According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were around 84,000 motorcyclists injured in accidents in 2019. Worse, motorcyclists made up 14 percent of traffic deaths despite using only 3 percent of registered vehicles.
Motorcycle crashes can be especially dangerous, leading to severe injuries. These accidents are often complicated, and assigning fault can be difficult. If you know or believe that you were partially responsible for your motorcycle accident, you might be concerned about how this affects your ability to sue for damages to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses.
The laws around insurance and motorcycle accident liability in Florida are complicated. However, the state’s comparative negligence system means that it is certainly possible to receive compensation for a motorcycle accident even if you were partially at fault and hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer can be beneficial to you.
Why are motorcycle accidents so dangerous?
Any vehicle crash can cause significant injuries, but you are especially likely to be seriously injured if you crash while riding a motorcycle. Here’s why:
It’s usually harder for people driving cars to see motorcycles and determine how fast the motorcycle is going. These issues limit the driver’s situational awareness and make a crash more likely.
Lack of barriers
Since motorcycles are smaller, lighter, and more open than cars, a motorcyclist is more vulnerable to serious injury if involved in a crash with a car. Motorcyclists don’t have the safety benefits of seatbelts, airbags, or being surrounded by the metal cage of a car.
Lack of skill
Driving a motorcycle requires different skills than driving a car, but many motorcyclists do not have the proper training or experience to ride safely. Driving a lightweight but powerful vehicle can also encourage unsafe behavior like speeding, which leads to more frequent crashes.
Since motorcycles are less protected from their surroundings and less stable than cars, they are vulnerable to hazards on the road that wouldn’t pose a problem for vehicles. These can include wet pavement, debris on the road, or even leaves.
Insurance in Florida
While all car accident claims in Florida start with the driver’s own insurance company, motorcyclists’ processes and requirements differ.
Motorcycle insurance requirements in Florida can be complicated. Florida does not require motorcyclists to have insurance. The state uses an unusual arrangement in which motorcyclists only need to carry insurance if they ride without a helmet.
Riders who wear a helmet are not required to purchase insurance. However, if you are in an accident, you may be financially responsible for your medical bills and those of the other driver. You may also be required to have insurance coverage for up to three years after being in an accident.
While Florida motorcyclists do not need insurance on their vehicles, it’s a good idea to purchase it anyway to protect yourself from financial liability after an accident. Medical bills can be an enormous and unmanageable expense.
Florida is one of ten states that use a no-fault car insurance system. This means that if you are in an accident, your car insurance company should pay all of the costs, such as your medical bills and lost wages. This is intended to simplify and speed up the insurance claims process.
Regardless of who is at fault, you cannot sue the other driver for damages unless your injuries meet the definition of serious under state law. A severe injury needs to cause either permanent loss of a bodily function, a permanent injury, substantial and permanent scarring, or death.
However, no-fault insurance does not apply to motorcyclists. Because they are not required to carry insurance, they do not need to meet the serious injury threshold to sue the other party if they were at fault. If you were in an accident with someone driving a car, it’s good to be aware of this system since it will likely apply to the other driver.
Personal Injury Claims
Because of Florida’s vehicle insurance laws, motorcyclists are more likely than car drivers to be able to file personal injury claims or lawsuits after an accident. If a motorcycle accident injured you, you could sue the other driver regardless of how serious your injuries were.
Successful personal injury lawsuits require negligence. To prove that the other party was negligent, you’ll need to demonstrate four elements. First, you’ll need to show that the defendant, or the other driver, had a legal duty to act in a certain way.
In a motor vehicle accident case, this essentially means driving safely and cautiously, which all motorists must do. Then, you’ll need to prove that the defendant was driving irresponsibly, that you were injured, and that the irresponsible behavior caused your injury.
Reckless behavior while driving includes doing something you shouldn’t (like speeding) and failing to do something you should (like stopping at a red light).
When determining liability, insurance companies will look at any evidence that details the accident and the aftermath. This might include evidence that establishes what happened, like witness statements, photos documenting road conditions, or traffic camera footage. It will also include evidence of the injuries you’re seeking compensation for. These items can consist of medical records, medical bills, documentation of missed work days, and any other relevant information.
In many accidents, there isn’t one party exclusively at fault. Perhaps you were speeding and crashed with a driver who changed lanes without signaling. Being partially at fault for your accident does not mean that you cannot receive compensation for your injuries and other financial and non-financial losses.
Florida uses a pure comparative negligence system. This means that if you partially caused your motorcycle accident, your compensation would decrease by the percentage of your responsibility.
If you were partially responsible for your motorcycle accident, look carefully at your entire case with your lawyer before deciding whether to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
Other states either use a modified comparative negligence system or a contributory negligence system. In states with a modified comparative negligence system, damages decrease according to your percentage of liability. However, unlike in a pure comparative negligence system, you cannot be awarded damages unless you were 50 percent responsible or less.
Only a few states use contributory negligence. In this system, you cannot receive damages if you were partially responsible for the accident. If you were partly responsible for your accident, you’re in a better position if you live in Florida or another pure comparative negligence state.
Several factors influence whether you’ll be found entirely or partly liable for your motorcycle accident.
Wearing a helmet
Florida law does not require you to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle unless you are riding without insurance. However, not wearing a helmet might be evidence of your negligence, especially if you incurred an injury to your head or neck. Even if you weren’t breaking the law, the other party will likely provide documentation showing that you could have prevented or mitigated your injuries by wearing a helmet.
Lane splitting, or riding your motorcycle between lines of cars, is illegal in most states. If you split lanes when your accident occurred, you may have caused your accident. However, there are still some factors that can affect your liability. If you were generally riding safely, you might not be fully liable. If the other driver did someone more dangerous, like being distracted by texting, you’re more likely to have shared liability.
Driving above the speed limit is a common factor in crashes. Since this is a straightforward rule that drivers must follow, speeding usually indicates negligence. If you broke the speed limit, you’re more likely to be found liable. Depending on the situation, you might bring up mitigating factors, such as if you kept up with traffic flow or if the other driver exceeded that speed.
More than half of fatal accidents involving both a car and a motorcycle occurred while the car was turning left. This makes this a common accident scenario for motorcyclists. Since driving laws clearly state that drivers making a left turn must yield to other traffic, if another driver hits you while turning left, they’re probably at fault.
Of course, more than one of these things can happen in the same accident in many cases. The comparative negligence system allows courts or insurance companies to consider that both parties may have some responsibility for an accident.
If you have motorcycle insurance, start by filing a claim with your own insurance company. However, if you aren’t insured or want to pursue non-economic damages, you’ll proceed with filing a personal injury claim. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases is four years in Florida. Since you have some time before you need to file, it’s best to wait until you have recovered from your injuries as much as possible. Waiting until you have reached maximum medical improvement ensures that you have a complete picture of your medical expenses and the ongoing effects of the accident. You’ll file a claim with the other party’s insurance or sue them personally if they are uninsured. While there will probably be some negotiation, almost all personal injury cases settle without going to court.
Calculating losses will be fairly straightforward if you only seek economic damages, like lost wages or medical expenses. If you’re looking for compensation for pain and suffering or other non-financial injuries, the insurance company will usually use the multiplier method to put a number on those damages. This method takes your financial damages and multiplies them by a number, representing how serious your injuries were.
The multiplier, along with your percentage of liability, is likely to be a significant point of negotiation during the settlement process. This makes working with an experienced attorney a critical factor in getting the best results possible.
Work With an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Whether you were at fault, not at fault, or partially responsible, navigating the claims process after a motorcycle accident can overwhelm you. Florida’s different insurance requirements for cars and motorcycles can make crashes between the two types of vehicles especially complicated.
Fortunately, Florida uses a comparative fault system that allows motorcyclists to receive some compensation even if they were partially responsible for their accidents. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer will help you understand your options and get the best possible settlement if a motorcycle accident injured you.
Perenich Law injury Attorneys
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