Florida, including the Tampa Bay Area, is a great place for riding motorcycles, with its year-round warm weather and sunshine. Not only is riding your motorcycle in Florida fun, for many Floridians, it’s a cheap and practical way to get around. A bike costs less to buy than a car, and the gas mileage is fabulous. But when you choose a motorcycle as a means of transportation, you are exposing yourself to danger on the road. Motorcycle accidents produce serious injuries. When you crash, there is nothing between you and the pavement—or whatever else you collide with ̶ ̶ and the resulting injuries are often severe and life-threatening. You may take every possible precaution to avoid an accident, drive safely at all times, and observe the rules of the road obsessively; but you have no control over other drivers. And that’s a big problem.
Contrary to popular myth, motorcycle accidents are not the fault of the rider in a most cases. Many accidents that kill and injure bikers are caused by cars and trucks whose drivers fail to observe motorcycles on the road, fail to yield the right of way, and cause accidents that the cyclist has no way to prevent.
National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) date show that a majority of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. In 42 percent of motorcycle crashes, a car or truck caused the accident by turning left into the direct path of a motorcycle in its correct lane, either coming from the opposite direction, or by switching lanes into the path of a cycle moving in the same direction and trying to pass. In both of these instances, the other vehicle is violating the biker’s right of way.
If you are unfortunate enough to have a car or truck turn into your path when you are in your proper lane, or to change lanes in front of you as you are attempting to pass in your own lane, and a crash occurs, you are the one who will suffer the worst injuries.
As a biker, you have no layer of protection when you crash, and you will usually be thrown from your bike, possibly into the path of another vehicle, making serious injuries and even death a real possibility. The likelihood of dying in a crash, according to different estimates, is somewhere between 26 and 37 times greater than if you were in a car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that across the United States in 2013, 4,668 people died in motorcycle accidents. An additional 88,000 bikers were injured the same year, down from 93,000 the previous year.
In Florida, motorcycle fatalities have increased by almost 90 percent over the past decade, while injuries have gone up by more than 50 percent.
Any part of the body can suffer severe injuries in a motorcycle accident. These are some of the injuries that Florida cyclists often sustain in a crash:
If you or someone close to you has suffered any of these or other serious injuries in a motorcycle accident that someone else caused, you have the right to compensation. But there is nothing automatic about being paid the compensation you deserve. Especially in motorcycle accidents where insurers tend to hold a bias against bikers, you will need an aggressive motorcycle accident attorney to represent you. In Tampa, St. Petersburg, and the surrounding area of Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties, you can get the top quality, committed, and aggressive representation you need by calling the law offices of personal injury attorney Stephen Maltezos. Contact him as soon after the accident as you can get to a phone.
Although insurance companies frequently take the position, as a matter of course, that anyone who rides a motorcycle is reckless and a risk-taker, the figures show that the culprit is often another driver or some other party. These are some of the negligent behaviors that can incur liability in the individual, company, or government department that caused your accident.
In most instances, the fault is that of another driver, who can be held liable for your injuries. In some cases, however, an accident is caused by debris or obstacles left in the roadway by a road construction crew, cargo that has fallen from a truck, or tire treads left in the road after a blowout, in which case the liable party might be a contractor doing work at the site or the trucking company that left an obstacle on the pavement. Potholes and pavement defects may be attributed to the government department responsible for maintaining the road. The manufacturer of your motorcycle or of the other car or its components may be held liable if a defect in the vehicle or one of its parts caused the crash.
If you’ve been struck by another vehicle, thrown from your bike, or caused to crash for any reason, chances are very good that you will not be able to do anything other than wait for and ambulance to take you to the hospital. Getting immediate medical attention is the most important thing you need to do. But if you are able to move around, or if you can get someone at the scene to help you, try to do the following:
If you are over 21 years of age, may legally operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet in Florida if you are covered by an insurance policy that provides at least $10,000 in medical coverage that applies to motorcycle accident injuries. The Personal Injury Protection or No-Fault insurance you are required to have if you own a car will not cover you for injuries in a motorcycle accident, so you will have to find an insurer that provides this type of coverage. Many health insurance policies exclude motorcycle accident injuries, so finding the policy you need can be a challenge if you don’t plan to ride with a helmet.
The police cannot randomly stop you to check your insurance policy, but if you are pulled over for a traffic violation or involved in any type of accident and cannot show compliance, you may be cited.
Although riding without a motorcycle helmet may be entirely legal in Florida, that does not mean that it won’t affect your accident case. Yes, you are entitled to claim compensation for your injuries, whether or not you were wearing a helmet. But Florida is a comparative negligence state. That means that in a jury trial, when determining liability for the accident, the jury can take into consideration the fact that by not wearing a helmet, you contributed to your own injuries. Your total recovery can then be reduced by the percentage of your contribution. So if you are awarded $100,000 and you are found to be 50 percent responsible, your award may be cut in half! So it is always the best policy to protect yourself by wearing a helmet.
Sure, Florida law allows you to represent yourself when dealing with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Count on it, the insurance adjuster will tell you that you don’t need one! But research has shown that having legal representation in a personal injury matter significantly increases the amount of money you are able to walk away with, in the majority of cases. Understandably, insurers hope you will decide against hiring an attorney. It usually guarantees that they will be paying you less money. Your attorney will know the law and will understand the value of your injuries and the losses associated with them, and is much better equipped to negotiate a fair settlement that will allow you to move on with whatever remains of your life after a serious accident.
Insurance companies routinely deny motorcycle accident claims. It is extremely difficult and rare for motorcycle accident victims to win adequate compensation without a legal fight, due in part to an ingrained bias in the insurance industry against bikers. Your attorney will work to overcome these preconceptions with facts and evidence that support your claim, and will defend your legal rights in the face of insurance company tactics designed to deprive you of a fair recovery.
Three types of damages may be recovered in a motorcycle accident case in Florida: economic, non-economic, and very occasionally, punitive.
Economic damages can be demonstrated by producing bills, receipts, and payroll records:
Non-economic damages are those that negatively affect your quality of life. Although non-economic damages for many accident victims are much more significant than the financial ones, because it is hard to place a dollar value on the quality of your life, they are harder to quantify. Examples of non-economic damages include:
In a very small number of motorcycle accident cases, an accident victim will also be able to receive punitive damages, intended to go beyond compensation for damages, to punish a behavior that was unusually egregious. Sometimes a jury will assess punitive damages when the defendant was driving with an extremely high blood alcohol level. This additional award may help deter the wrongful behavior in the future, and can add to the amount of money you recover.
Because of the high fatality rate in motorcycle accidents, legal cases are often brought by the deceased’s estate and surviving family members. Damages in a wrongful death action include the deceased’s medical expenses and pain and suffering prior to death (if death was not immediate), and the value to immediate family members of the financial and emotional support of the deceased. Florida statutes specify who is able to recover money in a wrongful death action, which will be brought on behalf of the estates and surviving family members by a personal representative. Your attorney will have a personal representative appointed by the court.
If you have been injured in a Florida motorcycle crash, or if a close family member has been killed in one, and you live in Pinellas or Hillsborough Counties, or anywhere in the West Central part of the state, you can get the legal representation you are looking for by calling the law offices of personal injury attorney Stephen Maltezos to schedule a free consultation.
Steve will analyze the available facts of your case, and when necessary, will call in accident reconstruction experts and traffic safety engineers to examine the evidence and help build a strong case for the other party’s liability. He will ensure that all time limitations are met for filings, and that all statutes of limitations are complied with. He will obtain and review your medical and employment records and any receipts that you have for injury-related expenses, and will work with you to document the changes that have affected your quality of life as a result of the injuries and your associated physical and mental limitations.
Time to file your claim is limited by law, so contact Stephen Maltezos today for top quality legal advocacy. Steve is a compassionate, aggressive, and highly skilled negotiator and trial attorney who will always put your needs first. Call today. If you can’t make it to one of Steve’s two offices in Tampa and St. Pete on account of your injuries, no problem. He’ll come to you. You’ll have no out-of-pocket expenses and you’ll pay absolutely nothing—ever—unless you win money.