Do Pedestrian Bridges Actually Prevent Accidents?

May 13, 2022
Do Pedestrian Bridges Actually Prevent Accidents?

Pedestrian Bridges May Do More Harm Than Good 

When pedestrians are forced to cross high-traffic areas without crosswalks, motorists often have a difficult time anticipating their movements. To combat this issue, some state and local governments have installed pedestrian bridges over roadways to reduce the instances of pedestrian accidents. While these structures are intended to provide safety from the risk of car accidents, are these pedestrian bridges creating new risks as well?

What Are Pedestrian Bridges?

Pedestrian bridges vary from enclosed crosswalks connecting buildings to wooden bridges spanning gaps in terrain to caged metal walkways over highways. While their purpose is to divert pedestrians and even bicyclists from engaging with traffic, their appearance and accessibility can generate the opposite effect. When pedestrians attempt to cross roads that have pedestrian bridges instead of street-level crosswalks, their unexpected presence combined with a negligent driver can become a tragedy. If you've been injured in a pedestrian accident, a personal injury attorney can help you determine liability and recover damages in a lawsuit.

Are Pedestrian Bridges the Answer to Florida's Alarming Pedestrian Accident Rate?

Limited public transportation options mean that many Florida residents are left with no choice but to walk. Some attribute this status to Florida's prioritization of cars, as the state has purposefully designed roadways for their benefit. According to the NHTSA, Florida lost 713 pedestrians to accidents in 2019, making it one of the most dangerous states in the nation for pedestrians. In theory, pedestrian bridges in downtown areas and along highways should alleviate this issue by being the best of both convenience and safety, but they don't always meet expectations. 

Defective Pedestrian Bridges Can Kill Both Bystanders and Motorists

In the case of the 2018 pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University, the bridge debris claimed numerous lives and jeopardized public safety. In a civil lawsuit, government contractors who constructed the bridge and the parties tasked with reviewing would have been the first parties those harmed would have looked at as parties liable for the damages caused by negligent bridge maintenance and design. Organizations like the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy advocate for a complete paradigm shift, recentering pedestrians and their safety instead of accommodating motorists. In the meantime, pedestrians have few recourses until the unimaginable happens; after they have been injured, they can seek compensation for hospital bills, therapy, and even property damage.

Pedestrian Bridge Accessibility Issues Can Limit Their Usefulness in Avoiding Accidents

Even properly constructed pedestrian bridges are not without their drawbacks. Elevated pedestrian bridges typically have long, steep stairways or ramps leading up to them, which poses a hazard for many pedestrians trying to make their way safely across traffic.  Although the Americans with Disabilities Act has attempted to rectify this with specifications for pedestrian ramps, some wheelchair users and elderly people with mobility aids report feeling hesitant to use pedestrian bridges, especially when Florida's wet weather compromises the traction of their equipment.  It's not just the elderly and people with disabilities who have concerns. University of Florida students have expressed that shoddy design exacerbated by poor maintenance makes them skeptical of using a metal pedestrian overpass spanning I-75, resulting in students walking or riding bikes along the highway.

Pedestrian Bridge Issues Regarding Nighttime Use

Anti-pedestrian bridge advocates have pointed out that pedestrians, especially women, may feel unsafe using dark bridges obscured from public view, believing that they could be mugged or sexually assaulted. Pedestrians may perceive it as too much of a risk and opt for crossing the road in the dark, even sans a crosswalk.  It's common knowledge that nighttime is when most deadly pedestrian accidents occur, and the rate of nighttime pedestrian fatalities is increasing nationwide. In many cases, drivers didn't see the pedestrian until it was too late. Pedestrians should familiarize themselves with our safety tips, especially if they walk in high-risk areas.

Understanding Liability in a Nighttime Pedestrian Accident

When inadequate lighting is a factor, this can lead to questions about who is liable for a nighttime pedestrian accident. Just like motorists, pedestrians have the right to use the road and all public walkways without fear of harassment or injury.  While a pedestrian's careless behavior, like darting out into the road, can be the cause of an accident, driver negligence is also often a factor. Victims should seek out a personal injury lawyer who is qualified to determine who is at fault in a nuanced case and pursue damages on their behalf in a pedestrian accident lawsuit.

The Aftermath of a Florida Pedestrian Accident

After a pedestrian accident, the first thing you should do is seek medical assistance, even if you don't think you've been seriously injured. Pedestrians should also contact law enforcement and attempt to document the scene, provided that it is safe to do so. Failing to seek treatment immediately after an accident can have serious consequences. You could suffer a traumatic brain injury that when left undiagnosed and treated will develop complications that may compromise your ability to speak or carry out daily tasks.  Even worse, the failure to seek treatment right away can negatively affect how credible a pedestrian accident claim appears to the insurance company. Catching smaller injuries before they spiral can save you both money and pain.

Gathering Evidence After a Pedestrian Accident

After being injured by a car, pedestrians should also take pictures, videos, and when applicable, collect statements from third-party witnesses as long as this does not get in the way of seeking emergency treatment. Try to get the information of the emergency first responders that show up at the accident since they can provide useful documentation like police reports.  By properly chronicling the aftermath, your lawyer can use your documentation as evidence when seeking compensatory damages in your pedestrian accident lawsuit.

Drivers Can Be Held Liable for Negligence in a Pedestrian Accident

Drivers are the most common culprits in a pedestrian accident, in part because of their behavior, but also because of the rules of the road. Under most circumstances, pedestrians have the right of way. However, when a pedestrian bridge is provided, Florida law dictates that pedestrians must yield to traffic That does not eliminate a driver's responsibility to operate their vehicle safely while sharing the roadway, but it does complicate the issue of liability for a pedestrian seeking damages from a driver. When the driver's negligent behavior resulted in a breach of duty to the pedestrian, it's a different story. The presence of pedestrian bridges can lead drivers to the false assumption that they do not need to be on the lookout for pedestrians, which they use to justify reckless behavior like speeding or even drunk driving. However, drivers can still be found at fault for negligence in a pedestrian accident claim.

How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me Recover Damages in a Pedestrian Accident Claim?

In a civil claim, victims of pedestrian accidents may be eligible to recover damages for lost wages if they have had to miss work for doctors' visits, pain and suffering endured during the course of treatment, and future medical expenses you may incur as a result of your injuries. A  capable personal injury lawyer will directly connect a driver's negligence to your injuries and advocate for a reasonable settlement. Victims of pedestrian accidents may not realize they'll be up against the driver's insurance company, and thus are woefully unprepared for claims adjusters who are specifically trained to reduce compensation.  Dolman Law Group is well-acquainted with such methods, and we are ready to guide you through the process of filing a claim. We will get you evaluated by medical professionals, collect evidence, and draw on our considerable knowledge and resources to recover the damages you deserve.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Pedestrian Accident Lawsuit

While pedestrian bridges are designed with vulnerable pedestrians in mind, they present unique dangers of their own that can result in severe injury or wrongful death, potentially leaving drivers liable for significant damages.  Pedestrian accidents can leave victims with a range of debilitating injuries due to the sheer size discrepancy between the average pedestrian and a truck or car and the high speeds these vehicles can travel. At Dolman Law Group, we've seen how a catastrophic pedestrian accident can decimate finances, leave victims physically impaired, and do lasting emotional damage. Dolman Law Group won't shy away from a fight. Our years of experience as a personal injury law firm have wisened us up to the tactics insurance companies employ to minimize your rightful compensation, and our results speak to our ability to reclaim your damages. We will give your case the personal attention and eye for detail it requires, every step of the way. If you need a reference, just ask our clients. Contact us at (833) 55-CRASH for auto accidents, or (727) 451-6900 for other claims. You can also send us an email on our contact us page.

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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