When you live in Florida, where the weather is great almost all year long, it makes sense to drive a motorcycle. That doesn’t mean weather (and traffic) aren’t still things to contend with. Florida motorcyclists must be constantly aware of these dangers.
In the fall, the Atlantic hurricane season is in full force, for instance. Combine the strong possibility of inclement weather with seasonal tourists and fellow Floridians taking road trips across the state, and you have a perfect storm for accidents.
Motorcycle safety laws are taken seriously in Florida and violating them in a way that results in an accident can have an impact on your insurance claims in this no-fault insurance state. Here’s what you need to know to help you stay safe and legal on Florida’s roads.
Motorcycle Safety Laws in Florida
Motorcyclists in Florida are expected to observe the same rules of the road as other motor vehicles. They also must have certain equipment on their motorcycle to help prevent accidents. These include:
Every motorcycle must have at least one stop lamp. If you fail to have one on your motorcycle you can receive a ticket from a police officer.
Florida law requires every motorcycle not only to have a headlight but also to have that headlight on even during daylight hours.
Motorcycles must be equipped with working electric turn signals. In case of an accident on the road, not having working turn signals on your bike can influence a personal injury case negatively. The other driver involved in the accident can claim that if you’d had working turn signals, then the accident could have been avoided.
In Florida, the handlebars of the motorcycle or the handgrips must not be higher than the shoulder level of the driver when they’re seated properly. That especially goes for ape hangers. Be sure to measure accurately, to ensure you can answer should any questions be raised about the proper height.
The Rules of Florida’s Road
Under Florida law, motorcycle drivers also have rules they must adhere to. They must wear a helmet (except in certain situations) and must also have on them at all times:
- Eye protection approved by the Department of Transportation
- A motorcycle license or endorsement (which you can get through a basic rider course)
- Bodily injury and property damage liability insurance
In Florida, normal personal injury protection for autos does not extend to motorcycles, which is why separate policies are required.
How Florida Determines Fault
In a no-fault state like Florida, each driver normally carries personal injury protection to cover themselves in case of injuries from an accident. However, since motorcyclists aren’t covered by PIP insurance, their own bodily injury and liability insurance must pick up the slack.
The exception is in cases of permanent injuries or death. In those cases, you can sidestep your own insurance and sue the other driver for compensation for relevant injuries.
Florida’s pure comparative negligence system allows motorcyclists to recover at least some portion of the damages from an accident.
Fault is determined in percentages and that percentage can be used to figure damages awarded. For example, if a motorcyclist is found 50 percent negligent, they can still recover 50 percent of damages related to the accident.
How No-Fault Insurance Works with Motorcycle Accidents
Since Florida is a no-fault insurance state, motorcyclists do not have the benefit of personal injury protection if they’re involved in an accident.
So when motorcyclists need to be compensated for injuries or damage to property resulting from an accident, they must file a lawsuit or claim against the other driver.
There are three primary categories a claimant may choose to pursue: economic, non-economic, and punitive damages. See examples of each type below.
- Lost earning capacity
- Out of pocket costs
- Medical expenses
- Estimated future medical expenses
- Lost income
- Property damage
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of relationship with a partner
- Emotional distress
Punitive damages can also be pursued. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the person who was at fault for the accident. In Florida personal injury cases, these are rarely awarded because the defendant’s conduct had to be reckless, wanton, malicious, or willful in order to be awarded these types of damages.
Ultimately, Florida motorcyclists involved in an accident have four years from the date the accident occurred to pursue a personal injury case. In wrongful death suits, it is two years from the date of death. Once that statute of limitations expires, you won’t be able to proceed.
If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident in Florida, make sure to stay at the scene unless you need medical help. That way you can ensure that the police report is made so you can use it in the future in case you need to pursue a lawsuit for your injuries.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2020 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2017, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019.