I Wasn’t Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet. Can I Still Obtain Compensation for My Crash Injuries?
Like most other states, Florida has a partial motorcycle helmet law. All riders under 21 must wear protective headgear. Riders over 21 must also wear helmets unless they have at least $10,000 in AD&D insurance that applies to motorcycle crash losses.
Because of these requirements, many injured victims think they are ineligible for compensation if they were not wearing helmets, even if the law did not technically apply. But in most cases, that’s not true.
Depending on the other facts of the case, a Tampa motorcycle accident attorney can obtain substantial compensation in these cases. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?
Generally, a helmet, or lack thereof, has no bearing on the cause of a wreck. If anything, bulky crash helmets might cause more wrecks than they prevent. These helmets limit vision and hearing.
Instead, a tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) operational mistake usually causes vehicle collisions. Some examples include:
- Speeding: Excessive velocity increases the risk of a collision and the force in a collision. Speed multiples stopping distance, so speeding drivers have less time to react to rapidly changing conditions. Speed also exponentially increases the force in an impact between two objects. In other words, speed transforms fender-benders into serious injury or fatal collisions.
- Changing Lanes Illegally: Four-wheel vehicle operators can usually avoid tortfeasors who suddenly change lanes without signalling. But if motorcycle riders attempt such maneuvers, they usually lose control of their bikes, especially if environmental conditions are less than ideal.
- Failing to Yield the Right of Way: Frequently, tortfeasors make unprotected left turns against traffic and they do not see approaching motorcycles. As a result, the rider cannot avoid a collision with the turning tortfeasor.
Driver impairment, such as alcohol or fatigue, also causes a number of crashes in Hillsborough County.
The Helmet Defense in Florida
The Sunshine State is one of the few jurisdictions which recognizes the so-called helmet defense. But it is not automatic. To invoke this defense, insurance company lawyers must do more than cite safety statistics and shame the victim.
First, insurance companies must prove the lack of a helmet proximately caused the victim’s injuries. Riders suffer most of their injuries, such as broken bones and internal wounds, because they are thrown off their bikes. Helmet use, or non-use, is irrelevant. Additionally, this same motion is responsible for many head injuries. That movement causes the brain to slam against the inside of the skull.
Next, insurance companies must prove that helmet use would have eliminated or reduced the victim’s injuries. Many times, doctors can speculate that there was a relationship between helmet non-use and a head or other injury. But speculation is usually not admissible in court.
Does Motorcycle Helmet Use Affect Damages?
As mentioned, many riders have additional insurance. So, Florida’s complex collateral source rule might come into play. In some states, if the victim had insurance, the insurance company can reduce the victim’s damages proportionally.
But in Florida, that’s usually not possible. During court testimony, Hillsborough County judges usually apply the common-law collateral source rule. Evidence of extraneous payments, or potential payments, is usually inadmissible.
If the victim’s policy paid money, the judge can reduce the victim’s damages accordingly. But typically, health insurance companies do not pay crash-related damages, due to liability concerns.
Connect with Tenacious Lawyers
Whether or not they wore helmets, motorcycle crash victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm. After-hours visits are available.