Yes, even if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of your motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries in Florida. However, compensation for your injuries could be reduced if you were not wearing a helmet.
Motorcycles offer a truly unique riding experience unmatched by other vehicles. Indeed, riding a motorcycle is more about the thrill and experience than just getting from point A to point B. While most motorcycle riders are able to safely enjoy their ride, unfortunately our Tampa personal injury lawyer knows that far too many riders are seriously injured or wrongly killed in motorcycle accidents. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 80% of all motorcycle accidents result in an injury or death of a rider. These statistics reveal more than 5,000 motorcyclists are killed each year in the United States. While many of these motorcycle crashes are due to the negligence of another motorist, the CDC reports that motorcycle helmets save an estimated 1,800-1,900 lives each year. This means that motorcyclists can do something to help protect themselves from serious, catastrophic, or fatal injuries.
Like the rest of the United States, the Sunshine State also has troubling motorcycle accident statistics. According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV), there are almost 9,000 motorcycle crashes reported each year resulting in more than 7,000 personal injuries and over 500 wrongful deaths. Although motorcycle accidents account for between 2.1% and 4% of all traffic crashes in Florida, they account for a disproportionate 15.5% of all fatalities. As a result, Florida ranks as the fourth worst state in the ratio of motorcycle fatalities to registered motorcycle riders, and first in the number of motorcycle crash fatalities in the United States.
Our experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer knows this firsthand. At John C. Murrow, P.A., our dedicated and skilled staff has handled many motorcycle accident cases throughout Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the rest of Florida. We have a proven track record of success handling some of the most catastrophic injuries after a motorcycle wreck. Learn how our experienced Tampa motorcycle accident lawyer can help you during a FREE consultation by calling (813) 999-4950.
As the CDC statistics above show, helmet use saves upwards of 2,000 lives each year. The Florida Legislature, after watching an upward trend in motorcycle fatalities largely due to non-helmeted motorcycle riders, created certain statutory obligations for riders regarding helmet use.
These obligations are governed by Florida Statutes section 316.211 which requires that a motorcycle helmet must be worn unless a person is over 21 years of age AND has an insurance policy of at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries that could be incurred in a motorcycle accident. This means individuals under 21 years old must always wear a helmet. It also means that individuals without insurance must always wear a helmet, regardless of age.
Yes, you may still file a personal injury lawsuit if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident when you were not wearing a helmet. Legal liability is not determined by a helmet, and not all riders must wear a helmet to operate a motorcycle.
Even riders who are required to wear a helmet but are not in a motorcycle accident may still be entitled to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for their injuries. This is because the decisional law (judge-made law) interpreting the Florida statute has held that the helmet law has no bearing on liability, but only damages. Therefore, it cannot be used by defendants to escape their fault for a crash.
The difference drawn in Florida courts on the helmet laws between liability and damages is very important. These two concepts are very different and both must be proven in a lawsuit in order to be successful.
Liability is determination of fault. In motorcycle accidents, liability will almost always be proven in terms of negligence. The concept of negligence is important in all personal injury matters because it places a duty of care on defendants to avoid causing foreseeable harm to others. For instance, all motorists have a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances in the use or operation of a motor vehicle.
A motorist may be found to fail to exercise reasonable care where he or she:
- Runs a red light or stop sign
- Drives drunk or drugged
- Speeds or loses control
- Improperly merges or turns into another lane
- Executes unsafe u-turns
- Follows too closely or causes rear end collisions
- Drives distracted
- Fails to check blind spots or mirrors, and
- Otherwise causes motorcycle accidents in Tampa, Florida
Damages are the measure of relief that a party may be entitled to in a lawsuit. In personal injury cases, damages typically are monetary compensation. Some of the most common forms of damages in a motorcycle accident include the following:
- Past pain and suffering
- Future pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Loss of consortium
- Property damage
- Nursing care costs
- Mobility assistance device costs
- Lost future earnings if unable to work in the same job
- Punitive damages
- Wrongful death damages, and
- Many other forms of compensation related to your motorcycle accident in Florida that our Tampa personal injury lawyer may be able to recover for you
Not wearing a helmet does not affect the liability portion of your motorcycle accident. That is, a defendant’s reckless, careless, and downright negligent conduct cannot be erased by your failure to wear a motorcycle helmet. This is because your failure to wear a helmet did not cause the defendant to run a red light or make an improper left turn.
Rather, not wearing a helmet can affect the damages portion of your lawsuit. This is the amount of compensation that you may be entitled to. Under the “helmet defense,” a defendant will try to argue that your injuries would have been less severe or non-existent if you had been wearing a helmet. The defendant will try to argue that your failure to wear a helmet was comparative negligence that contributed to your injuries. Accordingly, they will argue that the total award you may be entitled to should be reduced or barred.
Comparative negligence is a principle that assigns fault based on each party’s contributions to the accident. Damages for accidents are awarded proportionally based on degrees of determined negligence. The share of negligence a victim has for their losses in an accident is taken into account when assessing the total damages. The proportional amount of comparative fault will be used to reduce or lower the award.
For example, if a victim is awarded $100,000 for personal injuries but found to be 30% at fault, the victim will only be entitled to recover $70,000.
The defendant will argue that you are comparatively at fault for your personal injuries in a motorcycle accident when you are not wearing a helmet. They will argue this whether or not you are required under the statute to wear a helmet. The defense may try to use experts to testify that your injuries would have been less severe if you were wearing a helmet, and therefore you should be more at fault.
But our Tampa personal injury lawyer knows that this argument is speculative because no expert can definitely say what your injuries would have been in a crash. Moreover, it is unfair to hold you to the requirement of wearing a helmet when you were not required by law to wear one. This is why our skilled and compassionate team will fight back to protect your rights against the helmet defense in Florida.
If you have experienced a personal injury or the wrongful death of a loved one in a motorcycle accident occurring in Florida, call our experienced Tampa personal injury lawyers at John C. Murrow, P.A. by dialing (813) 999-4950. We offer FREE consultations to go over your legal rights, and there is no obligation or upfront financial risk to meet with us.
Our bodily injury law firm pays the upfront costs and disbursements of handling your case which are only reimbursed if we make a recovery for you. The same is true of our attorney’s fees that are only paid after we recover compensation for you in a settlement, verdict, or other award. This means there is no upfront cost or financial risk to begin working with our law firm today. Call (813) 999-4950 to schedule your FREE appointment or send us a secured message through our “contact us” box available here.
The blog published by John C. Murrow Law is available for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter. By viewing blog posts, the reader understands there is no attorney-client relationship between the reader and the blog publisher. The blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney, and readers are urged to consult their own legal counsel on any specific legal questions concerning a specific situation.
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