If you enjoy walking to keep fit or enjoy the outdoors, or if you depend on it as a means of getting around, you are doing good things for both your cardiovascular health and for the environment. Florida’s sunny climate is conducive to walking, but unfortunately this ordinarily healthy activity comes with a risk. You could be hit by a car, truck, or other motor vehicle. You may be on this website because you already have been injured as a pedestrian. Or perhaps the worst has happened and you’ve lost a beloved family member to a pedestrian fatality. The premature loss of life and the limitations imposed by catastrophic pedestrian injuries are tragic in any case, and even more so when the victim was innocent of any wrongdoing but was struck down by a careless or negligent driver. You may feel overwhelmed by the injustice!
Fortunately, Florida law makes it possible for you to recover compensation from the party or parties who caused your injury or loss. Now, that may sound crass, because money can never really compensate for the loss of a loved one or of the soundness of your body. But given that it is impossible to undo the harm you’ve suffered, obtaining a monetary recovery at least gives you some measure of justice and can enable you to care for yourself and your family in the face of your losses. It is also a way to force the person whose wrongdoing did so much harm to face up to it and accept the responsibility, and may even help deter that type of negligence in the future.
For four years in a row, Florida was determined by researchers to be the most deadly state in the nation for pedestrians. The Florida Department of Transportation, in an effort to dispel this unwanted cause for notoriety, has been working diligently with local law enforcement agencies and engineering departments to make our state a safer place—for residents and visitors who wish to enjoy our year-round warm climate, beaches, and attractions without being fearful for their lives and health. In 2014, Florida’s pedestrian fatality rate hit a 20 year low, and our ranking dropped from number one in pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 population down to number 5.
That’s clearly an improvement, but far from being acceptable. Too many people who chose to walk for exercise or necessity are losing their lives and their health when they are struck by motor vehicles. Approximately 500 pedestrians perish walking on Florida’s roads, and occasionally on sidewalks, each year in close to 9,000 accidents with motor vehicles.
If you or a family member belongs to this unfortunate segment of the population, you should exercise your right to claim appropriate compensation. Your first step is to consult with a Florida personal injury attorney to determine if you have a case. In the Tampa Bay area, you may obtain a free pedestrian accident consultation by calling the law offices of attorney Stephen Maltezos to learn about your legal options.
In an attempt to limit the amount of litigation stemming from Florida auto accidents, the state legislature passed Florida’s no-fault insurance law, requiring drivers to carry a form of insurance called PIP or personal injury protection. If you are injured as a pedestrian, you will first turn to the PIP protection offered by your own insurance company, assuming you own a car. If you don’t own a vehicle, the PIP insurance of the car that hit you will cover you. In the absence of insurance on that vehicle, if you live in a household with a family member who owns a car with the required insurance, that policy may apply in your case. PIP pays a percentage of medical expenses and lost earnings up to a total of $10,000. This doesn’t go very far when your injuries are serious, and is unlikely to cover all of your losses. Furthermore, it doesn’t provide any compensation for the pain, suffering, and disability that you’re experiencing.
Your lawyer will advise you on identifying how to apply for PIP benefits and will inform you of the rules you’ll need to follow. For example, you will need to be examined by a medical doctor or certified nurse practitioner (not a chiropractor) within 72 hours of the accident. It is important to let the doctor know that you’ve been in an accident and to document all injuries, including those that seem minor. Minor injuries often turn into major ones over time, more often than you might suspect.
Be honest and very thorough. If you have back issues that you feel might benefit from chiropractic, talk to your doctor. No-fault won’t pay for chiropractic treatment unless you have a referral from a medical physician. Keep all follow-up appointments, fill your prescriptions, and follow your doctor’s advice to the letter. If the doctor says don’t lift anything over 15 pounds, see that you don’t! This could be extremely important when it comes to resolving your case. You will likely be under surveillance by the insurance company to determine if your activities are as restricted as you claim they are.
The insurance company for the vehicle that hit you will be responsible for damages beyond the amount covered by Florida no-fault insurance, provided you can prove that the driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle. Because Florida is a comparative negligence state, you may be able to recover money even if you were partially to blame—up to 50 percent. But your recovery will be usually reduced by the percentage of blame that falls upon you.
All dealings with the defendant driver’s insurance company should be handled by your lawyer. But you should expect an insurance adjuster to try to persuade you to negotiate on your own. Don’t fall for it. The adjuster knows what you don’t—the true value of your case ̶ and will probably try to get you to settle for much less than it’s worth.
The adjuster will want to take a recorded statement from you and will usually ask you to sign some papers. Don’t allow either. Your lawyer will have you provide everything the law requires in due time, but not at the beginning of the case, before the extent of your damages is known. Until instructed by your own attorney, do not provide any information or authorizations to the insurance company.
You, through your attorney, will need to prove that the driver was negligent in operating the vehicle, and that the negligence resulted in your being injured. You will also need to prove your damages. Economic damages are pretty straightforward, because your lawyer will gather and produce medical bills, receipts, and payroll documents to back up your claim. A bit trickier is proving your non-economic damages—the ones that affect your quality of life: pain, suffering, disability, emotional anguish, loss of ability to enjoy your life, and so forth. These vary among individuals, and may depend on what your life was like before the accident. If you enjoyed painting or sculpting and you lost the use of your dominant hand, this would affect you to a greater extent than if you preferred to spend your leisure time reading.
Your personal injury lawyer will fight to ensure that you get every penny you have coming to you. Usually a trial is not required, because insurance companies usually prefer to avoid that expense and uncertainty; but make sure the lawyer you hire is willing to take your case to a jury and experienced in conducting jury trials. Although Steve Maltezos can usually negotiate a fair settlement for you, he is an experienced trial lawyer who will never hesitate to take your case to a jury if needed.
These are the elements that your lawyer will need to prove:
Of course the pedestrian also has a duty to exercise care, including using crosswalks, paying attention to traffic lights when crossing streets, paying attention to the road, and so forth. The defendant will usually try to blame the accident on you. Even if you were partially to blame, you can recover money, but it may be reduced by your share of the blame.
Your lawyer will investigate, interview witnesses and obtain their statements, hire specialists to reconstruct the accident scene when necessary, and examine any available video from traffic cameras to help you prove that the driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle.
Unfortunately, many pedestrian crashes cause fatalities. If you have lost a close family member in a pedestrian accident, your family may bring a claim for damages on the victim’s and their own behalf. A Florida wrongful death action is brought by a personal representative for the deceased person’s estate and surviving family members who are eligible to recover under the state’s wrongful death law. Your personal injury lawyer will assist you in having the Probate Court assign the personal representative.
The estate may claim damages for medical expenses prior to death, funeral and burial expenses, and the deceased’s lost current and future earnings and benefits.
The survivors may claim compensation for loss of the deceased person’s support and services, loss of companionship and protection, parental instruction and guidance, and any medical or funeral expenses paid out of pocket.
These cases can be complicated, and family relationships must be sorted out and documented to determine which survivors are entitled to recover.
Wrongful death cases can be emotionally wrenching for the family. Having a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney handling the details can make the process less stressful and allow you and your family to focus on working through your grief, rather than being bogged down in legal tasks.
When your life has been affected by injuries or wrongful death from a pedestrian accident in West Central Florida, attorney Stephen Maltezos is available to provide compassionate and knowledgeable legal assistance for you and your family. He cares deeply about each of his clients and is aggressive in the pursuit of justice when you have lost so much. Call to arrange a free consultation at one of Steve’s two offices in Tampa or St. Pete, or if you can’t travel to the office, he will come to meet with you anywhere in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties.
In the service of equal access to justice for everyone, regardless of financial means, Steve Maltezos accepts personal injury cases on a contingency retainer, so you only pay after you win. You will never pay any money out of pocket, either for legal fees or expenses. If for any unlikely reason you fail to recover money in the case, you will owe nothing. With nothing to lose and so much to gain, call Maltezos Law now. The time to file your claim is limited by Florida law, so don’t wait. Call for your consultation today.