People love to ride their motorcycles in Florida. Our open roads are made for adventure, offering everything from ocean views to sugar cane fields. When you are riding a motorcycle, you get to take in all the sounds and smells you don’t experience when driving a car. Unfortunately, riding a motorcycle is also risky.
According to preliminary statistics, there were 504 motorcycle fatalities in Florida and 5,172 motorcycle fatalities in the United States in 2017. Although this number reflects a decrease from motorcycle fatalities in 2016, motorcyclists continue to be more likely than other motorists to have fatal accidents.
There are various types of motorcycles, such as street (including two- and three-wheeled), off-road, and dual purpose. Each type is a little different in terms of stability, performance, rider visibility, and handling. And compared to cars, all types of motorcycles generally require the rider to have more agility, coordination, and situational alertness when driving. Riders have less protection and therefore are more vulnerable to injury. Motorcycles are significantly smaller than cars and thus are less visible, which greatly increases the chances of an accident. Accidents frequently happen during bad weather, during dusk and dawn, and at intersections. In many cases, the other driver simply does not see the motorcycle.
Motorcycle accidents often cause catastrophic, even fatal injuries. If you have been injured or someone you love was killed in a motorcycle accident, the dedicated attorneys at Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group can work with you to determine whether you might be entitled to compensation.
An Overview of Florida Motorcycle Laws
Florida law defines a motorcycle as a vehicle with not more than three wheels, which is powered by a motor or engine, and has a displacement of not more than 50 cubic centimeters. It also has a seat and saddle for the rider. The definition does not include a tractor, tri-vehicle, or moped. Florida motorcycle laws deal with many topics, including vehicle and helmet requirements and rules for using the road. All motorcyclists must carry insurance and follow traffic laws.
Motorcycle endorsement: In order to lawfully operate a motorcycle with an engine that is larger than 50cc, Florida motorcycle drivers must have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. To obtain the endorsement, drivers must complete the Basic RiderCourse (BRC) or Basic RiderCourse updated (BRCu) motorcycle safety course. A rider also must be at least 16 years old, have no traffic convictions for one year (if they are under age 18), have a regular Class E driver’s license, and complete the Basic Rider Course, regardless of age.
It is possible to obtain a motorcycle endorsement without having a driver’s license by completing the required courses. This type of license will be for driving motorcycles only.
If your license is endorsed for motorcycle operation in another state (except Alabama), Florida will recognize the endorsement. Florida will only recognize Alabama motorcycle endorsements if the driver also provides proof that they have taken the necessary training classes.
Wheelies: A driver who causes their motorcycle’s wheels to lose contact with the ground while it is in operation commits a moving violation, unless conditions beyond the operator’s control cause the loss of contact.
Helmet law: Motorcycle drivers over age 21 are not required to wear a helmet under Florida law, as long as they carry an insurance policy with at least $10,000 in medical benefits.
Riding two abreast: Riding two abreast is permitted, and other motorists are required to give riders use of the full lane.
Lane splitting: Driving a motorcycle between vehicle lanes is not permitted. Also, riders are not permitted to pass motorists using the same lane.
Headlights: Florida Statute 316.405 requires that all riders use a daytime headlight.
Turn signals and mirrors: All motorcycles must have at least one rear view mirror. The law also requires functioning turn signals.
Eye protection: Motorcyclists are required by law to wear eye protection at all times under FL Statute 316.405.
Handlebar height: Handlebars must not extend higher than the rider’s shoulders when they are seated on the motorcycle.
Helmet speakers: Earphones are not allowed, but helmet speakers are permitted for communication purposes.
Insurance Requirements for Motorcyclists in Florida
There are two sets of insurance requirements for motorcycle riders in Florida. Riders who are over 21 and choose to ride a motorcycle without a helmet must also have at least $10,000 in medical insurance benefits. In addition, whether or not they wear a helmet, all motorcyclists are required to maintain liability insurance. Riders must have at least $20,000 in total bodily injury insurance, $10,000 in coverage for property damage and bodily injury per person, and at least $30,000 as their single incident liability limit.
Florida Motorcyclists Have the Right to the Full Use of the Road
The rules of the road apply to Florida motorcyclists, just like all other vehicle drivers. Motorcycle drivers must obey all traffic signals, and may not weave in and out of traffic. Motorcycle riders can use hand signals for stopping, slowing, or turning, which may make the rider more visible even if the motorcycle’s indicator lights are difficult to see. In addition to following the rules of the road, motorcycle drivers have the same rights as other drivers. Other drivers must give motorcycles full use of the lane. And motorcycles are not permitted to drive between lanes of vehicles, but they may ride two abreast with another motorcyclist.
Liability for Motorcycle Accidents
If a motorcyclist is injured in an accident in Florida due to someone else’s carelessness, they may be entitled to compensation. To recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit, a motorcyclist must prove that the other driver was negligent. Florida Civil Jury Instruction 401.4 defines negligence as follows:
“Negligence is doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under like circumstances or failing to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under like circumstances.”
What if the motorcyclist is partly to blame for the accident? In Florida, a motorcyclist is entitled to damages even if they are more than 51 percent at fault. However, Florida follows the legal doctrine of comparative fault. This means that the amount of damages the injured motorcyclist receives is decreased by the motorcyclist’s fault. So if the court determines that the motorcyclist is 25 percent at fault, the motorcyclist’s compensation is reduced by 25 percent.
Not wearing a motorcycle helmet while driving or riding on a motorcycle may affect a rider’s ability to collect damages if they are injured in an accident. If, for example, you did not wear a helmet and you suffered a serious head injury as a result of your accident, it will be up to the court or a jury to determine whether your decision to forego a helmet was the reason for some percentage of your injury.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents happen in all kinds of ways. Some of the common causes include:
- Driving under the influence. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs can lead to deadly accidents and civil and criminal liability. About half of the accidents involving a motorcycle are the result of someone driving under the influence. Alcohol and drug use plays a part in many motor vehicle accidents. However, motorcyclists are more vulnerable and therefore more likely to be seriously injured.
- Speeding. A driver who is speeding is less able to see and react to other drivers. In general, the higher the speed at which a crash occurs, the more severe the resulting injuries.
- Left turn accidents. 42 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car happen when cars are making left-hand turns. Usually, the car hits the motorcycle when the motorcycle is passing the car, trying to overtake the car, or traveling through an intersection.
- Unsafe lane changes. Because motorcycles are smaller vehicles, a driver who fails to check their blind spot or signal when changing lanes may not see the motorcycle in time to avoid a collision.
- Car doors. A driver seated in a parked car may fail to see an oncoming motorcycle and open their car door, hitting the motorcyclist or causing them to crash.
- Lane splitting. Driving a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic is illegal in Florida. And this practice is especially dangerous for inexperienced riders.
- Sudden stops. Another vehicle following a motorcycle too closely or stopping abruptly may cause the motorcyclist serious or fatal injuries.
- Inexperienced drivers. At first, new drivers may drive with extreme caution, but as time passes, they often start to make unsafe moves on the road that endanger themselves as well as other motorists.
- Hazardous road conditions. Motorcyclists are more at risk from road hazards than other vehicles. Because they are smaller and less stable, potholes, debris, and irregularities or unexpected objects in the road can cause them to crash.
- Motorcycle defects. When a defective component causes a motorcycle accident in Florida, the manufacturer is liable for the resulting damages.
- Collisions between motorcycles and fixed objects. When a motorcycle crashes into a fixed object like a tree or median, the motorcyclist is more likely to be thrown from their vehicle and suffer serious injuries.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Although motorcycle safety equipment has improved over the years, someone on a motorcycle is simply not as protected as someone in a car. Motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than the occupants of a car. Serious or long-term injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents can include:
- Head injuries
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Bone fractures
- Sprains and breaks
- Partial or complete paralysis
- Traumatic brain injury
- Leg or arm injuries
- Traumatic spinal cord injury
- Serious damage to the rider’s head, neck, or back
- Various skin abrasions, burns, or cuts
- Wrongful death
Damages: Compensation for Your Injuries
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, you might be entitled to receive compensation. There are three types of damages. They are damages for economic losses, damages for non-economic losses, and punitive damages.
Economic damages compensate you for direct financial loss. Damages for economic loss include:
- The cost of current and future medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Property damages
- Cost of household services, if, for example, your injuries mean you need to hire a lawn service or house cleaners while you recover
Non-economic damages are more subjective and difficult to quantify. Damages for non-economic loss include:
- Physical or emotional pain and suffering
- Disfigurement or physical impairment
- loss of enjoyment of activities
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium or companionship
Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in personal injury cases. They are intended to punish the defendant for intentionally causing harm.
After a Motorcycle Accident, Call a Motorcycle Crash Lawyer Near You
- After a motorcycle accident, the most important thing is to take care of your health and safety. Move to a safe area, check yourself and others for injuries and call 911 for immediate assistance from a medical professional or ambulance.
- If you do not call 911, you should still call the police. They will investigate the scene and file a police report, which you may need later if you file a lawsuit.
- Gather as much contact information as possible from the other party and any other witnesses to the accident.
- If possible, take pictures of the damage to your motorcycle, your injuries, damage to the other vehicle, skid marks, debris at the scene, and the surrounding area. Take pictures from several angles.
- If you can, save the clothing you were wearing, your damaged motorcycle and your helmet.
- Make copies of all medical records, insurance information, and other documentation.
- Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer near you right away. There are time limits, or statutes of limitations, for filing claims, so do not delay.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident, an experienced, highly respected attorney might help you recover damages for your injuries. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, contact Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group online or call us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH). We are here to help you.
Dolman Law Group
800 N Belcher Rd.
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900 Fax: (727) 451-6907