According to a study conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA), Florida leads the nation in the number of motorcycle accidents reported every year. While Florida has a lot to offer motorcyclists, you should know the dangers of injuries as well as what actions you should take should a motorcycle accident occur. At Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we understand that most accidents occur as a result of other parties acting negligently, hence putting you at risk. However, the law is quite challenging for a layperson to understand what to do to get the benefits they deserve. That is why we have developed a list of the most commonly asked questions by our clients.
How Does Motorcycle Law Differ With Automobile Accident Law?
In most states, motorcycle insurance laws and automobile insurance laws are the same. However, in Florida, there are many differences between these two laws. First, all car drivers should have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage that covers medical expenses and lost income irrespective of who caused the accident. The PIP coverage laws don't apply to motorcycles. Although there are insurance providers who offer PIP coverage for motorcycles that are the same as PIP for vehicles, that coverage isn't controlled by Florida law. This is because PIP insurance is not mandatory for motorcycles.
Secondly, unlike an injury due to an auto accident, a motorcycle accident victim doesn't require to show a permanent injury to be compensated for pain and suffering.
What are the Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you're thirty-seven times more likely to be involved in a motorcycle accident than a motor vehicle accident. You are also 9 times more likely to suffer injuries while riding a motorcycle compared to when driving a vehicle. The various attributes of these accidents are explained below.
Motorcycles in Head-on Collisions
According to an online article, crashes involving vehicles and motorcycles make up fifty-six percent of motorcycle accident fatalities. In most of these motorcycle accidents (about 78%), the vehicles strike the motorcycles from the front. Usually, the head-on collisions are fatal to the rider.
Vehicles Making Left-Hand Turns
Another hazardous situation for any motorcyclist happens when vehicles make a left-hand turn. This accounts for forty-two percent of accidents involving a car and a motorcycle. Usually, the turning vehicles strike the motorcycles when the motorcyclists are:
- Passing the vehicle,
- Overtaking the vehicle, or
- Going straight over an intersection.
This type of accident is also common between two vehicles, but the size of a motorcycle makes it less noticeable to the turning driver. Additionally, a motorcycle that passes vehicles within the same lane is more vulnerable because most drivers won’t expect a motorcycle to maneuver.
More often than not, a car that hits another car while turning will be held accountable for the motorcycle accident. Nevertheless, if you were in the wrong lane or speeding, you will be partially responsible for the accident. That means you will receive less damages from the vehicle's driver for loss incurred at the time of the accident.
Motorcycle Lane Splitting
Lane splitting happens when you ride between two lanes of slowly moving or stopped vehicles, particularly in traffic. It is one of the most common causes of accidents as a result of the following reasons:
- The proximity of the vehicle to the motorcycle,
- Motorists do not expect any motorcyclist to pass them during a traffic jam, and
- Reduced space that the motorcycle has to maneuver,
The action of both the motorcyclist and the driver before the accident is one of the factors used when determining who is at fault.
Alcohol Use and Over-speeding
Approximately half the accidents involving one motorcycle are as a result of drunk riding or over-speeding. Since motorcycles do not offer ample protection to cyclists, these accidents are likely to cause severe injuries or death.
A Collision Between a Fixed Object and Motorcycle
Motorcycles colliding with objects accidents lead to about twenty-five percent of rider deaths. This is because the rider is not protected and is more likely to be thrown hard and far.
Riders also face more risks from road hazards compared to other road users. Owing to the unstable nature and small size of a motorcycle, dead animals, uneven lane heights, potholes, and other unexpected objects pose a safety risk to motorcyclists.
What are the Most Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries?
According to the NHTSA, approximately eighty percent of motorcycle accident results in injuries or death. There are many injuries you can suffer if you are involved in a motorcycle accident.
Usually, road rash happens when you fall on the ground at the motorcycle's speed and sustain cuts, abrasions, and bruises.
Spinal Cord Injury
Spinal cord injury can result in total paralysis of legs or arm and sometimes death.
Another common type of injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident is bone fractures with broken leg injuries on top of the list. Since a motorcycle cannot stand up on its own, accidents would result in the rider and the motorcycle falling. Because the accident will happen within a fraction of a minute, the motorcyclist is not able to move their legs, which means the vehicle will fall on the leg(s), causing a break.
You can also experience arm, wrist, shoulder, or pelvic fractures.
This occurs when an injury compromises the extremities, and the only treatment to prevent further damage is removing the limb.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Failing to wear a helmet will undoubtedly lead to head trauma from impact. TBI does not only lead to the degradation of the quality of life, but it is also fatal.
What Steps Should I Take After the Motorcycle Accident?
Below are tips that can apply to almost all situations:
Contacting the Police
Even if the accident is minor, call the police and ask them to come to the accident scene to take statements, interview the other motorists, assess property damage, get insurance information, take note of road conditions, draw diagrams, and determine who is at fault.
Contact Fire Rescue
If there are victims who require immediate medical care, get a fire rescue team to the scene to evaluate and take the victims to a hospital.
Seek Medical Care
Getting timely medical attention for yourself or other victims is vital. Some injuries manifest right away while others require a diagnosis from a medical expert. Better safe than sorry; it is better to get checked and get a confirmation that you are okay than realizing the hard way that you required medical attention all along. Inform your treating doctor that you were involved in a motorcycle accident.
Getting a medical report is also essential, especially when the insurance provider is trying to reduce your claim settlement value.
Taking photos of visible physical injuries sustained from the accident will help show the impact of the crash on your body. Over time, lacerations and bruises may heal or fade. Therefore, it's imperative to document the injuries when it's practical to do so.
If possible, also take photos of any debris, skid marks, damage to fixed objects such as guardrails, traffic signals, landmarks, and viewpoints of the parties involved as each approached the accident scene.
Contact the Insurance Company
Also, contact and report to your insurer immediately that an accident has occurred. The insurer will ask you to provide a statement of the events of the accident. Refrain from issuing it until a qualified personal injury lawyer prepares it.
Stay Away from Social Media
Upon reporting the accident, your insurance provider will search through your social media platforms to see if there are posts linked to the accident that can be used against your case.
Hire a Competent Personal Injury Lawyer
Even in the few hours after the accident, statements or actions made may end up jeopardizing your claim. Therefore, it's best to have a lawyer assist you in navigating through the chaotic world that presents itself following the motorcycle accident.
What is a No-Contact Motorcycle Accident?
A no-contact motorcycle accident is an accident where the motorcycle is the only vehicle involved. Usually, these accidents happen when you have to maneuver to avoid crashing with a car. A perfect example could be when you are operating a motorcycle, and as a safe rider, you are complying with all traffic rules. While driving, you see a car that is coming towards you on the other side of the road begin to swerve into your lane. As a result, you swerve off the road to avoid colliding with the vehicle, but end up colliding with a fixed object on the road.
The basis of a no-contact claim is negligence, and the victim will have to prove negligence to support their claim. Negligence means the driver didn't act with reasonable care or adhere to standards that a reasonable driver would apply in a similar situation. For instance, if a driver is sending a message on the phone and start swerving into another lane without seeing that there is a motorcyclist in the lane, then the driver is acting negligently.
How Do You Hold the At-fault Driver in a No Contact Accident Accountable?
In no-contact accidents, holding the liable driver accountable can be difficult. Often, this is because most drivers don't stop because they are not aware that they caused an accident. Therefore, unless you as the rider take note of the vehicle's description or license plate, it can be overwhelming to locate the responsible driver.
The police will handle your case the same way as a hit and run, and they try their best to locate the driver. However, this could even take months, leaving you without compensation. If this is the case, you will have to rely on your insurer to compensate you for medical expenses, among other damages. If the at-fault driver is located, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them.
What Happens if I'm Partially At-Fault?
Even if you were partially at fault for the accident, you would still be able to recover compensation. Florida follows a pure comparative negligence rule when awarding compensation in lawsuits that involve several responsible parties. The percentage of your fault reduces damages. That means, if you are 25% at fault, your compensation will be reduced by 25%.
The pure comparative fault rule also applies even if you are found to be more at fault for the accident than the other driver. For instance, if the judge decides that you are 95% at fault, you're technically entitled to the 5% of the total damages.
Although motorcyclists are excluded from the PIP coverage requirement, you can still purchase no-fault insurance. With the PIP coverage, you can file a claim with your insurer no matter who is responsible for the accident.
What are the Different Types of Damages in Florida Motorcycle Claims?
There are various types of damages you might be entitled to claim in a motorcycle accident. Nevertheless, the way you claim compensation (through a court trial or settlement) might limit how much you're entitled to and the damages you will receive. Below are the most common damages:
A personal injury case will always include reimbursement for the medical treatment you have already received as well as compensation for the expected medical expenses to be incurred in the future as a result of a motorcycle accident. These include the cost of emergency medical transportation (medevac and ambulances), surgery, physician's appointments, imaging like MRIs and X-rays, physical therapy, the medication used, and hospital stays.
You are entitled to recover both lost wages if your injury is preventing you from performing your work and getting the income you would have earned if the accident did not occur. In a personal injury lawsuit, damages received based on future income is considered as compensation for the loss of earning capacity.
Loss of Property
If your motorcycle, clothes, or any assets were damaged during the accident, you are entitled to compensation for the market value or repairs for the asset lost.
Pain and Suffering
A plaintiff is also entitled to compensation for both mental and physical pain experienced as a result of the accident. Physical pain is not just the pain you are enduring now, but also the devastating effects you are likely to suffer in the future due to the accident. On the other hand, mental pain and suffering are negative emotions you are likely to suffer as a result of enduring trauma and the physical pain of the accident. It includes things such as emotional distress, fear, humiliation, anxiety, shock, and mental anguish.
Loss of Enjoyment
You could be entitled to recover the damages in question, if an injury from the motorcycle accident is preventing you from enjoying everyday pursuits such as exercise, hobbies, among other recreational activities.
Loss of Consortium
Unlike other types of damages, loss of consortium damages is awarded to the plaintiff's family members. These damages involve the effect the injuries have on your relationship with your spouse (inability to have a sexual relationship or loss of companionship). It can also take into account the effect on a parent-child relationship where one is hurt.
In circumstances where the defendant's acts are considered egregious careless, you could be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages come from an underlying principle that is not the same as the purpose of compensatory damages. Instead, they are meant to punish the accused for their conduct.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Florida for Suing the Driver who Caused my Motorcycle Accident?
Statute of limitations is the law that outlines the time limit a plaintiff should file a lawsuit after an injury. The specific statute of limitations in Florida that apply to motorcycle accidents varies depending on the accused and whether the accident caused death.
An injured person who wishes to file a case against the other party has four (4) years from the date of the accident to do so. Once this statute of limitations expires, the court will most likely not hear your case.
Surviving family members who have lost their loved one have two years to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent party.
Product Liability Injury Lawsuits
When an accident is a result of a defective motorcycle part like throttles, fuel tanks, or tires, you can bring a product liability case with the assistance of an experienced lawyer. You have a two and four-year limit to file a lawsuit when the defect causes death and injury, respectively.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Against a Government Authority
If a motorist in a government car or a poorly maintained road caused the motorcycle accident, then you can take legal action against the responsible government entity for damages. In this case, a three-year statute of limitations applies from the time of the motorcycle accident.
Property Damage Case
Under Florida law, you have four years to press charges against the at-fault party if you want to be compensated for property loss or damage.
Are their Extensions to Statute of Limitations in Clay County Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits?
The law is very clear about the statute of limitations for filing a case after a motorcycle accident. However, the law also outlines the following situations in which the jury could make an exemption:
The Respondent’s Location
When the liable party leaves the State of Florida after the accident, it is not possible to serve them with documents to start a case. As a result, the judge will stop the clock until the accused returns.
Occasionally, the respondent may give the police false identity as a way of avoiding liability. If this is the case, the judge will extend the statute of limitations until the police and insurance providers verify the respondent’s location and identity.
It is almost impossible for a victim who suffers a catastrophic injury after a motorcycle accident to bring a lawsuit. The law gives victims in a coma, or those requiring extended hospital stays seven years to file a lawsuit from the date of the injury.
When a minor is hurt as a result of an accident, the jury could begin the statute of limitations once the minor turns 18 years of age if nobody filed a case on their behalf. Well, these situations vary a lot, and it is essential to discuss this with a qualified attorney.
Can I Collect Damages for Head Injuries if I was not Wearing a Helmet at the Time of the Accident?
It is mandatory for all Florida motorcyclists below 21 years of age to wear a helmet. Motorcyclists above 21, on the other hand, are lawfully exempted from putting on a helmet provided they have a PIP coverage worth $10,000. It is important to note that the helmet laws do not make riding a motorcycle without a helmet safer. Therefore, it is still paramount for you to wear your helmet whenever you get on the motorbike.
Failing to put on the helmet does not always keep you from recovering damages. Instead, it can affect the ability to be awarded damages or the total amount of damages you receive. Here is why.
Florida follows a pure comparative fault rule when determining liability in motorcycle accidents. Deciding not to put on the helmet makes you partially accountable for any injuries suffered. That means if you sustain a severe head injury such as traumatic brain injury, and you were not in a helmet, the decision to not put on a helmet will be analyzed by the jury to check if it was accountable for any percentage of the injury.
Should I Accept the First Offer from the Insurance Company?
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident and your insurance firm reaches out to settle your claim, the odds are that it is not a fair settlement. Insurance providers are notorious for low-balling people, especially those not represented by an attorney. Thus, you should first consult your attorney before accepting any offer.
The more you know about personal injury law regarding motorcycle accidents, the better placed you are to protect yourself while navigating a lawsuit. This will help you know your rights should an accident occur. Contact the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney at 904-494-8242 to address all your questions and concerns regarding motorcycle accidents.