No Recovery, You Owe Us Nothing
Florida is the Sunshine State, and sunshine is a magnet for motorcyclists. Our weather may be perfect for riding, but we hope that motorcyclists will exercise great caution. Despite the fact that motorcycles are a year-round feature on Florida roads, motorcycle accidents are quite common.
Ask a rider why he or she rides a motorcycle and you’ll get a wide range of answers: Motorcycles cost less than cars, they save on gas, parking is easy, camaraderie is enjoyable, and their environmental impact is low. Mainly, they’re cool – a vehicle for escape and untold adventure.
But here are some alarming statistics about motorcycle accidents from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
Motorcyclists are exposed to significant dangers when they ride, and — unfortunately — too many drivers do not understand how to operate their vehicle safely around motorcycles. In some cases, a car or truck driver may simply be unaware of the presence of two-wheelers on the road, as they’re not paying enough attention.
Given the risks involved (and the heightened possibility of severe, potentially catastrophic injuries in the event of an accident), it’s important that injured motorcyclists obtain comprehensive representation that can secure adequate compensation. We encourage you to contact Searcy Denney today for assistance — an experienced Florida motorcycle accident attorney at our firm will evaluate your claims and help you understand the steps necessary for obtaining damages.
The injury lawyers at Searcy Denney are no strangers to motorcycle accident cases. In one recent experience, a South Florida husband and wife were riding their Harley Davidson along an oceanfront road when a restaurant delivery truck driver turned directly in front of them. There was no time for the couple to stop or avoid a collision.
The husband was pronounced dead that evening at a local hospital, where his wife was treated for injuries that included large lacerations and fractured bones in both legs. She had surgery and began what was to be long-term physical therapy. The wife retained Searcy Denney personal injury John Shipley, who negotiated a confidential settlement with the restaurant’s insurance company.
The issue of helmet laws has become critical to improving motorcycle safety, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has stepped up its efforts to encourage use of helmets that meet federal safety requirements.
The NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,669 motorcyclists in 2014 – and that 660 more lives could have been saved if riders were wearing helmets. Yet just 19 states and the District of Columbia require that all motorcyclists must wear helmets.
Florida law requires motorcycle drivers and riders to wear federally approved helmets unless they are over 21 years old and are covered by a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance for motorcycle injuries. Florida also requires motorcyclists to have their headlights on at all times while riding, even during the day.
Lane splitting involves operating a motorcycle along the divider between two lanes for an extended period of time, with no intention to transition between lanes. In other words, lane splitting involves moving between two adjacent lanes of traffic.
Motorcyclists across the country often lane split during traffic jams to avoid getting stuck behind other vehicles (and to utilize one of the natural “advantages” of the narrow size profile of a motorcycle), but it’s important to note that Florida law prohibits lane splitting. If you are lane splitting, you could be exposed to a significant risk of injury — particularly in Florida, where the practice is illegal, and as such, drivers are not necessarily expecting a two-wheeler to occupy the space between two lanes.
If you suffer an injury due to your lane splitting antics, all is not lost. In Florida, the implementation of pure comparative fault liability may give you a right to recover damages in such circumstances, though the amount will likely be reduced.
In Florida, motorcyclist plaintiffs whose negligent acts contributed to their own injuries may have their damages reduced proportionally. This is known as the doctrine of pure comparative fault.
So, how does it work?
Pure comparative fault allows an injured plaintiff — motorcyclist or otherwise — to recover damages even if they are 99 percent at-fault for their own losses. If a motorcyclist is speeding at the time of an accident, for example, then they may still be entitled to recover damages for their injuries (even if they were negligently speeding). It’s worth noting, however, that the amount of damages that are potentially available to them is likely to be reduced due to their own contribution of fault.
For example, if the court finds that — by speeding — the motorcyclist is 50 percent at-fault for their own injuries, then a $500,000 damage total could be reduced by half, for a $250,000 maximum damages recovery.
Here at Searcy Denney, we believe in the power of giving back to the communities we live with and serve. We have been pioneers in law firm philanthropy, beginning in the 1980s where we began the practice of purchasing TV and Radio commercials for various non-profits throughout the state of Florida, helping them with their outreach.
Safety advocacy is critical to our role as legal representatives, particularly as we work with many clients who suffer lifelong consequences due to the failure of others to recognize the importance of exercising reasonable care. When drivers (and others) are inconsiderate and fail to accept their responsibility to others on the road, they can put motorcyclists in a difficult and highly-vulnerable position.
For example, a driver may merge into another lane without checking their mirrors for motorcyclists — if they check too quickly, or are simply lacking situational awareness, they may not notice that you’re approaching on a motorcycle, and could collide with you, causing a serious accident.
We hope that by making these issues known to the larger Floridian community, we can ensure that motorcyclists — and others — can travel more safely.
Motorcycle accidents can arise in a variety of situations. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to damages as compensation for your losses.
Consider the following.
Impaired driving — whether due to intoxication, fatigue, or some other condition that causes a significant deficit in the ability of a driver to safely operate on the roadway — is a common cause of motorcycle accidents, in Florida and elsewhere. Though motorcyclists are quite used to being “extra” attentive on the road due to the failure of many drivers to adequately account for the presence of two-wheelers, there are some situations where an accident is altogether too unexpected (or impossible) to avoid.
In fact, impaired drivers can be particularly dangerous for motorcyclists, as a driver who is relying more on “muscle memory” and “instinct” (due to their impairment) may not be prepared to navigate around your motorcycle and give you the space necessary to avoid a collision.
If you’ve been injured by an intoxicated driver, then you may be entitled to assume their negligence — negligence per se laws in Florida allow plaintiffs to assume the negligence of any defendant who causes injury due to their violation of a non-traffic penal statute, such as drunk driving laws. This can help you gain leverage during early settlement negotiations, as the liability of the defendant will be much easier to prove.
Head-on motorcycle collisions are perhaps the most devastating of all types, despite the fact that motorcyclists have time to brace for impact and attempt to avoid the collision. From a physics perspective, a head-on motorcycle collision, both the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s impact forces are combined. Further, the position of the motorcyclist is such (in relation to the force of impact) that there is a high likelihood they will be thrown off the vehicle and into the roadway, causing further injury and exposing them to a potential second or third hit from incoming traffic.
Rear-end accidents are extremely dangerous for both two-wheelers and four-wheelers, as the injured plaintiff does not expect the collision and cannot brace themselves for impact. Rear-end accidents in the motorcycle context do not give the rider an opportunity to avoid or prepare for the collision, and as such, the rider may be exposed to a needlessly heightened risk of injury.
It’s worth noting that even low-speed rear-end accidents can cause significant injury for which you can recover under Florida law. For example, if you are stopped at a red light and the defendant-driver rear-ends you, then an existing condition may be exacerbated, such as a deteriorative neck or spinal condition. Exacerbated conditions give you a right of action for damages, so don’t shy away from the potential for litigation.
Hit and run motorcycle accidents are unfortunately common, at least in part because an accident can fully disable a motorcycle, leaving the rider unable to chase down the liable defendant and identify them. By contrast, if the defendant collides with a car, it’s possible that the car will not be totaled and will still be operational (enough to follow the hit-and-run defendant and identify them for the eventual lawsuit).
If a defendant-driver commits a hit-and-run against you, then you’ll have a significant advantage during litigation. We encourage you to contact our firm even if you are not certain who the defendant is — an experienced Florida motorcycle accident lawyer here at Searcy Denney will partner with expert investigators who may be able to locate and identify the defendant.
T-bones, broadside collisions, sideswipe accidents — any collision affecting the side of a motorcycle is likely to have severe injury consequences for the rider, as there is no material to absorb the impact force of the collision. The full impact force will be felt directly by the rider’s body. In such cases, the damages tend to be astronomical to account for the catastrophic degree of loss.
Among the most common motorcycle accidents is the left turn collision occurring at an intersection. Oftentimes, this sort of accident happens due to the failure of a driver to observe the “see” the motorcycle making a left turn — as such, the driver may turn in front of the motorcyclist and cut them off, causing a collision.
Florida law gives right-of-way to vehicles based on their approach to an intersection. For example, in Florida, a driver must yield right-of-way to a motorcycle (or any other vehicle) making a left turn at an intersection.
Motorcycles have a small size profile, making them fun to ride — and highly maneuverable in many cases — but also making them difficult to spot in certain conditions. For example, if a driver is speeding through foggy weather, there’s a better chance that they’ll spot a full-size car or truck than a motorcycle, unless they’re cognizant of the possibility of there being a motorcycle.
Motorcyclists often try to circumvent this visibility issue by honking more frequently to alert drivers of their presence, or by driving in a pattern so that they create a more obvious visual signature for others.
Many drivers lack firsthand experience with motorcycles, and are therefore lacking an understanding of the limitations and maneuverability issues that face motorcyclists on Florida roadways.
In the maneuverability sense, there are a few things that drivers should be aware of so that they can avoid a collision:
If drivers understood the challenges involved in operating a motorcycle, there would almost certainly be fewer accidents.
In Florida, right-of-way is not assigned based on whether a vehicle is a two-wheeler or a four-wheeler. Traffic lights are — as everyone is well aware — applicable regardless of the vehicle type. Right-of-way rules are therefore governed by various circumstantial factors, such as signage and intersection approach order.
When approaching an intersection, for example, the defendant must yield right-of-way to your motorcycle if you: 1) reached the intersection before they did; 2) are making a left turn; and 3) are approaching the intersection from an attached secondary road.
Lane changing accidents are very common in the motorcycle accident context, and for good reason. Drivers may change lanes recklessly, without taking the time to properly assess their mirrors for the presence of a motorcycle (or other two-wheeler). This can quite easily lead to an accident, and — depending on the circumstances — you may not have the time necessary to avoid the collision.
Motorcycle accidents expose riders to a risk of severe — even catastrophic — injury due to their structure. Motorcycles are light and lack full rider coverage in the same way that a driver using a car has. For example, if a vehicle collides with you from the side, you the impact force will be directly imposed on your body.
Though motorcyclists are required to use helmets (and its recommended that motorcyclists wear other protective gear) by law, the direct exposure of one’s body can lead to injuries that include, but are not necessarily limited, to the following:
If you’ve sustained significant injuries in a motorcycle accident, your damages are likely to be quite high. Those who suffer harm that causes them to experience a range of career-impacting impairments, for example, may be entitled to damages that include pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
No one expects accidents to happen, but they do. If a family member has been killed or injured or you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, Searcy Denney’s experienced personal injury attorneys and support teams stand ready to help you.