As a pedestrian or a bicyclist in the United States, you are in danger. You run the risk of being injured or killed while you are jogging around the neighborhood, walking your dog or biking to work. Florida in particular, because if its year-round warm weather, has a disturbing track record when it comes to pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths. If you are injured, or a loved one is killed, in a vehicle crash as a pedestrian or bicyclist in Florida, you should know your legal rights and options for financial assistance.
Is There a Risk of Injury or Death?
Both national and state data show that there is a high risk of injury or death for pedestrians and bicyclists in Florida.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Florida ranked first in the nation for its rate of pedestrian fatalities in traffic crashes for 2008. In the same year, it was second for its number of pedestrian deaths. For bicyclist fatalities in traffic accidents during 2008, Florida had the highest number, and second worst national rate.
The Florida Department of Transportation reported that of the 2,983 vehicle crash fatalities in Florida in 2008, 502 were pedestrians and 118 were bicyclists. During the same period, there were 128,162 vehicle crash injuries, where 7,878 were pedestrians and 4,380 were bicyclists.
Additional statistics from the Florida Bicycle Association state that Florida has 11 of the nation’s top 25 metro areas that are most dangerous to pedestrians and bicyclists. This is in comparison to all sizes of metro areas in the U.S. Florida has been ranked either first in the nation, or in the top three states, for both pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities every year since 2001. This approximately equates to 1 in every 10 U.S. pedestrian deaths and 1 in every 6 U.S. bicycle deaths occurring in Florida.
Who is at Fault?
It is possible that when an accident occurs, any combination of fault may lie with the pedestrian, bicyclist or driver. This fault may come from violating traffic laws or suffering distractions while driving or at an intersection. However, if a stop light is out of service, trees are blocking an intersection or the design of a highly trafficked area is poor, a state or local municipality or company may be at fault. Whether liability rests with the pedestrian, bicyclist, driver, car insurance company, city or other entity, depends on the circumstances of the accident, recovering damages is a possibility.
Why Should I See a Doctor?
If you or someone you know is the victim of a car, truck or other vehicle crash as a pedestrian or bicyclist, you have a right to receive medical and financial assistance. Most injuries sustained in these types of accidents, ranging from minor to severe, are compensable even if you do not have active vehicle or health insurance. Common types of pedestrian or bicyclist injuries include concussions, broken bones, brain, back or neck injuries, internal trauma and sometimes death.
In general, there are two classes of victims of pedestrian or bicyclist accidents. The first class contains people who do not have the money or health insurance to cover their injuries, so they avoid asking for medical or legal help. The second class is composed of people who do not think their injuries are serious enough to pursue legal action. Injuries can be more serious than they appear or they can become worse over time. No matter how seemingly minor, it is crucial to seek immediate medical and legal attention following an accident.
What Can I Recover?
Under Florida law, all drivers are required to purchase and maintain personal injury protection insurance (PIP) and property damage liability insurance (PDL) to keep their driver’s license and registration current. PIP insurance covers, among other things, medical costs of pedestrian and bicycle injuries or deaths that occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents. This coverage extends from the driver of a vehicle to pedestrians or bicyclists injured or killed in auto accidents.
In addition to medical costs, other damages you may be entitled to include financial support for pain and suffering, loss of wages and punitive damages. In the event of death, family members may be able to recover payment for funeral expenses and loss of companionship. It is important to contact a personal injury attorney to assess your case for all available recovery options.
Who Can Help?
No matter where you live, you should feel safe on sidewalks and roads. Pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and deaths are a major problem in Florida. It is highly likely that you may be hit by a car or other vehicle if you walk, run, or ride a bike in Florida, so you should know your legal rights. If you have recently experienced injuries as a pedestrian or bicyclist in a vehicle crash, or know someone who has been killed in one, promptly seek the counsel of a Florida personal injury lawyer to fight for the help and compensation you deserve.