In vehicle collisions, motorcycle riders are twenty-eight times more likely to die than vehicle occupants. Riders are completely exposed to danger, unlike sheltered and restrained vehicle occupants. The serious injury rate is also much higher in motorcycle crash cases. These injuries include things like head injuries, badly broken bones, and severe lacerations.
To build a claim for damages, victims usually rely on negligence or negligence per se. Negligence is a lack of ordinary care, such as driving while dangerously fatigued. Negligence per se is a statutory violation, like a DUI.
Florida insurance companies often rely in a number of legal theories as well. Unless an attorney knows how to handle them, the victim/plaintiff will be unable to obtain fair compensation.
The Helmet Defense
Florida only has a limited helmet law. Most riders over 21 are exempt from this requirement. Nevertheless, many victims believe that if they did not wear protective headgear, they are ineligible for compensation. Many insurance companies perpetuate this myth.
Just like there is a partial helmet law in Florida, the Sunshine State also has a partial helmet defense. At best, the lack of a helmet might reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives. But the process is quite involved. Insurance companies must do more than shame helmetless victims.
Instead, the insurance company must first prove that the victim sustained a trauma head injury. That’s different from a motion-related trauma injury, and these motion-related injuries are much more common. Second, there must be a doctor or other expert who testifies that a helmet would have reduced the victim’s head trauma injury by X percent. Compelling testimony of this nature is hard to acquire, especially since the victim’s attorney may cross-examine the “independent expert” on this point.
Sometimes, rather than attacking the damages, the insurance company attacks fault for the accident. Their lawyers shift blame onto the victims. But this strategy does not always work either.
Driver inattention and low motorcycle visibility causes most motorcycle crashes. So, insurance company lawyers sometimes blame victims for not wearing brightly-colored clothing or doing other things to improve their visibility. But the duty of reasonable care is not an affirmative duty. One only has to drive carefully.
Second, the Florida jury must understand that motorcycles and cars are different. In emergency situations, a vehicle driver can usually take evasive action. But a motorcycle rider usually does not have this option. Instead, if the rider tries to make a sudden move, the rider will probably lose control and make the accident even worse.
Florida is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was only 1 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportional damage award.
The Motorcycle Prejudice
A third motorcycle crash defense is not found in any law book. Instead, insurance company lawyers manipulate the motorcycle prejudice. Many motorists in Florida believe that motorcycle riders are reckless and dangerous thugs. Because of this strong opinion, they are more likely to embrace a defense like contributory negligence. They are also less likely to award significant compensation, even if the facts clearly warrant such a result.
An attorney has basically two options. It may be possible to debunk the motorcycle prejudice. Like most other racial or social prejudices, this one has almost no factual basis. Or, it may be a better idea to separate the victim from the prejudice. Evidence like the victim’s good driving record may be admissible.
Work With Hard-Hitting Attorneys
Insurance company lawyers fight hard to reduce compensation in motorcycle crash cases, so victims need some way to even the playing field. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).