And you’ve probably already come to realize that you are treated differently than drivers of four-wheel vehicles. Police, witnesses, and especially insurance companies will often treat you differently, and even unfairly assign you blame, simply because motorcycle riders are unfairly stigmatized as rebels in American culture. Here is a guide to the most basic steps you should take after any traffic accident in Florida.
As a Gainesville motorcycle accident lawyer serving residents throughout the state, I’ve created this article to help you understand your rights and help you determine whether you should consider working with a qualified motorcycle personal injury lawyer on your injury claim.
Florida is the most dangerous state for motorcycle riders in the United States.
Data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Vehicles for 2020 showed that motorcyclists continue to face dangerous traffic conditions in Florida. In 2020 Florida had 8,032 reported motorcycle accidents. Roughly a quarter of those accidents resulted in serious injuries and there were 517 in fatalities. In fact, motorcycle fatalities accounted for nearly 16% of all traffic related fatalities even though motorcycle accidents were only 2% of total accidents. This shows that motorcycle accidents usually result in far more serious injuries for riders than for drivers of cars and trucks.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Florida
The sunshine state has a unique set of conditions that make riding a motorcycle more dangerous. Perhaps the most important of those is our nearly year-round warm weather. This means more opportunities to ride, but also more opportunities to be injured. Heavy rains in the summer months also lead to dangerous conditions for all drivers, but especially for motorcyclists.
In addition, many Florida motorcycle accidents are caused by:
Failure of drivers to see the motorcyclist due to traffic congestion, morning fog, rain, or blind intersections
Road hazards, such as frequent construction, wet and slippery road conditions
Unique Florida weather conditions, like sudden afternoon rainstorms
Poorly maintained roads
A high-volume of tourists on the road, who are often familiar with the terrain
Distracted drivers, especially those texting
And even defective motorcycle parts
If your motorcycle accident was caused by any of the above, you may be entitled to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
And often-times, that may mean you’ll need to contest police or witness reports, or fault determinations made by insurance parties, all of whom often treat motorcycle riders unfairly.
Understand Your Rights as a Florida Accident Victim
Regardless of what you might read online, or what you’ve been told by insurance companies who routinely try to underpay motorcycle riders on their accident claims, you have the same rights as other drivers on the road.
That means you’re entitled to seek compensation from another party when you can prove they were partially or wholly negligent in causing the wreck.
At Fault Driver
If you’ve been injured by another driver, you will need to prove a few things under Florida law:
the driver owed you a duty of care
he breached that duty of care
his breach of the duty caused the collision
the collision injured you
These are known as the elements of a claim for negligence. Your lawyer will ultimately have to prove all of these elements in court if your case doesn’t settle before then.
To understand the elements of a negligence claim, think of it this way: all drivers have a duty to drive responsibly and in a way that keeps others on the road safe. If a driver doesn’t drive responsibly by, for example, speeding, and he collides with you because of his excess speed, then the first three elements have all been met. Then you just need to show that the collision caused your injuries to collect damages.
Against City or State Agencies if the Cause is Poor Road Conditions
To make a claim against a state agency for dangerous road conditions, the basic proof is the same. The elements of negligence described above apply here as well. The only problem is that Florida has a statute that severely limits how much a state agency will have to pay you for your damages. The statue is called the Florida Tort Claims Act.
However, you may also be able to bring a claim against private contractors hired by the state to construct or maintain the roads. There may be a case against the manufacturers of the road materials as well.
In all cases it is critical to speak with an attorney early in the process to get a complete investigation done. A good attorney will know what kind of experts to hire to examine the road conditions that caused your injuries and to see what parties might be held responsible for those conditions.
Here are some examples of unsafe road conditions and defects that might allow you to bring a claim:
Damaged or missing Guardrails
Faded Street Paint Markings
Damaged or missing stop lights and signs
Defective Products: Motorcycle of Safety Gear
If your injury was caused or made worse by your motorcycle or helmet, then you can file a defective product claim. This is very similar to a negligence claim. There are three main types of defects that occur:
Design Defects are defects in a product that would not be present if a safer design had been chosen. Products don’t have to be 100% safe. Many products are inherently dangerous. Nevertheless, products have to take safety into consideration. If there is a design that is safer and still effective at doing the job, then it should have been chosen instead of the dangerous design.
Manufacturing Defects happen when the product is not manufactured up to the specifications of the design. For instance, a motorcycle may come off the assembly line with a part that doesn’t fit properly. The defect is because the wrong grade of steel was used the machine that tooled the steel was old and not working properly.
Warning defects occur when a dangerous product is sold without full and complete safety warnings.
A lawyer will need to hire experts to investigate and testify about the defects in your motorcycle that led to your injuries. Sometimes this will involve recalls by auto manufacturers and other times it will be specific just to your motorcycle.
There are a variety of problems with motorcycles that can cause injuries and support a product liability claim for a defective product. Some of these are:
Tires: Tires can have defects that lead to blowout or instability.
Frame: Basic flaws to the frame can lead to cracks and rust.
Engine: There are a variety of engine defects that can lead to sudden failure.
Clutch: the clutch is used to shift gears and any problem with it can lead to a bad wreck.
How a Motorcycle Lawyer Can Help: Motorcycle Riders Have the Cards Stacked Against Them
Motorcycle Accident Victims in Florida not only have to navigate the most complex motorcycle laws and insurance requirements in the United States, they also face:
More Sever Injuries
It's obvious why motorcycle riders get injured worse in accidents. They don’t have all the steel surrounding them that cars and trucks do. Motorcyclists can be severely injured even in low impact cases. They also are more likely to have serious head injuries, even when wearing a helmet. When a motorcyclist gets thrown from their bike, they are likely to get severely injured.
Here’s an example of a client I helped once. The motorcyclist was stopped at a light with a car in front. A truck hit him from behind, at a low speed, forcing him into the car in front. If he had been in a car, he might have had minor or no injuries, because the impact was low. However, since he was on a bike, one of the bumpers hit his knee directly and caused him severe injuries and, ultimately, the need for surgery.
Long Recovery / Higher Medical Costs
Since motorcyclists often get injured far worse than car and truck drivers, their recovery time also tends to be longer. When you’re recovering from a serious injury, it’s critical that you focus on your health and not get distracted trying to deal with insurance companies.
And that Means it’s more Likely that your claim will be Challenged
Insurance companies will do whatever they can to delay or deny paying you on your claim. That’s why they’re so profitable. When you’re a motorcyclist, they’ll try to claim you were at fault in causing the accident. They will rely on the common perception that motorcyclists go to fast or take unnecessary risks on the road.
A qualified Florida motorcycle injury attorney can help with:
Making Sense of Florida’s Confusing Motorcycle Laws
Florida’s motorcycle laws are quite complicated and confusing. This starts with the insurance and licensing requirements. The insurance requirements for motorcyclists are different than those for cars and truck drivers. There is also the Florida motorcycle helmet law to understand. Finally, there are some motorcycle specific traffic laws to understand, for example, the lane-splitting law.
When you’re in a motorcycle accident, you probably need a lawyer to help you understand the liability and insurance issues to successfully make your claim.
Prove Cause and Liability
This can be challenging, especially for motorcyclists. As we already mentioned, there is often a bias against motorcyclists that can lead to them being unfairly deemed to be at fault in causing the accident.
That’s where we come in. As an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer, we will do the investigation necessary to prove that you were not at fault and should be compensated for your injuries and damages.
Expertly Guide You Through the Insurance Claim Process
Insurance companies try to minimize claims. One way they do this is by pressuring you into making a statement. Then they manipulate you into saying something that might be used to claim you were at fault in causing the wreck.
Another typical insurance company trick is where they try to get you to accept money before you know the full extent of your injuries, and how long it can take to recover. They will tell you that they’re on your side and you don’t need a lawyer. Don’t believe them!
One of the first things we tell our clients and prospective clients is to stop talking to the insurance companies. It only serves to hurt your case. When an injured person gets an injury lawyer to represent them, the insurance companies know they are going to have to pay more to settle the claim. This almost always means the client will get more money in the end, even after attorney’s fees are deducted from the settlement.
Help You Recover Damages When You Share Fault for the Accident
Recovering money damages to compensate you for your injury, lost income, medical care, and pain and suffering is what your attorney seeks to accomplish for you. These are known as your “damages.” Your damages might be large or small, but the process is usually the same. First, we make a claim to all the insurance companies with policies that cover your damages. Then we attempt to negotiate a full and fair settlement with them. If they are unwilling to pay you adequate compensation, we can file a lawsuit on your behalf to compel them to pay.
In some cases, you may have been partially at fault in causing the accident. For example, maybe you were speeding but another driver ran a stop sign and hit you. In that case, it’s likely that a jury would find you to be partially at fault in causing the wreck. Florida law lets you recover compensation for your damages from the other driver up to the percentage of their fault in causing your damages. So, if the jury found you to be 50% at fault, then they would make the other party pay you 50% of all your damages.
Value Your Case Properly
Since motorcycle cases are often undervalued by insurance companies, you need the help of an experienced motorcycle accident attorney to advocate on your behalf.
The stigma is that motorcycle riders are daredevils and get in accidents because of their reckless or extreme driving. But this stigma often doesn’t line up with the facts of your case. If you were obeying the traffic laws, then you should be able to recover all your damages from the at-fault party. Even if you were partially at fault, Florida law still says you should recover all your damages up to the amount of fault of the other drivers.
Witnesses, police, or experts involved in your case might carry some of these prejudices against motorcycle riders. You need an advocate who can ask the right questions to these witnesses to show that your case is no different than any other traffic accident case.
More severe injuries and longer recovery for motorcycle riders means that insurers don’t want to pay or try to get you to accept a check quickly. Insurance companies make a lot of their profits by denying or delaying payment on valid claims. They might be exposed to a large claim with a motorcycle injury, so they might increase their tactics to get you to settle for pennies on the dollar. With an experienced lawyer who knows their tricks, you will be in the best position to be fully compensated.
Motorcyclists are more likely to experience fatalities, especially in Florida.
This is a tragic consequence that is all too frequent with motorcycle accidents. The family of the deceased suffers a terrible loss, with emotional and economic consequences.
At the Kem Law Firm, we understand that the loss of a loved one in a motorcycle accident can be the worst experience in your life. We strive to give you the fullest and most honest service you will get in making your claim and preparing to move on with your life.
This starts with us engaging experts to investigate the accident and make sure we can prove liability of the other parties beyond a shadow of a doubt. That is the key to resolving your claim promptly and fully.
You should NOT try to do this alone. The insurance companies will take advantage of your vulnerable position to get you to settle for less than the full value of your case. We know how the insurance companies operate, and we know how to push them to get you full compensation.
Ready to Maximize Your Motorcycle Injury Claim?
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Eric Kem, Founder of the Kem Law Firm
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