We are all aware of the potentially fatal consequences of riding a motorcycle while under the influence. The danger is not only to the riders themselves but also to other drivers and pedestrians. Consequently, riding a motorcycle in Florida while drunk attracts both criminal charges and possible civil proceedings. Victims of alcohol-related motorcycle accidents have a right to claim compensation from drunk riders.
DUI motorcycle accident lawsuits are complicated. If you or your loved one are a victim, you will need help from professionals like Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney. We have the requisite experience to handle the intricate details of motorcycle accident compensation confidently. You can rely on us to aggressively pursue the compensation you deserve.
Legal Basics Relating to Motorcycle DUI Accidents
Florida’s traffic laws apply to both cars and motorcycles alike for purposes of traffic liability and traffic control. Both a car driver and a motorcyclist share a similar burden. Section 322.01(26) of Florida laws defines a motorcycle as any motor-powered vehicle with three wheels or less, a saddle or seat for the rider, and an engine capacity of more than 50cc. They include motorized scooters and mopeds with more than 50cc engine power.
Once you sign your motorcycle license or get an endorsement, you must abide by all traffic laws. Under Florida Statute 316.193(1), you are legally drunk and should not drive if your Blood Alcohol Content is at least 0.08%. For commercial drivers, Section 322.61 (3)(b) of Florida Statutes sets the limit at lower than 0.04%. Florida Statute 322.2616(1)(a) requires drivers younger than 21 to have a BAC lower than 0.02%. If a motorcycle rider flaunts any of these rules, they are legally responsible for their actions.
The core of a majority of personal injury suits is negligence. You bear the burden of proving the defendant’s negligence, and that they committed illegality against you. To demonstrate negligence and fulfill your case requirements, you must show the following elements:
- An owed duty of care: The respondent owed you a duty of care
- They breached that duty
- You suffered injury or damage due to the breach: You must show a direct linkage between your injuries and the respondent’s actions.
In cases involving negligence, the principle issue is what duty the respondent owed you because you are most likely strangers to each other. Usually, the jury must determine whether the defendant acted in a way that a sensible person with sound judgment would act under similar circumstances. If the litigant is a minor, the jury compares their actions to those of a minor of comparable age, intelligence, and experience. Criminal cases require that you prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, you only have to demonstrate negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. You only have to prove that it is “more likely than not,” or there is a 51% chance that the respondent was negligent.
Pure Comparative Negligence
This system allocates damages between parties depending on their measure of liability. It means you can recover damages from the other person’s percentage of negligence. Opponents of the system believe that it allows you to receive compensation for a mishap that you participated in causing. However, proponents believe that it helps cover the essential bills. It is also more likely that multiple persons are responsible for an accident.
It is almost impossible for one person to be fully liable. Therefore, it is more equitable to assign liability appropriately between the parties. Your verdict reduces by your percentage of fault. If your responsibility in the accident was 40%, you would receive 60% of the verdict amount. The extent of your injuries and the possible claims available from insurance providers or other parties will determine the damages you receive.
The Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is a law that specifies the maximum time within which you must initiate legal proceedings. You must adhere to the rules of limitations when filing your case; else, you forever lose your right to submit a claim. The laws exist so that filing happens when information is still fresh and reliable. They ensure the events are recent, witnesses' memory is unobstructed, and documents are available. The statute of limitations also allows a person to live without fear of an incident that occurred years earlier coming to haunt them later.
For a personal injury claim, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.11(3)(a) (2016) gives you four years to file your claim. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 95.11(4)(d) (2016) requires that you file a wrongful death claim within two years. For petitions against the government, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 768.28(6)(a) (2016) allows three years for personal injury and two years for wrongful death with an investigatory period of 180 days.
Two years is a rapid turnaround, so it is best to file your case without delay. If the window period lapses, the court will not hear your claim case unless there are exceptional mitigating circumstances, such as discovering an injury that you could not have found within the statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations usually commence on the date you sustain your injury. However, you may sometimes be unaware of an injury, and you would not reasonably suspect it. The discovery rule creates a leeway for statutes of limitations to start on the date you reasonably would have detected the damage. It allows you more time to bring your personal injury claim.
Sometimes, you cannot control the circumstances that would impede the progress of your case. Tolling refers to temporarily putting the statute of limitations on hold in the interest of justice, for example, if you are mentally incompetent or the victim is a minor. Also, if the offending rider flees the area, the court will understand the circumstances and wait longer.
Common Injuries for Motorcycle Passengers
Motorcycles lack the kind of protection that cars offer, which makes injuries of motorcyclists and their passengers more severe than injuries of people inside vehicles. If you are a passenger on a motorbike with a drunk rider, an accident is likely to cause you the following types of injuries:
- Traumatic brain injuries: These life-threatening injuries affect your brain and its ability to communicate with the rest of your body. Your brain controls involuntary activities such as breathing, as well as your capacity to think with clarity and make decisions. Signs of brain injury are clear liquids or bleeding from the ears, confusion, memory loss, and extreme fatigue.
- Broken bones: The chances of having broken bones are high because your legs are exposed. Also, you may suffer broken bones from the double impact of the motorcycle hitting or getting hit by a car, and you hit the pavement. The severity of broken bone injuries is crucial because the damage is sometimes permanent. You may need prosthetics, or the lesions may be debilitating, meaning your bones only heal partially and become less functional than they were before the accident.
- Other injuries: You may suffer road rash, which occurs when the skin burns off after a person skids on the road surface. Its severity depends on the percentage of your body that is affected. You may also sustain internal injuries from the impact when organs strike against your ribcage.
- Long-term problems: While long-term brain injuries are the most significant, other lasting issues include debilitating crushed or broken bones and loss of limbs. These injuries can eventually affect your income-earning capacity.
What to do After an Accident
Filing a lawsuit, reaching an agreement, and getting your settlement can take years. What you do and how soon you act will determine how fast you can file your case. Below is a guideline on the steps to follow after an accident involving an intoxicated motorcyclist.
- Contact law enforcement
Communicate with law enforcement as soon as the accident happens. Also, collect as much evidence as possible. If you are too injured to call the police or collect evidence, someone else can do it on your behalf as you seek treatment. The information you can gather as evidence includes:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Photos of the motorcycle and other vehicles involved
- Contact information of witnesses
- Contacts and insurance information of the motorcyclist
- Get medical attention
Seeking appropriate treatment should be your priority. Mitigating your injury is your responsibility; therefore, you must get treatment immediately. Contact emergency services to ensure that your injuries are not life-threatening. Doctors exercise extra caution when examining motorcycle accident victims because some injuries, especially in the brain or those causing internal bleeding, are not observable.
You must allow a doctor to assess you and determine the extent of your injuries fully. Sometimes, injuries manifest themselves hours or days after the accident. Inform your doctor if any other complications arise during your treatment. Get all the relevant records and keep them safe to use as evidence in your injury claim.
- Consult a lawyer
It is vital to contact a lawyer immediately after the accident to give them time to record as much information as possible and in the shortest time possible. Pick an experienced attorney who understands the tricky details in Florida’s personal injury law, one who will explain your options and one who understands the local justice system. The lawyer will filter all the legal and insurance issues arising from the accident. To make a suitable compensation demand, the attorney will get your medical reports to determine your injuries, the injuries’ long-term implications, and the approximate value of pain and suffering and lost wages.
To keep your case on track, do not sign any documents without consulting with your attorney. Insurance companies may act with compassion, but they are only after minimizing their losses. Insurance adjusters specialize in using all possible tactics to give you a lesser settlement than you deserve. Inform your attorney before you sign away your rights. Also, do not discuss or post any photos of your accident or injuries on social media, regardless of how harmless it seems.
- Notify the insurance companies
If you were driving at the time of the accident, the no-fault system dictates that your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance covers your medical costs up to a particular limit, usually $10,000. Beyond that, your health cover takes over. However, if your injuries are devastating, a personal injury claim allows you to receive compensation for other damages in addition to medical bills.
You must notify your insurance company about your accident. It is better if your attorney informs them on your behalf. Do not record statements with the insurance companies because the insurers will use that evidence against you. Do not sign any documents before your attorney reviews them.
Unfortunately, it is not a requirement for motorcycle owners to purchase insurance before registering their motorbikes. However, the rider is financially responsible for injuries and damages they cause if they get into an accident. If the person has insurance, the insurer may take charge and compensate you. If the motorcyclist is uninsured, they will be responsible for injuries and damages they cause you.
- Keep a journal
An up-to-date post-accident diary is indispensable in your healing process. It is therapeutic, and it helps you organize your thoughts on paper. It also tracks your medical appointments and expenses. Healing may take days or weeks, and writing everything lets you sort and organize your experiences through every step in the process. You specify your injuries, medical treatments, medications, and daily battles.
Keeping a journal helps you remember details that you might otherwise forget, and which can be significant to your claim. A journal allows a claims adjuster and a jury to understand your thoughts better than speaking would. Document the accident diligently. Write every detail relating to the accident and your injuries and keep all medical receipts. Go to all doctor’s appointments and follow your physician’s advice.
- Track your expenses
Keeping track of your medical examination findings, reports, and bills can be hectic, especially when some of the records are hardcopy while others are electronic. You can keep a worksheet to track your damages and expenses and a designated document folder for the paperwork.
- Write a demand letter
If the motorcycle rider has insurance, your attorney will draw and submit the demand letter to the insurer. The letter will include relevant information and evidence relating to your injuries, a settlement demand, and a timeline within which they must respond, usually 30 days.
Your claim can include medical bills that PIP does not cover and lost income from the bodily injury liability insurance, either of the owner or the driver of the motorcycle. It is unfortunate that bodily injury liability is not mandatory for motorcycles, and the owner or driver may be underinsured or uninsured. If the driver was working when the accident occurred, you could file a claim against their employer. Uninsured motorcycles are considered uninsured motor vehicles. Therefore, if the owner, or driver, or the employer has no liability insurance, you can make your claim against the uninsured motorist auto insurance. It covers the same costs that liability insurance coverage for the motorcyclist would have paid.
The insurers may resist and reject the settlement demand, or they may opt to settle promptly, which leaves your attorney wondering how much you could have received. If you two cannot agree, you go to trial. A settlement is always better than a court hearing because it saves on expenses. If you choose to settle and avoid court proceedings, make sure the amount is comfortable because after you agree to the deal, you cannot negotiate further.
It is difficult to determine how long your trial will take because it depends on various factors. During the trial, attorneys for both parties argue their case before the jury hears it. After the verdict, which takes between one and two years after filing, the defense may appeal for the court to lower the compensation amount. If you win, the defendant owes you the amount set by the jury. If the defense appeals and succeeds, you may go to trial again or negotiate a new settlement. If you win, your attorney begins efforts to collect. The award may be a lump sum or broken into smaller payments.
If a drunk motorcyclist injures you, you are eligible for monetary settlement to cover the damages you may have suffered. Quantifying expenditure is critical because a personal injury lawsuit will provide you with a method of recovering all the expenses you incur. Therefore, you should account for every accident-related cost.
You may recover compensation for economic damages or financial loss, such as:
- Upfront medical bills
- Anticipated future medical costs to cover continuing medical care
- Other health-related costs arising from the accident such as physiotherapy
- Property damage for restoration or replacement of your vehicle
- Loss of wages
- Loss of capacity to earn
- Reimbursement for a rental car
You can recover non-economic damages, also known as general damages, which are an overall claim of negligence. While it is not easy to quantify suffering or pain, you must explain it clearly in your application because it significantly decreases your quality of life and that of your family. Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of parental counsel
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment
Punitive damages exist solely to punish the drunk motorcyclists for their reckless behavior. Your attorney will use a multiplier to determine how to compute all costs. The insurance adjuster will multiply the total losses by any number from 1.5 to 5. The number and the award amount will depend on:
- The gravity of your injuries
- The medical treatment you got due to the accident
- Your anticipated treatment needs
- The prognosis
- The probability of permanent effects
- The consequences of the accident in your life
While your attorney will push for a high multiplier, the insurance adjuster will do their best to try and lower it. Sometimes, the maximum limit may increase depending on the gravity of your injuries, especially if you have a permanent disability. After determining your general damages, the court will add the other costs for the estimated settlement value.
How Florida Treats Pain and Suffering in Personal Injury Claims
Pain and suffering is a unique type of damage because there is no medical scan that can identify and measure these emotions. It occurs in two forms:
- Physical: It includes the pain you experience during your recovery and that which you expect to suffer in the future, such as the inability to participate in physical activities that you enjoyed earlier.
- Mental: Embarrassment, fear, anger, depression, humiliation, and other emotions arising from and continuing after the accident.
When a motorcycle strikes you in Florida, proving a permanent injury is not a requirement to get compensation for your pain and suffering. You only need to demonstrate that the motorcyclist was at fault. However, you have no assurance that you will receive any payment. The motorcyclist may be operating without a bodily injury liability insurance, or you have not purchased Uninsured Motorist auto insurance. The drunk motorcyclist may also claim that your injuries were pre-existing, or that they were not from the accident. Still, Florida allows you to claim damages if a crash aggravates existing wounds.
Pain is individual and subjective. The court must examine the facts of your claim because each case is unique. When calculating pain and suffering, the state allows you some flexibility to bring evidence. The factors that determine the damages include:
- The severity of your injuries
- The type of medical care you received
- The length of your recovery
- The impact of trauma on your life
Florida’s Damage Caps
The state has set caps on damages for particular categories of negligence lawsuits. For compensatory damages, the state does not impose any caps, but you must adequately document all the costs you want to claim. Previously, non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits had caps. The capping did not apply to other personal injury claims. However, in 2017, the state lifted the caps on non-economic damages. Currently, you can pursue general damages in any case without limit.
Florida treats punitive damages differently from other types of awards. It imposes caps on what the court can award as punishment. The limit on punitive damages is three times the value of your general damages or $500,000. When the punitive damages are higher than $500,000, the court awards the higher amount. The cap does not strictly limit the amount, but it prevents the judges from awarding punitive damages at significantly higher values than compensatory damages. The state also has strict guidelines on when you can claim punitive damages.
Consult a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
When a drunk motorcyclist crashes into you in Jacksonville, FL, there is a significant likelihood that you will sustain severe injuries. Such injuries may keep you out of work, cost you handsome amounts in medical fees, and generally interfere with your life. While you deal with the physical and emotional pain, personal injury compensation can alleviate your worries concerning bills and lost wages. Get in touch with us at the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney at 904-800-7557 to fight for your rights. You need an attorney who understands the legal processes and who will negotiate a favorable settlement, so call us today!