What Are the Legal Issues When a Child Pedestrian Is the Victim of a Florida Wrongful Death Case?

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In Florida and other states, children are the unfortunate victims of pedestrian / automobile accidents that cause the untimely and wrongful death of children. Wrongful death cases in Florida are governed by Chapter 768 – Florida Statutes which is titled the Florida Wrongful Death Act. It is important for drivers of motor vehicles in Florida to drive with the utmost of caution when there are children in the area. This would include school bus zones, school zones, playgrounds, and residential areas. A Florida Wrongful Death case filed due to the untimely and negligent death of a child can be very complicated. There are many issues and facts facing a parent with these Florida legal cases. A Florida Child Personal Injury Lawyer can guide, counsel, and represent parents in these legal matters. See also The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know.

In Metropolitan Dade County v. Dillon – 305 So.2d 36 (Fla. 1974), Darlene Dillon, age six, was the unfortunate and tragic victim of a Florida automobile / pedestrian accident that caused her death. The case went to a jury trial and the jury entered a verdict for compensation to the Darlene’s parents. Dade County and its lawyers appealed the verdict all the way up to the Supreme Court of Florida. Florida’s highest court affirmed the verdict award for the family. In this case, a garbage truck driver, who was looking in his rear view mirror observing the activities of his co-workers, ran over Darlene. It was reported that the truck had travelled 105 feet before striking the child. One of the pedestrian accident witnesses reported that Darlene’s body flipped through the air “like a rag doll”.

The appeal dealt with issues of liability or fault for the pedestrian / automobile accident. The Supreme Court of Florida ruled that the parents had in fact proved their case against the County for causing the accident and death of this Florida child. The record from the trial included evidence that the driver of the county garbage truck violated Dade County traffic ordinances and was being operated in an area designated for pedestrians like Darlene. While each side had presented arguments and circumstantial evidence on this and other points, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled that the jury had sufficient evidence to support the verdict.

In Florida, the general law provides that the violation of these traffic ordinances normally constitute prima facie evidence of negligence which can be overcome and challenged by other evidence. This means that the violation of the ordinances can be used as evidence of negligence or fault but does not automatically guarantee a win or victory on the case.

In the Florida, children under the age of 6 years old cannot be negligent or partially at fault as a matter of law. Children, who are 6 years old and older, can be held to be negligent. The child’s age and maturity can be considered in assessing whether the child was at fault or partially at fault for the automobile accident / pedestrian accident. As noted in Swindell v. Hellkamp – 242 So.2d 708 (Fla. 1971), a child under six is conclusively presumed to be incapable of committing contributory negligence.

In Metropolitan Dade County v. Dillon, the jury determined that the 6 year old child was not at fault and the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed this verdict. The Supreme Court of Florida cited Foulk v. Perkins – (Fla. App. 1966) and noted that “Moreover, one who si not in a position to appreciate or apprehend the danger to which he is exposed can hardly be deemed guilty of contributory (comparative) negligence.