By Marcus Fernandez
Florida’s weather and scenic beauty make it an ideal place to own and ride a motorcycle. Regrettably, the prevalence of motorcycle riding is evident in the 2,482 accidents that have taken place in the Sunshine State this year. Florida also was home to 9,146 motorcycle accidents last year.
If you have sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident on Florida roads this year, you could be eligible for compensation. Whether or not you wore a helmet may affect the amount of compensation you receive. The state helmet law and newly modified comparative negligence law will affect how much, if any, compensation you recover from another driver whose negligent behavior caused the accident.
To gain a clear understanding of your entitlement to seek damages, this article will analyze Florida’s helmet requirements in the event of a crash. Furthermore, the article will assess the potential for the negligent driver’s insurance company or defense attorneys to use the failure to wear a helmet as a means to challenge your ability to obtain compensation from their insured party.
Keep in mind that a Tampa personal injury attorney is your best source for legal advice. Having skilled lawyers after a motorcycle accident injury is crucial. A KFB attorney can review the facts of the claim and determine whether you qualify for compensation.
Florida motorcycle helmet law
The law in Florida requires operators and passengers on motorcycles to wear a helmet that complies with federal safety standards. Operators also must wear eye protection.
However, the statute allows a person who is at least 21 years old to operate a motorcycle or ride as a passenger on one without a helmet or other type of protective headgear. This is provided the person has medical benefits insurance covering them for at least $10,000 in medical expenses. The exception to the helmet law does not eliminate the need for operators of any age to wear protective eyewear.
If you violate the helmet law, you could receive a traffic ticket and pay a fine. Not wearing a helmet violates the law, but you can still claim compensation if injured by another driver’s negligence.
The defense may use your failure to wear a helmet to challenge your compensation. Florida law lets judges and jurors consider evidence of negligence of all parties involved in a crash. This includes the extent to which you contributed to the accident or the injuries that you suffered.
Comparative negligence and failure to wear a helmet
Florida is a comparative negligence state. This means the plaintiff making a claim for compensation for injuries caused by another party, may be held responsible for the degree of fault on your part that either contributed to causing a crash or the injuries that you sustained. The state changed its comparative negligence law in 2023.
The state had what lawyers refer to as a “pure comparative negligence system”. Under this system, plaintiffs were eligible for compensation irrespective of their degree of fault. Legislation went into effect on March 24, 2023, and changed some of the rules that apply to personal injury claims. This includes lawsuits filed to recover compensation after a motorcycle accident.
Amendment of the state’s comparative negligence law changed it from pure comparative negligence to modified comparative negligence. This change is significant. It now means that a plaintiff’s degree of fault cannot exceed 50%, in order to recover compensation against another party. Suppose, for instance, that the evidence provided by the defense demonstrates that the plaintiff was 50% responsible for causing the accident or the resulting injuries; in that case, the compensation amount will be decreased by 50%.
Nonetheless, if the evidence establishes that the plaintiff is 51% liable, the jury cannot grant compensation for the plaintiff’s injuries. In the past, a plaintiff could still receive compensation under comparative negligence laws, but it would be lowered according to their degree of fault, which would be 51% in this scenario.
Opting to ride without a helmet, even if you are at least 21 years old and legally allowed to do so in Florida, may serve as evidence against you in legal proceedings. This may suggest that you bear some responsibility for the injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. For instance, the defense could argue that if the motorcycle operator or passenger had worn a helmet, a head injury may not have happened or could have been less severe. The jury or judge hearing the case at trial assigns fault percentage for not wearing a helmet.
Change to the statute of limitations
Adoption of a modified comparative negligence system was not the only change in the personal injury laws that could affect your ability to recover damages for injuries sustained in a Florida motorcycle accident. The statute of limitations, which is the amount of time that you have to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for injuries in a motorcycle accident, has changed. It’s now only two years from the date of the accident. It had previously been four years.
Taking action quickly is crucial because failing to make a claim within the two-year statute of limitations will result in losing the right to sue the at-fault party. Consult a personal injury attorney and file a lawsuit within the timeframe.
Contact a Tampa personal Injury attorney
We recommend that you seek the services of a KFB personal injury attorney if you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident. It is important to analyze the specifics of the collision, and since laws can be complex, it is best to trust a personal injury attorney to assess the impact, if any, of a helmet law on your claim for compensation.