Will Not Wearing A Helmet Harm My Personal Injury Case?
The state of Florida leaves the decision as to whether or not to wear a helmet up to each individual bicyclist or motorcyclist, as long as they are over the age of 16 (or 21, in the case of motorcycles). However, it is not uncommon for victims of accidents to find themselves being told that they are complicit in their own injuries because they did not wear a helmet, and thus their insurer or the defendant in their case should be off the proverbial hook. Florida law states differently, and in general, it is a good idea for any injured cyclist to be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities at all times.
Bicyclists are numerous in Florida, especially in coastal areas. The weather is mild year round, and the coast provides amazing views to ride by. However, Florida roads are decidedly unfriendly to any conveyance that is not equipped with four wheels and a motor. 2016 data from the NHTSA shows Florida as having the second highest total of bicyclists killed, behind California, and the third highest total for pedestrian deaths, behind California and Texas. There are multiple reasons for this, including a lack of urban bike lanes and generally poor understanding among motorists of how to share the road.
While bicycle accidents are depressingly common, Florida law does protect bicyclists from liability to a degree. The state’s bicycling statute explicitly states that the failure of a bicyclist to wear a helmet “may not be considered evidence of negligence.” This is important because the higher percentage of fault you are deemed to bear in your accident, the less you are entitled to recover. If you are held to be 20 percent responsible for your own injuries, for example, a jury still might hold that a defendant would be liable for the other 80 percent and award you compensation accordingly.
Motorcycles are omnipresent in Florida, just as much or more so than bicycles, even boosting the state’s reputation as a biking mecca. However, Florida’s busy roads are arguably even more dangerous for motorcyclists than they are for bicyclists, given the increased rates of speed that motorcycles often reach. The most recent available data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) shows over 10,000 motorcycle crashes in 2016, with over 500 fatalities and approximately 8,200 injuries recorded. National statistics estimate that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die in a crash than automobile drivers or passengers.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, there is no law excluding your lack of helmet use from determining negligence, unlike with bicycles. However, if you are the plaintiff in your case, merely showing that you were not wearing a helmet will only show that you might possibly have some responsibility for your own injuries; it does not establish negligence in itself, nor would it entirely bar recovery even if it did. A judge or jury may deem it negligent for you not to have worn a helmet, but it would be a rare fact pattern where that would be the deciding factor in denying you any recovery; there are simply too many factors in most motorcycle accident cases (for example, weather conditions, pavement conditions, whether or not either driver was under the influence of substances, and so on).
Seek Experienced Legal Help Today
While helmet use is generally recommended, choosing not to wear one should never be the reason that you are denied compensation for injuries that may have been caused by another person’s negligence. If you have questions about your bicycle or motorcycle accident, we can help. The Tampa personal injury lawyers at the Rinaldo Law Group have handled many cases involving cycles, and are ready to try and help you with yours. Contact our offices today for a free consultation.