Jeffrey T. Wells was struck by a pickup truck at approximately 5:45 a.m. on August 23, 2017 near the intersection of Forest Park Street and Harden Boulevard in Lakeland, Florida. Wells died from the trauma of the collision. Mr. Wells was hit as a pedestrian walking eastbound across Harden Boulevard when Clinton Bishop’s 2006 GMC Canyon struck Wells in the outside lane going northbound.
A witness reported to The Ledger that Wells was not in a marked crosswalk and had his head down using a walker. The impact occurred with the right front (passenger side) of Bishop’s vehicle. Bishop stopped and called 911 in accordance with Florida law.
Comparative Fault In Florida
Bishop is not likely to be charged as a result of this accident because Mr. Wells was not in a crosswalk and there is no evidence of reckless driving, such as excessive speed. However, this does not mean that Bishop is off the hook for civil liability. The fact that the impact occurred in the right hand (outside lane) of a 4-lane highway and the fact that the impact damage was done to the right (passenger) side of his vehicle, there is a good argument that Mr. Bishop should have been more aware of his surroundings while driving and could have avoided the collision by a simple swerve to the left to avoid Mr. Wells.
The Ledger does not mention that Mr. Bishop swerved or made any attempt to avoid the collision before it happened. Instead, the facts as reported by The Ledger seem to indicate that Mr. Bishop was not very attentive at the time of the accident. While it was before 6 a.m. and it would have been dark outside, as motorists we have a civil obligation to only drive when we are paying full attention to the roadway.
Bishop Is Not Completely To Blame, But Instead Shares Blame
This is a case where Bishop’s insurance company should pay its policy limits to get a release from Mr. Wells’ family. Even though there is a likelihood that Mr. Wells would be found to have 50% or more of the legal responsibility for this accident should this case go to trial, the overall judgment (with a reduction for comparative fault taken into account) may be more than Mr. Bishop’s policy limits.
When an insurance company could have and should have settled a claim within policy limits but does not, the person who got sued (the person who caused the accident) has a right to sue their insurance company for insurance bad faith because their insurance company failed to adequately protect them. Because there is a substantial risk of a judgment exceeding the policy limits to Bishop, his insurance carrier would be wise to pay up now rather than later.
Claims By The Wells Family
The other side of this accident is that Mr. Wells was likely suffering from some sort of disability at the time of this accident. That will not excuse him from obeying the law while crossing the street, however, it very well could make a difference in the outcome should a case such as this go to trial.
The fact that Mr. Wells had his head down and was walking with a cane suggests that he was not moving fast. Having been headed eastbound, Mr. Wells would have slowly crossed the vast majority of Harden Boulevard having almost made it to safety on the curb before getting hit. It would have been impossible for Mr. Wells to gauge traffic so far in advance.
In addition, Mr. Wells was likely walking because he was unable to afford a car and was probably unemployed. As personal injury attorneys, it is our job to stand up for the weak and downtrodden, regardless of whether others pre-judge or not.
Mr. Wells should not be judged by being poor and having to do things that most of us do not have to do. It should not be forgotten that these types of accidents only happen to people who have little other choice. You will never see Donald Trump, Bill Gates, or Jeff Bezos get into an accident like this because their lifestyles are well padded.
On the other hand, Mr. Wells should not be judged harshly for crossing where he did. While I do not condone breaking the law, we should all be sensitive to the fact that those who rely on their feet for transportation often have a long way to go just to get to an intersection with a crosswalk. Lakeland does not have a crosswalk wherever you might need to go and the distances between intersections can often be a long way on foot. That is why people jaywalk. Therefore, despite the letter of the law, Mr. Wells is not a mere scofflaw who exhibited an utter disregard for the law. Instead, he was merely trying to survive, although it was a fatal decision.
To Make A Claim, Find An Attorney Who Understands Your Case
As this case involves a claim for wrongful death under Florida law, there are certain legal formalities that should be followed to properly settle this claim (or take it to trial as needed). If you need a Lakeland, FL personal injury attorney to help you with your case, please contact us a for a free consultation with an attorney.
— The Ledger (@theledger) August 24, 2017