Getting into a car accident is always an unfortunate experience. You have to deal with the shock, the anger, and the potential ensuing litigation. In a typical scenario, most people are aware that they have to get out of the car and exchange information with the other driver if they so request it. But what happens if the accident involves a car hitting a pedestrian? Specifically, what if the person who was run over was crossing a sidewalk? What are your liabilities as a driver?
Do pedestrians have the right of way in Florida?
Florida Statutes 316.130 establishes that a driver at an intersection that has a traffic control signal must stop before entering the crosswalk and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian — with a permitted signal — to cross a roadway when the pedestrian is in the crosswalk. If there are no traffic control signals or signage, the driver shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if necessary to allow a pedestrian to cross the road. Therefore, yes, pedestrians have a right of way in Florida.
In addition, whenever a car has stopped at a marked crosswalk — or at an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection — to allow a pedestrian to cross the street, drivers coming from behind said stopped vehicle cannot overtake and pass the stopped vehicle. You must wait for the pedestrian to cross and the car in front to move forward before proceeding with your turn.
That being said, Florida law also states that any time there are intersections with traffic control signals, pedestrians cannot cross at any other place except the marked crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk, pedestrians are required to yield the right-of-way to all oncoming vehicles — and only cross the street at right angles to the curb. Also, pedestrians cannot suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it’s impossible for the driver to yield.
All of the above information notwithstanding, every driver is required to exercise due care to avoid hitting a pedestrian. So even if you have the right of way yet see from a distance that a pedestrian is about to cross the street, if you can safely slow down or stop, you have to do so.
What are the penalties for hitting a pedestrian at a crosswalk?
A violation of any of the provisions established by the pedestrian laws is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable by civil fines. However, this applies if a person is jaywalking, or if, as a driver, you don’t yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian who is not injured in the process — and you’re caught by a law enforcement officer.
Things get more complicated when you hit a pedestrian and the person is injured, killed, and/or if you drive away (hit and run). Florida Statutes 316.062 establishes a duty to render aid in an accident where a person is either visibly injured or if they request medical assistance. This assistance should be reasonable — including carrying or making arrangements for the transportation of the injured person to a hospital. By the same token, any time a person is injured — or if they die —Florida Statute 316.066 requires calling the police.
If a person is injured and you don’t comply with the above-mentioned laws, you’re exposed to civil penalties as well as to a personal injury lawsuit. And, if you commit a hit and run, you’re also exposed to criminal charges.
How can a lawyer help?
Getting legal representation can help you by starting a process called discovery. This is when your lawyers subpoena records and witnesses, take photographs of the scene of the accident, and request any surveillance video of nearby businesses to determine whether the pedestrian was in any way negligent. This is crucial, because Florida is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that if the pedestrian was partly negligent, any amount they can recover from you to pay for their injuries will be reduced in proportion to their own negligence — i.e. suddenly darting into the street or crossing the street diagonally in a way that made it difficult or impossible for you to stop on time.
Call Clark Law If You’ve Been in a Car Accident in Tampa Bay
If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, call us at (855) 680-4911 or schedule a free consultation. At Clark Law, we have experienced attorneys who regularly represent clients involved in motor vehicle accidents, and we can help you determine the best next step.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.