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Florida Motorcycle Passenger Injuries: What Are My Rights?

Florida motorcycle passenger injuries

Motorcycle accidents in Florida are unfortunately all-too-common. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that there were more than 9,100 motorcycle crashes reported statewide in a single recent year. NHTSA reports that per vehicle miles traveled, those on motorcycles are 28 times more likely to be injured in a crash than people in passenger vehicles. As for motorcycle passenger injuries specifically, a JAMA Surgery study found that traumatic brain injuries – the most common type of motorcycle injury overall – were far more common among passengers, who are reportedly less likely to wear helmets.

Despite the outsized risk posed to passengers on motorcycles, most injury articles focus on damages for the motorcycle operator. For Florida motorcycle passenger injuries, the approach to financial compensation may be different than the average single-rider case. Riders have little control over the bike itself, placing the passenger in an exceedingly vulnerable position. Often, liability may be sought from more than one source.

Florida Motorcycle Passenger Laws

Although most Florida motorcycle laws pertain to operators, there are a few directed at passengers. The law prohibiting passengers from riding on bikes that are not meant for two people is one example.

As far as helmets, anyone over age 21 is not required to wear a helmet on a motorcycle if there is an insurance policy covering at least $10,000 in personal injuries. Our team respects adult riders’ rights to forego helmets if they choose, though we do urge caution because if you suffer head injuries and were not wearing one, the defense will likely use this against you.

Children are allowed on motorcycles, but unlike adults, they are required to wear a helmet.

Two-person motorcycles should have footrests installed for passengers, who should be able to reach those pegs with their feet. Otherwise, this may create balance issues for the operator.

There is no statute prohibiting motorcycle passengers from riding intoxicated, though it is generally inadvisable. From an injury lawyer’s standpoint, it may make the case more difficult if there is evidence that the passenger’s intoxication contributed to the crash or the rider’s own injuries if it rendered them inattentive, a distraction to the driver, or unable to hold on for safety.

Liability for Florida Motorcycle Passenger Injuries

Every South Florida motorcycle accident claim is different, but when we represent a passenger, some avenues of liability we may explore include:

  • The operator of the motorcycle.
  • The operator of the other car/truck/motorcycle involved (if applicable).
  • The owner of either the motorcycle or other vehicle (if different from the operator).
  • The manufacturer of the motorcycle, its parts, or protective gear (if anything was defective).
  • Establishments that served alcohol to any operators involved in the crash who were under 21 or known to be habitually addicted to alcohol, per Florida’s dram shop law, F.S. 768.125.
  • Un/underinsured motorist coverage- especially if the coverage selected here is “stacking”

Often, cases involving Florida motorcycle passenger injuries are a bit easier because very rarely is the collision the result of the passenger’s actions. The operator’s own medical payment coverage may be applied to passengers, regardless of fault. (Note: Motorcyclists are excluded from Florida’s no-fault personal injury protection coverage.)

However, to obtain coverage from the operator’s bodily injury coverage, you will have to prove negligence. If no other vehicles were involved and there was no defect in the bike or equipment, your claim is solely against the operator. (Single-vehicle motorcycle crashes are relatively common in Florida.) Establishing negligence means showing the operator failed to use reasonable care when they were responsible for doing so, resulting in the crash that caused your injuries. Examples might include speeding, operating recklessly, or violating other traffic laws.

Note: Although you are filing a claim against the motorcycle operator, they are not likely to personally pay anything. What you are usually after in this scenario is the insurance coverage to which you are fairly entitled to cover the costs associated with your injuries. Our injury lawyers can explain this in further detail if you have specific questions. 

If more than one vehicle was involved, you may be looking at a case against one, the other, or both drivers. In many cases, both operators will be named defendants because fault may not be 100 percent clear.

Manufacturers may also be held liable for defective parts that cause operators to lose control or exacerbate Florida motorcycle passenger injuries. Most commonly, with motorcycles, these would be issues with brake failure, defective tires, fuel system malfunctions, inherently dangerous design issues, or general manufacturing defects.

If you have questions about your legal options following a South Florida motorcycle accident, our Fort Myers motorcycle injury lawyers are available to help.

If you are injured in Fort Myers, Naples, or Key West, contact our injury attorneys at Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.

Additional Resources:

Comparison of Neurologic Trauma and Motorcycle Helmet Use in Drivers vs Passengers, Feb. 2018, JAMA Surgery

More Blog Entries:

Do I Have to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet? Florida Cycle Injury Lawyer Insight, Dec. 3, 2020, Fort Myers Motorcycle Passenger Injury Lawyer

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