Motorcycle accidents are one of the leading causes of bike-related deaths that are reported in Florida. It is not always the motorcyclist’s fault for these accidents to occur. If you get involved in a motorcycle accident, we encourage you to take legal action, especially if you believe that it wasn’t your fault and you incurred personal injuries. At Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney, we aim to do whatever we can to ensure that your rights are upheld and that you are fully compensated for any injuries you sustain.
Rights of Motorcyclists as Road Users In Florida
According to section 316.209 subsection 1-4 of Florida motorcycle laws, all motorcyclists have the right to full use of a lane. No vehicle is to be driven in a way that can deny any motorcyclist the full use of a lane. However, this does not apply to two motorcyclists riding next to each other in one lane. Also, a motorcyclist should not overtake using a similar lane occupied by the vehicle that is being overtaken. The state of Florida prohibits motorcyclists from riding between adjacent lines/rows of vehicles or between lanes of traffic. Motorcyclists are also prohibited from riding more than two next to each other in one lane.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents are caused by several factors including:
- Animal collisions
- Drivers operating vehicles under the influence
- Multi-vehicle pile-ups
- Bad weather conditions
- Poorly maintained roads
- Presence of debris in the road
- Poor visibility and blind spots
- Head on collisions
- Road rage occurrences
- Uninsured motorists
- Large commercial trucks that cause collisions
Types of Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident
When a motorcyclist is hit by a vehicle, they may be thrown off the road. In other situations, they are forced to evade the vehicle which leads to a crash. In motorcycle accidents, motorcyclists are usually the only injured party. This is because they do not have the kind of protection that enclosed vehicles have.
When a motorcycle crash happens, it can result in mild, moderate or severe injuries. Moderate injuries may include several broken bones, a traumatic brain injury, heavy road rash, and whiplash. Severe injuries are life-threatening. They may include severe traumatic brain injury, amputation, disability, and spinal cord damage. Other injuries you can sustain include;
- A thoracic spine injury
- Fractured ribs
- Internal organs injuries
- Deep contusions
- Compound fractures
- Lacerations caused by metal, road infrastructure or glass
- Disfigurement or permanent scarring
- Facial damage especially to the mouth, cheekbones, and teeth
Motorcycle collisions are so dangerous for a motorcyclist since they are forcefully making contact with several objects in just one crash. You can come into contact with the vehicle that hits you, the pavement when tumbling or sliding at high speed, fixed objects along the road and another incoming vehicle before finally resting. To be precise, fixed objects like roadside ditches, signs, buildings, trees, curbs, and other cement and metal objects found on roadside or sidewalk are extremely dangerous. Thus, even if your first contact with the car was slight, the final damage may be severe.
What Should You Do After a Motorcycle Accident?
What you do after getting into an accident can have a considerable impact on your case. It is unlikely that your attorney will arrive at the scene of the accident immediately. Thus, you must be careful about anything you do or say. Here is what you should and should not do;
Do not leave the scene of the accident
If your injuries are less severe, you have to be present at the scene of the accident with your motorcycle when the police arrive. It is understandable when you are seriously injured since you might need urgent medical attention. In most cases, seriously injured motorcycle accident victims are carried to the hospital by ambulance after a 911 call is made. Not leaving the scene will help you to account accurately for the events that caused the accident.
Gather information or ask someone else to do it for you
If you are still in a sober mind state after the accident, you should write down, record or take photos of any information relating to the accident. If you are not coherent after the accident, you can have another person gather the information for you. The information you collect may comprise the name of the other party, contact details, his or her license plate number, and the model and make of his/her motorcycle/vehicle.
Do not communicate with the involved party
In case you have an attorney, you should not have communication of any sort with the involved party before he or she arrives at the scene. Do not try to apologize, discuss the events that led to the mishap or say anything unnecessary. This is because the person might use whatever you say to lodge a strong case against you.
Go for treatment
Go to a nearby hospital and have your injuries treated. Also, make follow-up visits to know how your health is progressing. Follow-ups may not be necessary, but they help when proving to the insurance provider that you frequently went to the hospital. If there is inconsistency in your visits to the hospital, your insurance company may decline to compensate for the treatment costs you incurred.
Why You Should Monitor Your Medical Bills and Symptoms
It is important to carefully observe the progression of your signs and symptoms and take note of any medical expenses you incur for your treatment. This is because you may need the information when claiming your benefits. You can use an expense worksheet to keep a note of the medical expenses and a post-accident diary to monitor the impact of the accident on you. In your journal, you have to note how the motorcycle accident changed your life. You can record this information daily or on a weekly basis when you begin to recover from the injuries fully.
The journal may be one of the proofs examined for your case to be determined. Be brief and accurate but at the same time provide a complete account of events while recording in the journal. Having a binder will help you to organize all the documents associated with the accident like the journal and the expense sheet. Make sure you have extra copies of the weekly or daily log pages as a backup.
The medical bill worksheet must include the expenses you incurred while seeing a physical therapist, a chiropractor or an alternative practitioner. The information you include in the worksheet has to be associated with your health. We also recommend that you have a separate worksheet for recording your lost income, property damage, and prescriptions.
Liability in Motorcycle Accidents
The party that caused the accident has to be responsible for any damages or injuries you sustain. You can sue a pedestrian, another motorcyclist, a city or a driver. Seeking justice and compensation starts with filing a personal injury claim. We advise that you seek legal help from an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure that you are filing the lawsuit correctly. A lawsuit will help you recover compensations for medical expenses, lost wages, future treatment, motorcycle repair, and physical injuries.
What If The Accident Was Caused By a Poor Road Condition?
Motorcycles are vulnerable to adverse road conditions compared to cars. While cars have mechanisms that reduce the discomfort resulting from riding on uneven grounds, motorcycles are not built with these mechanisms. When a roadway is in bad condition, there are higher chances that you will lose control and crash. Water leaks, potholes, lifted asphalt, loose gravel, and broken road signs are among the road conditions that can result in motorcycle accidents.
In Florida, the obligation to repair roads that are in poor condition is entrusted to a property owner or a city. If the said parties do not maintain good condition of the roads, they can be held responsible for any injuries or damages you may incur. The state of Florida permits you to use premises liability to back your accident case. Premises liability is a type of negligence demonstrated by property owners. Business premises owners must account for accidents that happen in their establishments due to their failure in fixing a hazardous condition (Statute 768.0755).
People who visit a property are either licensees, trespassers or invitees. Invitees will visit only with the owner’s invitation while licensees will access and live on a property based on the interests or at the expense of the owner after being given consent. Making an entrance into someone else’s property without the knowledge or permission from the owner makes you an intruder or a trespasser.
Therefore, in the event that you make a claim against the owner of a property after the accident, the court looks typically at the method you used to access the property, why you accessed it, and the likelihood of accidents. A judge will also look at whether the owner of the property tried to caution you about the poor condition of the road. It is important to provide all information to your attorney as to whether you were granted permission to enter the property in order to build a strong case against the owner of the property.
Types of Damages You Can Recover After a Motorcycle Accident
After getting into an accident, the first step towards recovering damages is consulting your attorney to know whether you are entitled to a legal claim. You can seek compensation if another person is to blame for the accident that caused your injuries and damages. After that, try finding out the worth of your claim. In the state of Florida, there are two major types of damages you can recover. They include economic and non-economic damages. The aim of these damage rewards is to help you restore your natural health.
Economic damages are a form of compensation for all the expenses you incur in the accident. They are mainly financial restitution because it is easy to calculate their value. Their value is calculated depending on proof of the tangible impact the accident had on you. They include;
- Present and future medical bills
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Property damage costs
Non-economic damages are meant to compensate you for the intangible harm the accident caused. The harm may be psychosocial, emotional or mental. The aim of non-economic damages is to help victims that might never fully go back to their normal lives as a result of the accident. They include damages for;
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish
- Any other inconveniences caused
Apart from non-economic and economic damages, you also can be compensated for punitive damages. Unlike the two, the aim of punitive damages is to punish or penalize the party responsible for the accident for their actions that caused the accident. You will be allowed to claim punitive damages if you can prove that the responsible party was malicious, reckless, intentional or grossly negligent. However, these form of damages is rarely granted in personal injury cases in Florida. In the event that it is granted, you will only recover a value that is equivalent to $500,000 or 3 times the value of non-economic and economic damages.
In the event that the motorcycle accident resulted in the death of your family member, it is possible to file a wrongful death claim in order to be compensated for the loss. Among the factors that the court will consider before granting this type of compensation include the relationship you had with the deceased, the available net income of the deceased, and the value the deceased had in the family. By filing a wrongful death claim, here are the damages you can recover;
- Medical bills from the time of the accident until death
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of companionship and affection
- Loss of future wages
- Psychological injuries
Determining the Worth of Your Injuries
If the motorcycle accident was as a result of another person’s negligence, it is important you know the amount you will be compensated for your injuries. It can be overwhelming for you to calculate the damages on your own especially if you still haven’t healed from the injuries. Thus, we recommend you seek help from your personal injury attorney, who will help you determine the worth of your injuries.
The court considers comparative negligence (shared fault) when estimating the degree of fault of the involved parties in the accident. The percentage helps to calculate the economic, punitive, and non-economic damages that you will be given. Your attorney will use the multiplier formula to determine the damages you deserve. The court will consider these factors when determining the compensation amount you receive;
- The doctor’s prognosis
- The kind of the medical care you sought
- The severity of your injuries
- Permanent effects the accident left (if any)
- The expenses you anticipate to incur for treatment
- The impact the accident left on your everyday life
As your attorney negotiates for greater compensation, the insurance company will negotiate for a lesser amount. The company determines the degree of responsibility by analyzing the damages, reviewing hospital and police records, and cross-examining you and sometimes the witnesses that were at the scene. The compensation amount can be increased if you sustained more serious injuries and in case of a permanent disability.
What If You Are Partly To Blame For The Accident?
Florida state courts use the negligence recovery system as stipulated under Statute 768.81 when determining compensation for motorcycle accident victims. This system allows for your compensation amount to be slashed depending on your extent of fault in the accident. By using this formula, a certain degree of fault is allocated to you in the process of negotiating your settlement expect if the accident was a rear-end collision.
It is important that your attorney gets involved during the determination of your percentage of fault in the accident. Under Statute 768.81(3), a judge should give his or her verdict against the other involved party and you depending on your degree of fault and not based on your joint responsibility. It is also possible that the defendant will lay the fault to a non-party. He or she will do this by contesting the defenses your attorney presents or filing a motion. A non-party is a person or an entity that was not directly linked to the accident.
Who Pays Damages in a Hit and Run Accident?
In case the party responsible for the accident flew the scene of the accident, you can still file for a compensation claim if the party gets caught. He or she will then have to bear the responsibility for the harm caused. If the party is not caught, the payment for your claim will come from your own insurance.
Fleeing the scene of an accident that results in death is a first-degree felony (Statute 316.06). Its consequences include at least 4 years of prison time. Fleeing the accident scene where you have caused severe bodily injuries is a second-degree felony while leaving any injured victim at the accident scene is a third-degree felony.
Florida Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
As Statute 95.11(3)(a) provides, the period for claiming damages for the negligent actions of the liable party is 4 years. However, it is best to contact your attorney immediately you are involved in an accident. This is because by waiting any longer there is a chance that you will forget significant details that have to do with the accident. You also have to do this when other victims involved, and witnesses still have an active memory of the events pertaining to the accident.
The statute of limitations starts from the date the accident took place. However, if you were unaware that you sustained an injury and you could not suspect it either, there is a discovery rule in place which allows you additional time to file the injury claim. In this circumstance, the statute of limitations starts running from the day you were made aware of the injury.
The state of Florida has specific laws relating to motorcycle accidents. Thus, we recommend that you talk to an experienced attorney who will help you to review the details of the case. He or she can review hospital and police reports and interview the witnesses in order to get full information. After an evaluation of all the information, your attorney will inform you of what to expect as damages and how to go about to collect it.
Do You Need an Insurance as a Motorcycle Rider in Florida?
Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) does not require motorcyclists to obtain insurance during motorcycle registration. However, you will be financially liable for any injuries you inflict on others or any property damage you cause if you get into a motorcycle accident. Thus, we recommend that you purchase a bodily injury or a property damage liability insurance in case there is none in effect. Failure to which will lead to DHSMV suspending your license, tag or registration.
It is a good idea if you inquire from your motorcycle insurance provider about transporting passengers using your motorcycle so that you can know if your insurance covers passengers. Florida law does not provide an age restriction for passengers of a motorcycle. However, it provides that you and the passenger have to put on eye protection gear for the purposes of safety. Note that you may be charged in a court of law for risking the life of a minor if you recklessly ride your motorbike while carrying a minor.
Finding a Personal Injury Attorney Experienced in Motorcycle Accidents Near Me
Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney has been representing victims of motorcycle accidents in Jacksonville, FL for many years. If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident and you believe that it was not your fault, or if your loved one succumbed to injuries as a result of a motorcycle accident caused by someone else, feel free to contact us. With our knowledge and experience in personal injury law, our sole purpose is to help you get the compensation you deserve. Call our Jacksonville personal injury lawyer at 904-800-7557 so that we can schedule a consultation and review your case.