Key West Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle tourism is considered vital to the economy in the Florida Keys, and many of the locals love to ride too. The weather is beautiful, the roads are long and scenic and innkeepers all along the coast prominently display “Bikers Welcome” on signs.
As most bikers know, the ride is not without risk. There are more than 9,000 Florida motorcycle accidents every year, resulting in nearly 7,900 injuries and more than 500 deaths. That is according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and officials report roughly 135 Monroe County motorcycle accidents annually, ending in dozens of injuries and nearly half-a-dozen deaths. Crashes peak in the spring, at the height of vacation season.
Motorcyclists are entitled to the same legal rights as any other driver, but they are often viewed with some prejudice - even though they are among the most vulnerable road users. They must manage to operate among much larger vehicles driven by motorists who often aren’t not always paying attention or fail to use reasonable care when changing lanes, turning, merging or crossing an intersection. The danger is outsized in the bustling downtown strips of Key West and on U.S. Highway One or “Overseas Highway”, which can get very busy, depending on the time of year.
As longtime Key West motorcycle accident lawyers, the legal team at The Garvin Law Firm understands that not only are these crashes disproportionately prevalent (given how many motorcycles vs. cars there are on the road), they also tend to be more serious and can involve some unique legal challenges to pursuing compensation.Florida Motorcycle Laws
Regardless of whether you have been in a motorcycle crash, it is a good idea to have a solid base knowledge of your rights and responsibilities under Florida’s motorcycle laws.
For the most part, motorcyclists are viewed under the law just like any other driver, with a few noted exceptions.
Those exceptions can include:
- Motorcycle endorsement requirement. Every state requires bikers to have a motorcycle license, permit or endorsement to operate a motorcycle. For Floridians, an endorsement is obtained through FHSMV. Those under 18 years of age must obtain a permit before they can apply for a license. Those under 18 years of age but at least 16 years of age must first have a learner’s license for one year, have a clean driving record and pass the same knowledge test as other drivers. If you do not have a motorcycle endorsement and are involved in a crash, you can still obtain compensation if the other driver was negligent in causing the accident.
- Helmet law. Florida law - specifically F.S. 316.211 - no longer requires motorcyclists over the age of 21 to wear a helmet, as long as they carry at least $10,000.00 in medical benefits. Operators under 21 years of age are required to wear a helmet. However, even if helmets are not mandatory, it is possible a court may assign a percentage of fault to bikers who do not wear one if the severity of injuries could have been reduced had it been worn.
- Eye protection. Motorcyclists are required to wear approved eye protection per F.S. 316.211.
- Headlights. Motorcycle headlights must be turned on from sunrise to sunset per F.S. 316.405. However, failure to do so cannot be considered evidence of negligence or negligence per se in a civil action.
- Lane-splitting. Motorcyclists are not allowed to pass a vehicle traveling in the same direction within the same lane as the vehicle being overtaken, also known as “lane-splitting”, per F.S. 316.209. Doing so is a non-criminal traffic infraction but could be used as evidence of comparative fault to shift some of the blame for the crash onto you. That same statute, however, does allow motorcyclists to ride two abreast (no more) in the same lane.
- Insurance Requirements. Motorcyclists in Florida are required to carry a minimum of $20,000.00 in bodily injury liability coverage, $10,000.00 in property damage coverage. Unlike other drivers, who are required to purchase an additional $10,000.00 in no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, motorcyclists cannot obtain PIP. However, there are other forms of optional insurance for bikers, and it is a good idea to review these careful - long before a crash ever happens.
Most riders lose more than their bike if they are involved in a motorcycle accident. Many suffer broken bones, lacerations, soft tissue injuries, road burns and sometimes brain and spinal cord injuries.
If the crash was at least partially the fault of other motorists or if you were a passenger on a motorcycle whose operator was negligent, you have the right to pursue damages. This is true even if you were partly to blame, though this isn’t something you should concede without first speaking with your lawyer.
You may be entitled to collect compensation for:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Reduced earning potential
- Loss of life enjoyment
Your spouse/loved ones may also be entitled to a form of compensation known as “loss of consortium.” It will depend on the severity of your injuries and how those have affected your close relationships.
If you are involved in a South Florida motorcycle accident, hiring an injury attorney from South Florida to help handle your claim - someone who knows state law as well as the local legal landscape - is important. Not every claim requires a lawsuit but we are committed to fighting for the best outcomes for our clients - whether that is a quick settlement with your PIP insurer or a civil trial.Contact our Key West Motorcycle Accident Lawyers