In vehicle-on-vehicle collisions, multiple restraint systems and steel cages protect people from injury. But motorcycle riders have no such protection, so their injuries are nearly always catastrophic. In fact, motorcycle riders are twenty-eight times more likely to die in these crashes.
Due to the catastrophic nature of the injuries, like wrongful death, damages in motorcycle crash cases are often significant. These damages usually include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Florida motorcycle crash attorneys carefully build claims using solid evidence. A good attorney must also be ready for one of several insurance company defenses. The major ones in motorcycle crash cases are outlined below.
Most riders who have gone down heard the tortfeasor (negligent driver) say something like “You came out of nowhere” or “I never even saw you.” Lines like these set up the sudden emergency defense. Insurance company lawyer use this doctrine quite frequently in vehicle-on-pedestrian crash cases, but it may come up in motorcycle crash cases as well. This defense has two prongs:
- Unexpected Situation: This component is not subjective. Tortfeasors cannot manufacture sudden emergencies, like motorcycle riders who “come out of nowhere,” simply because they are inattentive. Rather, a sudden emergency is something like a tire tread separation, sudden wind gust, or hood fly-up.
- Reasonable Reaction: Reasonable drivers do not crash into motorcycles and then blame the riders. Instead, reasonable drivers do what they can to avoid the crash, such as braking or changing lanes.
If it applies, the sudden emergency doctrine flips liability from the tortfeasor to the victim.
The comparative fault defense is another way to shift blame for the crash from the tortfeasor to the victim. But the defense is proportional. The greater the victim’s fault, the lower the damages.
Many Florida jurors willingly embrace the contributory negligence defense because of the motorcycle prejudice. Some jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who disregard the rules of the road. So, jurors reduce damages if there is any evidence of things like:
- Reckless operation or
- Alcohol use.
Florida is a pure comparative fault state. Even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for the crash, the victim is still entitled to a proportionate share of damages.
No Motorcycle Helmet
This defense is not a blame-shifting defense. Instead, it focuses on the damage which the crash caused, particularly head injuries.
In Florida, most riders over 21 may ride helmetless. Nevertheless, most Florida courts recognize a variation of the motorcycle helmet defense. This defense holds that, since the victim was not wearing a helmet, the victim is responsible for his/her own injuries. Because of the motorcycle helmet defense, many helmetless victims believe they cannot obtain compensation.
But that’s not true. For the defense to apply, the insurance company lawyer must do more than cite generic safety statistics. Instead, a doctor must testify that the victim sustained a head injury and that a helmet would have reduced or eliminated these injuries. The victim’s attorney may challenge both these conclusions.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
Motorcycle crashes often cause serious injuries. 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).