Florida Motorcycle Laws and Your Accident Claim
According to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), there are 12,231,000 motorcycles in the United States. While California has the highest number of registered motorcycles, Florida also has a significant number on its roadways. Motorcyclists must also follow laws that govern the operation of a motorcycle in Florida.
In 2017, nearly 600,000 motorcycles were registered in Florida. This should come as no surprise given the state’s weather conditions. Motorcycle safety is of key importance because Florida also has a stunning number of annual fatalities attributed to motorcycle accidents. In fact, motorcycle fatalities on Florida roadways made up 15 percent of all road accident fatalities in 2016 and 2017.
Florida takes the safety of all motorcycle operators and passengers seriously and there are several Florida motorcycle laws you should be aware of before you hit the open road. Familiarizing yourself with the requirements for safe motorcycle operation can help you remain safe on Florida roadways.
Florida Motorcycle Licensing Requirements
Any person over the age of 16 has the legal right to drive a motorcycle in Florida provided they have met all the statutory requirements. Florida requires anyone who wishes to operate a motorcycle to have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license or a motorcycle-only designated license if the bike’s engine is more than 50 cc, whether the bike has two or three wheels.
Before obtaining a motorcycle license or endorsement, operators must first complete a Basic RiderCourse or Basic RiderCourse updated through a Florida Rider Training Program-authorized Sponsor. Operators must also have at least a Class E valid driver’s license or be able to pass the Class E operator’s examination. It is worth noting that most operators from other states enjoy full reciprocity if they have a motorcycle operator’s license or endorsement in their home state.
Motorcycle Registration in Florida
After completing the necessary training and obtaining the proper endorsement for a motorcycle operator’s license, your motorcycle will have to be registered in Florida before it can legally be operated on Florida roadways.
When you purchase a new motorcycle, the dealer will typically handle all registration requirements on your behalf. In the instance of a private sale, exchange, or gift, you will have to obtain the proper forms from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and provide a bill of sale to show the motorcycle is legally your property.
All motorcycles must have a license plate as well as a registration sticker. The license plate and sticker must be displayed on the rear of the motorcycle so law enforcement can identify them while you are in traffic on Florida roadways. Motorcycle registration stickers and license plates are only valid for one year from the date of issuance and must be renewed annually.
Insurance Requirements for Motorcycles
Florida does not mandate insurance coverage for motorcycle owners. While not needing to pay an insurance premium may seem appealing, it is important to understand the possible ramifications of not having coverage in the event of an accident. Motorcycle operators who are found liable for an accident and do not have existing coverage may be forced to purchase insurance for three years after an accident or risk losing their right to operate a motorcycle and have their registration rescinded. Additionally, motorcycle owners may also face a possible civil judgment against them if they do not have at least bodily injury coverage or have the proper self-insurance endorsement.
Mandatory Equipment for Motorcycle Operators
Florida statutes mandate approved helmets and protective eye gear for all motorcycle operators. There are exceptions to the headgear rules which pertain to driver over the age of 21 who are covered by at least $10,000 of medical benefits for injuries resulting from a crash while operating or riding a motorcycle. Drivers and riders under the age of 21 must always wear a helmet and both drivers and riders must wear protective eye coverings.
Florida motorcyclists who are required to wear a helmet should familiarize themselves with Subpart B of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards as they apply to helmets since these are the minimum requirements for motorcycle helmets in Florida.
Florida Motorcycle Passenger Laws
Florida statutes are very clear as they pertain to having a passenger on a motorcycle. The motorcycle must be properly equipped for passenger safety. An affixed seat which is designed to hold more than one person is appropriate, or a secondary seat which is affixed to the motorcycle at the rear or side is appropriate. Passengers must also have access to a proper footrest and must be sitting astride of the motorcycle forward-facing. Passengers may not be riding “side-saddle” on a motorcycle.
Lane Sharing for Motorcycles Under Florida Statutes
Two motorcycles may travel in the same lane on Florida roadways. More than two are prohibited and motorcycle operators face other restrictions including not driving on any dividing lines, not attempting to share the lane with another motor vehicle, and avoiding passing by traveling in the same area occupied by a car. Much of this is common sense but operators should be aware of the limitations before traveling on Florida roadways on their motorcycles.
Motorcycle Accidents on Florida Roadways
Motorcycle operators who practice all the relevant safety standards, obey the rules of the road, and drive safely are not guaranteed to avoid an accident. Roadway hazards including uneven surfaces, other drivers who may not see a motorcycle in their blind spot, and distracted drivers.
For several years, Florida ranked first across the United States for motorcycle fatalities, and the number of injuries sustained by operators and passengers is very high. Unfortunately, current statistics are not available, but it is highly likely this trend has continued. In part, this is because there are more people operating motorcycles on roadways across the United States. This trend has continued for several years as we have seen an increase in motorcycle operators in all age groups and across all demographics.
Motorcycle Accident Victims Suffer Serious Injury
Motorcycle operators are at greater risk of serious injury when involved in an accident because, despite improved safety equipment like helmets, they have less protection than other vehicle operators. Accident victims may suffer road rash when they are thrown from their bike, as well as more serious injuries if they are involved in a crash. Some of the common injuries motorcycle operators and passengers suffer during accidents include:
- Road rash – You should not minimize the severity of road rash after a motorcycle crash because in many cases there is more to road rash than a few bumps and bruises. Road rash can be serious enough to expose underlying tissue or cause nerve damage, and can easily get infected after the accident.
- Fractures and broken bones – Since a motorcycle operator and passenger have no protection surrounding them, they are likely to suffer fractures or broken bones when involved in a Florida roadway crash. One reason for this is that a motorcycle will tip over when struck and often pins the driver or passenger underneath, resulting in serious injury.
- Head, neck and back injuries – Protective helmets do help protect a rider’s head, but the mere use of a helmet does not mean you are completely protected from the potential of serious head, neck and back injuries in a motorcycle accident. In some cases, a motorcycle accident can be so serious it forcefully removes the helmet from an operator’s or passenger’s head.
- Internal injuries – When a driver or passenger is thrown from a motorcycle during a crash, the potential of internal injury is increased. Hitting a solid surface after being thrown from a motorcycle can result in internal bleeding as well as internal organ damage.
Anytime you are in a motorcycle accident you should seek immediate medical attention, even if you believe you are not injured. It is never a good idea to avoid seeing a doctor because you believe you have only minor injuries, as with any accident, your body will have an adrenaline surge which could be masking an injury.
Motorcycle Accident Victims Must Use Caution
Motorcycle accident victims must be careful when speaking with law enforcement officers, other people involved in the accident, and insurance adjusters. Answering what may seem like an innocent question could lead to losing the ability to collect from an insurer for your injuries. Motorcycle operators and passengers should avoid saying anything that sounds like they are taking responsibility for the accident.
Provide as many details as you can pertaining to the crash but avoid expanding on the details with your opinions. You should also use caution when you are asked simple questions like “how are you feeling?” because if it turns out you do have an injury someone may tell the insurance adjuster you indicated you were “fine” in the immediate aftermath of the accident. As soon as possible after a motorcycle accident, you should consider contacting a motorcycle accident lawyer to discuss the accident and find out about your rights.
Victims Should Seek Legal Help After Motorcycle Accidents
Most Florida roadway accident victims do not understand their rights after an accident. Chances are that your insurance company is going to attempt to get you to settle your claim as quickly as possible after the accident. This might work out fine if you have only a minor injury and there is limited damage to your bike, but if you have a serious injury, you should not agree to a settlement too soon.
Motorcycle accident victims who lose time from work, must undergo surgery, or need rehabilitation services to recover have the right to be reimbursed for their financial losses. When you accept an early settlement, you may end up paying for many of your ongoing costs out of pocket, or not getting the full amount of lost wages you might be entitled to collect if you filed a personal injury lawsuit instead.
Insurance Claims After a Motorcycle Accident
Any type of collision is a shock physically and mentally. As with any roadway accident in Florida, anytime there is bodily injury an accident must be reported to law enforcement. While you must always file a car accident claim with your own insurance company under Florida law, the process may be different with a motorcycle accident. Victims should file a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance company unless they have personal protection insurance (PIP) in which case they should open a claim with their own insurance company.
Motorcycle laws combined with Florida’s unique insurance laws are confusing. Victims of a motorcycle accident need to focus on their recovery without worrying about the financial problems resulting from the accident. Contacting a motorcycle accident attorney as soon after the accident as possible can help minimize some of the confusion and help you understand what protections you are entitled to under Florida personal injury laws.
An experienced Florida motorcycle accident lawyer will take the time to evaluate their client’s individual case, review police reports, take witness statements, and discuss all of the pertinent information about the accident with their client. Once the attorney understands all the relevant facts they can help their client determine the best way to move forward. The lawyer can also negotiate with the insurance company on their client’s behalf, and make sure their client gets the maximum compensation possible in their particular case. No attorney can guarantee the outcome of a personal injury claim but, in most cases, having a motorcycle accident attorney will result in a better settlement.
You need to focus your time and energy on recovering from your injuries after a Florida motorcycle accident. Victims who suffered a serious injury or who lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident on Florida roadways should consider reaching out to an experienced attorney who has a history of success in dealing with motorcycle and other roadway accidents in Florida. Contact a Florida motorcycle accident lawyer today and let them help you understand the best way to move forward.
Dolman Law Group Clearwater Office
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900