlement, contact a personal injury lawyer. The attorney will know how to evaluate your case and write a demand letter, which is the first step in trying to obtain a favorable settlement on your behalf.
What a Pedestrian Accident Attorney Does
Many people think hiring a personal accident lawyer is expensive or that it will mean they have to go to court. While there is always a possibility that the matter will go to trial, the majority of cases settle outside of court.
Personal injury cases are handled on a contingency agreement. This means that you do not pay attorney fees unless the attorney wins your case. When they obtain the settlement, their fee is a percentage of the settlement, usually around 1/3.
There are numerous steps the attorney will follow in obtaining a settlement or preparing for trial in your case. Civil litigation is an intense process, and it is best left to lawyers who are familiar with the law and procedures.
Gathering of Information
The first thing your attorney will do is gather information that will provide them with an analysis of the accident and your long-term medical prognosis. This includes the accident report, witness statements, medical records, and information from the driver’s insurance company regarding coverage. They will also gather any photographs, including the vehicle that hit you, the accident scene, and your injuries.
Initial Contact with the Insurance Company
Once the attorney has gathered information supporting your claim, they will send a demand letter to the insurance company. This will advise the company of your injuries and demand a settlement.
Very rarely will an insurance company settle upon receipt of this letter. An insurance adjuster will usually respond to the attorney and try to enter into negotiations.
Negotiations May Seem to be Lengthy
It may seem like the attorney is letting the case drag on without reaching a large settlement. This is because your attorney wants to make sure you have recovered enough that your doctor can make a reasonable assessment of your long-term prognosis and any permanent life-altering injuries. It may take months before a final medical analysis is complete.
Filing a Lawsuit
Your attorney will be aware of the statute of limitations and will file a lawsuit if a settlement is not reached within the legal time frame. They will prepare a complaint that lists the details of the accident and may contain one or more counts, the main usually being negligence.
In the complaint, the attorney must state what in the incident meets each of the four elements of negligence:
- Duty—the driver of the automobile had a duty to drive safely and prudently so as to avoid causing injury to others
- Breach of Duty—the driver of the vehicle breached that duty when they drove their car in a manner causing you, the pedestrian, injury
- Causation—that the driver’s failure to drive safely and prudently was the direct and proximate cause of you, the pedestrian, sustaining injuries
- Damages/Injury—that as a result of the driver’s negligence, you, the pedestrian, sustained serious and life-altering injuries and incurred damages in excess of a specified dollar amount.
After the lawsuit is filed, the driver will be served with the pleadings. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.140(a) requires the defendant to answer within 20 days of when they were served the paperwork. All pleadings, answers, affirmative defenses, and any other filings must follow the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
There will be a period of time for the filing of an answer, affirmative defenses, and possibly a counter-lawsuit. An answer must be filed on each of those pleadings in accordance with times set forth by law. There will also be demands for discovery made.
The court may require the parties to engage in mediation or arbitration to try to reach a settlement without a trial. If the parties are unable to resolve the matter, a trial date will be set, and the attorney will prepare for trial.
Preparing for trial is a time-consuming process. Your attorney will subpoena both lay and expert witnesses. They will review transcripts of any depositions held during discovery, prepare exhibits, and submit witness, expert witness, and exhibit lists to the court.
Represented Plaintiffs Receive Larger Settlements
It stands to reason that an insurance company will manipulate an injured layperson into accepting a settlement far less than what they deserve. Insurance companies know that a pedestrian accident attorney has the legal knowledge necessary to fight the case and will not settle a case for an inadequate amount.
The St. Petersburg law firm of Beltz & Beltz only represents victims who suffer injuries or the families of persons who die from injuries. We do not represent large corporations or insurance companies.
If you or a loved one is in a pedestrian-vehicle accident, contact us online or call us at 727-201-2690 (Pinellas) or 813-530-1971 (Hillsborough) to discuss your case. Call today!