Today’s “typical” motorcyclist is married, over the age of forty, is likely to be in a professional, technical or managerial career, and earns over “$50,000 annually. This is in stark contrast to the typical motorcyclist of the 70’s who was between twenty and twenty-four years old, earned less than $20,00 per year, and was unmarried. As the baby boomers age, more and more of them are purchasing motorcycles and taking to the roadways, perhaps in an attempt to recapture the freedom of their youth. It would seem that this older group of motorcyclists would have resulted in lower accident numbers—particularly fatal accidents—however this is not the case.
Florida Takes Top Slot for Number of Motorcycle Accidents
A news article from March 2016, reports that the state of Florida is in the top slot for the number of motorcycle accidents. In fact, although motorcyclists account for only 7 percent of motorists in the Sunshine state, 19 percent of fatal accidents involve a motorcyclist. According to Karen Morgan, the Public Policy Manager of Triple A, one reason for the increase in motorcyclist fatalities relates to the repeal of the helmet law in the state. However, despite the fact that about a third of the polled motorcyclists in the state of Florida do not think they should be required to wear a motorcycle helmet, about 86 percent of them actually do wear a helmet.
Due to Florida’s year-round temperate climate and the vast array of highways, the state is an extremely popular area for motorcyclists. A 2010 report on motorcycle accidents in Florida reports the following:
- About 19 percent of motorcyclist fatalities were for those from 25 to 34 years old;
- Motorcyclists 65 and older accounted for about 6 percent of the motorcycle fatalities, while those under the age of 21 also accounted for about 6 percent of the fatalities;
- Nearly 92 percent of motorcyclist and passenger fatalities were male, while only 8 percent were female;
- In the state of Florida, two-lane highways claim the lives of motorcyclists most often, while four-lane roadways are responsible for about 31 percent of fatalities, and
- Speed definitely played a part in motorcyclist fatalities, as 9 percent of those motorcyclists who died were traveling at 80 mph or more.
Across the nation, the following statistics exist for motorcycle accidents:
- 4,586 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2014, a number which was slightly down from 2013;
- However, more motorcyclists were injured in crashes in 2014 (92,000) than in 2013 (88,000), and
- In 2014, motorcyclists were 27 times more likely than those in a passenger vehicle to die in a crash, and five times more likely to be seriously injured.
Florida Safety Laws for Motorcyclists
Florida motorcycle safety laws stipulate the following:
- Motorcyclists over the age of 21 who can produce valid proof of medical insurance coverage (minimum $10,000), are not required to wear a motorcycle helmet;
- Eye protection for motorcyclists is required;
- While there is no age restriction for motorcycle passengers, the motorcycle must have both a footrest and a seat for any passenger;
- All first-time motorcycle licensees are mandated to take a rider education course;
- Mirrors on both sides, turn signals and mufflers to limit sound to 86 decibels max are required;
- Lane-splitting is not allowed;
- Handlebars are not allowed to be higher than the seated motorcyclist’s shoulders;
- Headlight use in the daytime is mandatory, and
- Motorcyclists are required to carry minimum liability coverage limits of Florida state insurance.
Liability for Your Florida Motorcycle Accident
The state of Florida is a comparative fault state, meaning financial liability is proportionate to the level of fault. Liability for a motorcycle accident can be difficult to determine, particularly in light of the biases and stereotypes of the reckless, hard-living, fast-driving motorcyclist which still exist. While every motorcycle accident is different, with a unique set of circumstances, liability will be determined by such factors as road conditions, speed of both drivers, the existence of driver error (fatigue, distraction, impairment), and weather conditions.
In many cases, the driver of the passenger vehicle is found to have violated the motorcyclist’s right-of-way, or may have simply failed to see the motorcyclist. In many cases, the passenger vehicle driver may have backed out of a driveway or parking space without seeing the motorcyclist, or may have opened the vehicle door while parked without seeing an oncoming motorcyclist. Although Florida motorcyclists are not covered by PIP insurance (Florida’s no-fault auto insurance which pays 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages, regardless of fault), they are also not bound by PIP restrictions. What this means for the motorcyclist is that he or she is not limited in the damages sought, and may include pain and suffering in the damages.
Aside from being the fault of another person, a motorcycle accident could be the result of a defect in the motorcycle. If this is the case, the injured motorcyclist could be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the motorcycle or the specific part in order to recover damages, if the following facts exist in the case:
- The motorcycle in question were “unreasonably dangerous;”
- The motorcycle was being operated as intended, and
- The performance of the motorcycle had not changed since it was purchased.
Injuries Sustained from Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents often leave the motorcyclist with extremely serious—even life-threatening—injuries. The most common injury following a motorcycle accident is head trauma and traumatic brain injury. Motorcyclists—particularly those without a helmet—simply have none of the safety protections (seat belts and airbags) that those inside a vehicle have. Brain injuries can irrevocably change the life and future of the motorcyclist involved in the accident as well as his or her family members. Personal and professional relationships can be damaged as a result of a traumatic brain injury, and victims of brain trauma can be unable to complete even the simplest day-to-day tasks.
Concussions—which are generally less serious than traumatic brain injuries—can nonetheless be life-threatening. Brain injury symptoms can include: unusual exhaustion, memory loss or other neurological disorders, blurred vision or double vision, numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination and difficulty walking, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Other potential injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents include bone fractures, spinal cord injuries, neck and back injuries, injury to internal organs, limb amputation, severe road rash, burns and disfigurement.
Damages You May Be Entitled to Following Your Florida Motorcycle Accident
While every motorcycle accident has a different set of circumstances, you may be entitled to one or more of the following:
- Medical expenses, past, present and future, related to your motorcycle accident, including physician expenses, hospital expenses, rehabilitative therapy expenses and prescription drug expenses;
- Lost wages for time you were unable to work due to your injuries, and future lost earnings if you will not be able to return to your former job;
- Pain and suffering related to your motorcycle accident;
- Emotional trauma or mental anguish, including feelings of fear, anxiety, depression and grief following the motorcycle accident;
- Loss of consortium, and
- Depending on the circumstances of the accident, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the defendant was maliciously or willfully negligent.
Statute of Limitations for Your Motorcycle Accident
There are time limits in every state regarding the time you have in which to file a claim for damages following a personal injury. In the state of Florida, you have four years from the date of your motorcycle accident to file a personal injury claim, and two years from the date of a loved one’s death in a motorcycle accident to file a wrongful death claim. It is extremely important that you file your claim in a timely manner, or you could be forever barred from being compensated for your damages resulting from a motorcycle accident in which another was at fault.
How a Florida Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
In order to help your Florida motorcycle attorney help you in the best way possible, never sign anything without speaking to your attorney first. Remember that insurance companies—no matter how compassionate they may act—are only interested in their financial bottom line. Insurance adjusters are trained to use any tactic possible in order to get you to settle for less than you deserve, so always speak to your attorney prior to signing away important rights. Don’t discuss your accident or injuries, and don’t post photos or discussions of your accident on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media outlets, no matter how harmless it may seem.
Document your injuries meticulously by writing down everything pertaining to your accident and injuries and keeping every single medical receipt, no matter how small. Many accident victims keep a journal to help them remember details they might otherwise forget—and which can be extremely important to the case. Never miss a doctor’s appointment for any reason, and follow any advice given to you by your physician. The attorneys at The Law Place have the background, skill, knowledge and experience necessary to best help you during this difficult time. We have compassion for your situation, and truly want to help change the outcome of your accident. The Law Place who knows how to deal with the many complexities of motorcycle accidents, including the potential jury biases. The Law Place attorneys will use their more than 75 years of combined experience to ensure you receive the damages you are entitled to receive following your motorcycle accident. Call The Law Place today at 941-444-4444. “We are here for you.”