While there has been a trend in recent years showing fewer automobile accidents, the same cannot be said for motorcycle crashes. Since 2001 the number of people in Florida injured in a motorcycle accident has risen by 50%. While the number of deaths of motorcyclists involved in an accident has risen by 90%. The increase number of motorcycling deaths can be partially Florida’s repeal of the its mandatory helmet law, but the rise in accidents, as a whole, must be attributable to other factors. Jones Law Group is proud to represent injured motorcycle riders in St. Petersburg and all cities in Florida.
Most Motorcycle Accidents are Caused by Inattentive Drivers
The most common reason for an accident involving a car and a motorcycle is an inattentive or distracted driver that fails to see the motorcycle. The phrase Look Twice for Motorcycles emphasizes a driving technique that should be utilized by good drivers already. It is the same theory that is already taught to pedestrians. Look left, then right, then left again before crossing any street. This technique gives the driver two opportunities to see motorcycles and avoid an accident. The video below provides some perspective on this technique and how quickly and how devastating a motorcycle accident can be.
What To Do After a Motorcycle Accident
The first thing you need to do is to dial 911 immediately. If no one is severely injured or requires immediate medical attention, you must do your best to get all contact and insurance information from all other passengers, motorists or pedestrians involved. Be sure to write down the make, model, and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved as well. If you can, grab your camera or your camera phone and take pictures of the scene. This is the only way to get accurate documentation, fresh witness accounts, and more importantly, your side of the story documented in case you end up in court. Do not leave the scene of the accident before the police arrive, because criminal charges could result from this, and because fault and liability have not been determined yet.
Obviously, the advice given above is only applicable if you have not been severely injured in the motorcycle accident. If you have been injured, it is important to Contact an experienced St. Petersburg motorcycle accident attorney at Jones Law Group. Evidence disappears over time. Memories fade, skid marks wash away and video evidence is recorder over. It is important to get someone on your side investigating your case, right away.
Do not give recorded interviews with the adjuster immediately, especially if you are in the hospital or have suffered a head injury. You will be required to give your own insurance company a recorded statement, but it does not have to be on the day of the accident. If you are contacted by an adjuster from the other side’s insurance company, it’s important not to speak with them unless your attorney authorizes the interview. They want to get you to say something that could be used against you, so that the insurance company is obligated to pay out the least amount of damages on the claim.
Motorcycle Passengers Injured in an Accident
Motorcycle accidents have been on a steady increase in Florida for the past several years. In St. Petersburg, specifically, and Pinellas County, in general, motorcycle use seems to be at an all time high. Countless bars and restaurants cater to bikers and the climate and beach lifestyle seems to go hand in hand with riding motorcycles. Most accidents involving a car and a motorcycle are due to an inattentive or distracted driver that fails to see the motorcycle. The most common reasons for single motorcycle accidents are operator error or poor road conditions. Examples of road conditions which can cause a rider to crash include unrepaired potholes, areas of the road which are degraded, loose stones or gravel and road construction. Road hazards which are known should be properly marked utilizing maintenance of traffic standards and failure to do so can render the persons responsible for the road’s maintenance liable for negligence. In any case the passenger is a completely helpless victim in a motorcycle crash.
Florida has very relaxed laws on the use of motorcycles. As far as passengers are concerned, they must occupy either a separate seat or a seat meant for two riders and they must have footrests dedicated solely to their use. There is no minimum age requirement for passengers, provided those under 21 are wearing a helmet. Other than that, there really are no other Florida laws applicable to motorcycle passengers. I do believe that motorcyclists who carry very young passengers should consider the possible dangers and ramifications of this practice. Even the best motorcycle rider cannot avoid every distracted, negligent or aggressive driver on the road. The consequences of a motorcycle accident can severe for any passenger, but can be devastating for young children who are even more at risk.
Although a single vehicle accident in which only the motorcycle is involved may prevent the person operating the motorcycle from making a claim, the injured passenger’s may make a claim will be against the motorcycle operator. However, each case is unique. There may be other contributing factors to liability such as improperly marked road work or unreasonably dangerous roadway conditions. The existence of such factors can drastically change the complexity of the personal injury case. You will need to discuss the facts of your case with a motorcycle accident attorney at Jones Law Group.
What is My Motorcycle Accident Case Worth?
This is a loaded question. Each case is different. Your injuries will be unique to your accident. Also, it must be determined whether there is any degree of fault which could be attributable to you. For instance, were you speeding or driving recklessly when the driver of the car turned left into to your path? Another big issue which people fail to consider the amount of insurance that the at fault driver is carrying. You could have medical bills that many times greater than the amount of insurance coverage available to satisfy those bills. This is why it is so vital that motorcycle riders carry an uninsured motorist policy that will take effect when the at fault driver has little or no insurance. The motorcycle accident attorneys at Jones Law Group will analyze all of these issues and evaluate your case on an individual basis.
After a motorcycle accident, you will be making a claim for damages. Damages are simply the way the court system will reduce your physical injuries to monetary amount. In Florida, two types of damage claims can be maintained for the injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover things like past and future medical bills, past and future lost earnings, property damage and other costs which have or will be incurred due to the accident. Non-economic damages cover pain and suffering, emotional suffering, disability or disfigurement caused by the motorcycle accident.
Economic damages are also known as compensatory damages. They are designed to compensate the injured biker for his or her out of pocket losses. These losses will be calculated for both past and future losses. Some common economic damages that would be expected after a motorcycle accident include:
1. Past Medical Expenses – These include past medical bills which have already been incurred by the injured biker. Past medical expenses are likely to include bills for care by emergency medical technicians, care in the emergency room, x-rays, CT-scans, MRIs, surgery, extended hospital care, rehabilitative care with doctors, chiropractors and other approved medical professionals.
2. Future Medical Expenses – Many times the injured motorcyclist will face a future of increased medical expenses due to the motorcycle accident. These expenses are recoverable.
3. Lost Wages – After a motorcycle accident the injured biker may not be able to return to work right away, if ever. These lost wages are recoverable.
4. Loss of Earning Capacity – This is a term which essentially means lost future wages. In the event that the injured motorcyclist cannot return to work or must be retrained to perform alternate work, he is entitled to recover those losses. To prove loss of earning capacity will usually require expert testimony.
Non-economic damages are damages that are designed to compensate the motorcycle accident victim for damages which do not involve actual financial losses. These damages are typically more difficult to quantify than economic losses. After all what is the value of pain and suffering endured due to road rash? Some common non-economic damages include:
1. Pain and Suffering – This is the big claim that everyone wants to know about. In Florida, to recover damages for pain and suffering you must have a permanent injury. The value of a person’s pain and suffering is hard to quantify and juries reach wildly different conclusions regarding very similar facts.
2. Loss of Consortium – Loss of consortium claims are designed to compensate the victim’s family. For instance, if a biker is paralyzed from the waist down, the wife may make a claim for damages relating to the change in the marital arrangement as it relates to sexual relations, companionship and affection.
3. Emotional Suffering – Many times after an accident, an injured motorcycle rider will be afraid to ride or suffer from extreme nervousness in certain situations. Such emotional suffering is compensable.
Florida Motorcycle Laws
Headlights – Motorcycles are required to use headlights at all times while riding their motorcycle. Florida does permit the use of modulating headlights during daylight hours. Modulating headlamps are an aftermarket feature that cause the headlamp to flicker. Many riders believe that the modulating headlamps cause their motorcycle to be more visible than the standard “always on” headlight. The failure do so may be used to show the comparative fault of the rider, in the event that there is an accident.
Mandatory Equipment for Motorcycle Riders – Florida law requires helmets and protective eye gear to be worn when operating a motorcycle. However, there is one exception to this law. If the rider is over the age of 21 and covered by an insurance policy providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash while operating or riding upon a motorcycle. All riders, under the age of 21, must wear a helmet at all times when operating or riding on a motorcycle. Eye protection is always required for motorcycle riders in Florida.
Florida Insurance Requirements for Motorcycles – Insurance is not required to register a motorcycle like it is for cars, but if a biker is at fault in an accident which causes property damage or bodily injury and is not carrying insurance the penalties can be severe. The penalties for such an accident include mandatory SR 22 insurance coverage for a period of three years and possible suspension of the at fault riders driver’s license.
PIP Benefits for Motorcyclists – PIP or personal injury protection is mandatory coverage that must be maintained on all cars and trucks in Florida. In a nutshell, PIP coverage provides that your insurance company will pay the first $10,000.00 in medical bills. Obviously, this $10,000.00 can be exhausted rather quickly, but it does get some of the medical providers paid more quickly and provides incentive for medical providers to care for injured persons without health insurance.
Beware of companies offering PIP coverage to motorcyclists because motorcycles are not covered under Florida’s PIP laws. Some insurance companies provide a PIP type coverage, but it is very important to read those policies because they are not governed by Florida’s PIP statute.
Ape Hangers in Florida – “Ape Hangers” are handlebars that extend upward so that the rider has to reach up to grab the grips. In Florida, the hand grips on the handlebars cannot extend above the shoulders. The handlebar laws, across the country, are a constant source of irritation for bikers. Some states set a maximum of 15 inches above the seat. Other states allow 30 inch handlebars. Some states require at the shoulder, some below and some a predetermined distance above the shoulder. Sixteen states have no restrictions on handlebar height. South Dakota, home of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, will be the seventeenth state on July 1, 2015. The South Dakota state legislature has voted to repeal their current restrictions on handlebar height. The multitude of laws makes it very difficult for a motorcycle rider whose chopper is fitted with ape hangers to travel across the country on road trip.
Lane Splitting in Florida – Lane splitting is the practice by motorcyclists in which rider will occupy the space between two cars in order to pass. Lane splitting or lane sharing is illegal in Florida. In fact, although it is legal in almost every country, it is still illegal in every state except California. Bikers in favor of lane splitting will point out that lane splitting allows motorcycles to escape stop and go traffic where they are vulnerable and allows motorcycles to avoid spending more time in congested areas. There have been numerous studies which all seem to indicate that lane splitting is a practice that helps keep riders safe in congested urban areas. The American Motorcycle Association is in favor of allowing lane splitting in all states, but recognizes the need to educate motorists who do not understand the purpose of lane splitting and become aggravated when they witness a rider splitting lanes. However, the practice is strictly illegal in Florida and all riders should refrain from lane sharing.
Motorcycles Sharing the Same Lane in Florida – In Florida, two motorcycles may ride abreast in the same lane. More than two motorcycles operating abreast in the same lane is prohibited. It is a practice that used to be illegal in many states, but riders fought back believing that it was simply a means for police to harass bikers over a practice that studies showed was safe. In fact, riding side by side allows riders to communicate more effectively.
Passenger Laws in Florida – In Florida, there are two basic laws regarding passengers on motorcycles. First, there has to be a seat for the passenger or the seat must be meant for two. Secondly, there must be footrests for the passenger.
Contact an Experienced Motorcycle Lawyer at Jones Law Group
Have you or a loved one been injured in a motorcycle accident? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg motorcycle accident attorney at Jones Law Group today. When you contact our office we will immediately set an appointment where you will meet your attorney and be provided with his/her personal contact information. If you do not have transportation or you cannot drive, your attorney will travel to meet you and discuss your case with you.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another, you should immediately call an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg at Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your injuries.
Jones Law Group
5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707