Why They Happen and What to Do When You Are Involved
Florida is a fantastic state for motorcycle riders. With thousands of miles of scenic roads and annual motorcycle events that draw thousands of riders from all over the nation, the Sunshine State is among the most popular states for riders. In fact, Florida is second only to California in the number of drivers who have a motorcycle endorsement. It makes sense that motorcycles are popular in Florida: the weather is perfect and it seems like every road leads to a beautiful view.
However, lax safety laws and riders who put themselves and others at risk contribute to Florida being one of the national leaders in motorcycle fatalities every year. Both riders and drivers can take steps to reduce and prevent serious injuries and deaths. When an accident happens, you will need to know what your rights are and how to handle the situation.
Why You Need a Florida Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Florida is among only a handful of states with unique laws that limit who and when you can sue for injuries after an accident. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in motorcycle crashes and injuries can make the difference between a positive outcome and the alternative. The expertise that a motorcycle accident lawyer provides will give you the best opportunity to get the medical and financial compensation you need.
When you are involved in an accident either as a motorcycle rider or as a vehicle operator, it can be a challenge to understand how Florida laws affect the outcome of your case. You might not even know that you have a case, or think that the accident was your fault. When a motorcyclist is involved in an accident, the chances of serious injury and death are significantly higher than in typical vehicle collisions.
Florida’s unique insurance laws are intended to provide speedy resolutions to most types of car crashes. These same laws can also mean that you might not get the compensation you deserve simply because the insurance adjusters won’t tell you how to win. A lawyer who has a proven track record of winning motorcycle collision cases will be on your side to ensure you are treated fairly and the outcome of your claim is to your benefit.
Florida Laws for Motorcycles
All but three US states have laws in place requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets, but those laws vary by state. In Florida, only riders and passengers younger than 21 are required to wear a helmet. Florida does require that helmets must be DOT-approved to be legal, and this applies to riders of any age.
Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of reducing serious injury and death by wearing a helmet, but an improper helmet can cause more harm than good. Sports helmets, bicycle helmets, and helmets that are approved by ANSI or Snell are not legal for use in Florida.
After Florida repealed the mandatory helmet law in 2000, the state saw a big jump in fatalities and injuries. Consider that before the law was repealed, 164 riders were killed, while the year after the law ended a total of 274 riders died. At least 500 riders are killed in Florida each year today.
Why You Should Wear a Helmet- Legally
Whether you wear a helmet is your personal choice when you ride in Florida, but you could be putting yourself in legal jeopardy at the same time as taking an unnecessary risk. Florida laws allow a legal defense that riders who suffer injuries in motorcycle accidents while not wearing a helmet may lose significant compensation, even if the motorcyclist was not at fault. This is because it can be argued that your injuries wouldn’t have been as severe if you were wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet that isn’t DOT-compliant presents the same problem.
The Lane-Splitting Law
In Florida, lane splitting is specifically illegal. Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rider passes slow or stopped traffic in-between lanes. While this tactic is tempting for riders sitting in traffic, there is the possibility of serious injury when lane splitting. As such, if you are injured in a motorcycle accident while lane splitting, you may lose benefits.
Florida law allows motorcycle riders to ride side-by-side. Drivers are required to give motorcycles the same space as other vehicles, and this includes passing motorcycles in the lane.
Florida Insurance Laws and Motorcycles
Florida requires any motorcycle operator to obtain Personal Injury Protection coverage, commonly called no-fault insurance or PIP. The state minimum of coverage is $10,000 to cover your injuries. Florida’s PIP coverage generally doesn’t allow you to sue other drivers, rather you file claims with your own insurance company.
Unfortunately, a huge number of motorcycle accidents involve catastrophic damages that alter the manner in which your claim is handled. This is one of the most important reasons to hire the best motorcycle lawyer to handle your claim.
Many motorcyclists incur medical bills significantly larger than the state minimum in coverage, which means you’ll need to have additional coverage or sue the responsible person. A lawyer that understands the unique motorcycle laws in Florida is your best option for ensuring you are able to recover your damages.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics in Florida
According to data presented by the Department of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV), more than 1.2 million Florida residents had a motorcycle endorsement on their Florida driver’s license in 2017, the most recent year the department has published data. That’s a lot of riders! Events like Daytona Bike Week draw around 500,000 people each year, so you know lots of riders from other states are showing up, too. All the bikes on the road means accidents are bound to happen more often in Florida than states with fewer riders.
Florida consistently ranks in the top five most dangerous states for motorcycle riders regardless of the methodology researchers use. In 2019, DHSMV recorded a total of 8,895 motorcycle crashes. These are only crashes that were reported, so many non-injury or minor injury accidents probably aren’t included. A total of 521 riders and 29 passengers died that year. Around 7,500 individuals reported some type of injury after a motorcycle crash in Florida in 2019.
How Florida Motorcycle Crashes Happen
Motorcycle riders face many obstacles from careless drivers to poor road conditions, any of which can be a factor in how a crash happens. There are some scenarios that both motorcyclists and drivers should learn to be aware of to prevent serious accidents.
- Turning left at an intersection: This scenario is widely considered to be the most common cause of motorcycle accidents nationwide. It is easy for drivers to fail to notice a motorcycle entering an intersection before beginning their left turn.
- Sideswipe: This scenario happens when vehicles are changing lanes or merging in traffic and don’t see the motorcyclist. Many drivers do not check blind spots and can easily fail to see a motorcycle.
- Head-on: Head-on collisions happen most frequently when a driver crosses into the opposite direction of travel. Florida law allows motorcyclists the full use of the road, and when riding side-by-side, it’s easy for a car drifting from it’s lane to hit head-on.
- Rear-end: The most common cause of rear-end accidents is drivers who are not paying attention. This scenario can be devastating because the rider rarely has time to react and lacks all protection from impact.
Types of Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents
In 2019, only a little over 1,000 reported motorcycle accidents didn’t involve any injury. Some injuries are particularly common in motorcycle crashes.
- Head and neck injuries: The most common injury in a motorcycle crash involves trauma to the head and neck. Wearing a helmet can reduce the chance, but there is no silver bullet to prevent injury. Injuries include concussion, fractures to the skull or vertebrae, brain trauma, and sprains or tears. There is no such thing as a minor head injury. All of these injuries are potentially fatal and can have long-lasting impacts on your life.
- Broken bones: Broken bones are a common injury in a motorcycle crash. The rider simply doesn’t have the protection a vehicle provides. Riders are most at risk when they are thrown from their bike because they may be struck by other vehicles. Broken bones may be painful, but not serious or they may cause permanent damage. Riders that suffer fractures in an accident are likely to miss work and incur large medical bills.
- Scrapes: One of the most painful injuries is road rash. Many riders don’t wear appropriate clothing when riding. When a rider is in a crash on asphalt, they can scrape and cut themselves very badly. In many cases, these injuries leave permanent scarring and can take months to heal. There is also a significant risk of infection from scrapes that can be lethal.
Ways to Prevent Accidents and Injuries
Drivers and motorcycle riders can both do better to prevent accidents in Florida. Learning to think about the common causes of accidents can help to raise awareness. Here are a few things that can help prevent accidents and injuries.
- Wear high-visibility clothing: Lots of riders can improve their chances of being seen by drivers by wearing reflective and bright colored clothing. Sure, we all love the classic black motorcycle jacket, but it isn’t safe.
- Wear riding gear: It’s amazing how many serious injuries can be lessened or prevented altogether by wearing clothing intended for riding motorcycles. Riders that wear heavy-duty jackets, pants, and gloves along with sturdy shoes above the ankle stand a much better chance of escaping an accident with lesser injuries.
- Wear a DOT-approved helmet: In 2018, 71% of riders report frequently or always wearing a helmet in the US. Numerous studies show anywhere from a 20% to 50% decrease in types of head injuries when wearing a helmet.
- Avoid hazardous situations: Motorcyclists are more frequently involved in accidents at night on weekends and in bad weather. Riders who are unfamiliar with road conditions, traffic patterns, and other factors are at a higher risk of being in a crash. Avoid these situations when possible.
How a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help
Motorcycle accidents are frequently devastating. Even minor injuries can cripple you, cause you to miss work, and seriously impact your life. Hiring an attorney to handle your motorcycle accident claim will give you the peace of mind to rest and heal. A motorcycle accident attorney will ensure your rights are respected, that you get the medical care you deserve, and that the law is followed correctly. An attorney will negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf to prevent you from losing benefits you don’t know about.
When to Contact AJK Legal
The sooner you give us a call, the better protected you will be. The first days following an accident are often the most important for ensuring the facts are collected correctly. You should reach out to our attorneys before you discuss the crash with any insurance adjusters. We provide a free consultation so you can explain what happened. Our motorcycle crash attorneys will help you understand what the next steps will be so you can rest and heal.