Pedestrian Accidents can Cause Severe Traumatic Brain Injuries
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLDSMV) estimates more than 9,200 pedestrian crashes occurred on Florida roads in 2018, resulting in 674 pedestrian fatalities. About 500 of those crashes and 36 fatalities occurred in Pinellas County. Combined totals in the Tampa-St.Petersburg-Clearwater area makes the metro region the ninth most dangerous area in the United States for pedestrians, according to a recent study by Smart Growth America. The study also reveals that Florida is the most dangerous state in the nation for pedestrians, with the Sunshine State’s large elderly population, especially at risk.
Fortunately, pedestrian accidents do not occur as often as vehicle crashes, but when they do happen, injuries are often severe, and sometimes fatal. Because pedestrians struck by cars often suffer a violent blow to their head, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are one of the most common outcomes of pedestrian accidents. Depending on the severity of the accident, a TBI might be a life-changing event that results in permanent disability and in the most severe cases, death. This guide provides information about high-risk locations for pedestrian accidents in and around Clearwater, signs, and symptoms of a TBI, how to avoid a pedestrian accident, and steps you can take if you or a loved one has sustained a TBI in a pedestrian accident.
Common Pedestrian Crash Locations in Pinellas County
Pinellas County has a number of pedestrian crash hot spots, referred to as high crash corridors in the county’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. High crash corridors are areas and intersections where a disproportionate number of the region’s pedestrian and bicycle accidents occur. They include:
- 9th Avenue S to 46th Avenue N on 4th Street
- Park Street to US Highway 19 on Park Boulevard
- Indian Rocks Road to 58th Street on West Bay Drive (State Road 686)
- Belleair Road to Drew Street on Fort Harrison Avenue
- Orange Street to Race Track Road on Tampa Road
- Belcher Road, Old Coachman Road, US 19, and Park Place Boulevard intersections on Gulf to Bay Boulevard
- 70th Avenue, 62nd Avenue, 22nd Avenue North, and 5th Avenue North intersections with US 19/34th Street
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are common in traffic accidents. Mild TBIs, commonly referred to as concussions, heal fairly quickly and often don’t have long-term effects. On the other hand, severe TBIs cause symptoms and complications that accident victims might suffer for their entire life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a traumatic brain injury as:
“a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.”
Pedestrians involved in a traffic accident typically sustain TBIs in one of two ways. Most commonly, they suffer at least one violent blow to their head. Sometimes, this blow causes an open head wound or results in a penetrating injury affecting the brain.
Potential Effects of TBIs on Pedestrian Accident Victims
The CDC classifies potential effects of traumatic brain injuries into four main categories of short-term and long-term complications:
- Thinking. Victims might suffer from cognitive functions including learning, making decisions, memory and logical reasoning.
- Sensation. Victims might struggle with their senses. In addition to balance issues, victims may experience double vision, a bitter taste in their mouth, loss of taste, ringing in the ears, numbness, and pain
- Language. Some TBIs might cause victims to lose the ability or reduce the ability to communicate, write, read, express their feelings, comprehend words and ideas, and other language functions.
- Emotion. Pedestrian TBI victims might display changes in their personality, act out, behave more aggressively, and develop anxiety and/or depression.
Moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries also increase the risk of degenerative and long-term conditions which include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Brain disorders such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused by repeated blows to the head, more applicable to TBIs caused by sports injuries than traffic accidents
Severe TBI in Pedestrian Accidents
Pedestrians who suffer injury when hit by a motor vehicle have a high risk of experiencing a severe TBI, the worst case scenario of traumatic brain injuries. Effects of a severe TBI fall into the above categories, but have some other distinguishing characteristics:
- Severe TBIs require hospitalization.
- Victims are more likely to be unconscious, or comatose, for an extended period of time.
- Victims are more likely to experience amnesia after an injury.
- Almost half of severe TBI victims have a disability one year after their injury.
- Severe TBIs are more likely to result in death. In fact, about one-third of all TBI-related deaths among all age groups are a result of traffic accidents, according to the CDC.
Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of a TBI
Brain injuries are not always easy to spot in the moments after a pedestrian accident. When the accident happens at low speed (say, in the parking lot of a supermarket), the pedestrian may be able to walk away without obvious injury. This does not mean a TBI did not happen, however. Even when someone thinks they just “bumped their head,” the brain can sustain damage.
Visiting a doctor as soon as possible after any kind of pedestrian accident is the safest course of action. Not only does a doctor visit provide medical documentation that serves as evidence of injury for an insurance company and personal injury lawsuit, but it protects against potentially life-threatening conditions, such as brain swelling and hemorrhage.
Here are some symptoms to watch for after a pedestrian accident that suggest you might have suffered a brain injury:
- A headache that increases in severity over time
- Excessive weakness
- Numbness in the limbs and decreased coordination
- Vomiting or nausea
- Slurred speech similar to that which is caused by heavy alcohol consumption
If you are monitoring a loved one who suffered a blow to the head in a pedestrian accident, the CDC recommends heading to the nearest emergency department if you notice any of the following:
- The victim appears extremely drowsy or cannot wake up.
- The victim’s pupils are different sizes.
- The victim has convulsions or seizures.
- The victim doesn’t recognize people or places that they know
- The victim increasingly becomes more confused or agitated
- The victim behaves unusually.
- The victim loses consciousness
Preventing Pedestrian Accidents on Florida Roads
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests the following precautions when walking to avoid being a victim in a pedestrian accident.
- Follow pedestrian traffic regulations and obey traffic signals and signs.
- Always walk on available sidewalks and pathways.
- Walk facing traffic when sidewalks are unavailable.
- Stay focused and don’t use mobile electronic devices.
- Use crosswalks to cross streets after looking for vehicles.
- Only cross a road in well-lit areas.
- Make eye contact with drivers and don’t assume they see you.
- Wear bright or reflective clothing and use a light when you are walking at night.
- Don’t use controlled substances that impair your senses.
Liability After Suffering a TBI in a Pedestrian Accident
Florida is a no-fault insurance state that requires drivers with registered vehicles to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This insurance covers you even if you are injured while on foot. So, if you have PIP coverage, your first course of action insurance-wise will likely be to file a claim under your own PIP policy.
PIP policies in Florida only cover 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages, however. Because injuries can be particularly severe in pedestrian accidents, there is a high likelihood of the costs of care from, for example, a severe TBI, exceeding PIP coverage limits. When this happens, pedestrian accident victims can enlist the help of a skilled personal injury attorney to file a personal injury suit to recover damages not covered by PIP.
Many scenarios might give rise to a pedestrian sustaining a head injury in a collision with a motor vehicle. The most common cause of these accidents is a negligent driver. Florida law requires that motorists yield the right away to pedestrians in all situations where traffic signals aren’t in place. Here are some common situations of motor vehicle drivers violating traffic laws that might lead to a pedestrian accident:
- Failure to yield at crosswalks or other locations
- Failure to use turn signals
- Driving while drowsy
- Driving under the influence of controlled substances, including prescription medications
- Driving too fast in the rain
- Driving while distracted by a cell phone, GPS, personal grooming or other distraction
- Ignoring traffic signs and signals
In rare situations, a third party might be liable for a TBI injury in a pedestrian accident. Government entities who are responsible for designing and maintaining roads, signs, and signals might be liable if their failure causes an accident that results in pedestrian injury. Auto companies and auto part companies might be liable if a defective automobile or auto part leads to a car striking a pedestrian.
Every case is different. An experienced pedestrian accident attorney guides clients through the analysis of who may have liability for damages in their particular circumstances.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Pedestrian Accidents
Florida civil courts apply a comparative negligence rule when awarding damages to victims in personal injury cases. Comparative negligence, sometimes called comparative fault, is the notion of shared liability. The court assesses the extent to which a victim might have caused the accident which led to their own injuries.
When the court finds a driver negligent, for example, it also assigns a percentage of fault to each party in the lawsuit. When it awards damages, the court reduces the award by the percentage fault assigned to the plaintiff. For example, a court might determine that the pedestrian was 15 percent at fault for the accident due to jay-walking. If damages total $100,000, the plaintiff may therefore only collect $85,000.
Insurance companies and any other parties named in a personal injury suit usually don’t want to pay out claims or settlements. Florida’s comparative negligence rule gives those parties an incentive to shift blame towards the victim and to use any other tactic they can to undermine a claim. Some strategies that these parties might use in a pedestrian accident case include:
- Claiming the victim was violating traffic laws
- Offering a low settlement that doesn’t include full and fair compensation
- Claiming the victim was inattentive when crossing the street
- Questioning the severity of the victim’s TBI and other injuries
Pedestrian accidents can be factually-complex cases that require an experienced attorney. A good lawyer will be prepared for attacks by the defense, and will understand how to gather evidence that demonstrates fault.
Contact a Clearwater Pedestrian Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one have sustained a traumatic brain injury in a pedestrian accident, you are no doubt going through a difficult time. Severe injuries bring physical pain, emotional stress, and financial hardship to victims and their families. In some cases, these struggles may only be short-term; in severe cases, permanent disabilities caused by a TBI lead to lifelong complications, pain, and financial difficulty.
Florida law entitles pedestrian accident victims to seek damages in civil court from liable parties. You may be able to recover medical costs and lost wages, as well as future medical expenses and future lost wages for long-term disabilities. The court might also award you non-economic damages such as compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, scarring and disfigurement, or any other that might apply to your case.
You and your family don’t have to fight the liable party and their insurance companies alone. Focus on recovery and rehabilitation while you hand over the day-to-day aspects of your case to one of our skilled personal injury attorneys, who will help you pursue the best possible outcome for your situation. We typically handle personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis, only collecting attorney fees after we secure a verdict or settlement in our clients’ favor. To learn more, contact the pedestrian accident attorneys in Clearwater at Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900 to schedule a free consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765