Florida’s temperate climate makes it a great place to enjoy riding a motorcycle, even as we approach the fall and winter months. While a long motorcycle ride can be an exhilarating experience, it also carries the risk of serious injury in the event of a motorcycle accident.
Due to the lack of protection afforded by motorcycles, the injuries that occur during a collision are often catastrophic in nature. In fact, brain injuries are commonly caused by motorcycle accidents. In many instances, wearing a helmet can reduce the severity of a brain injury or even prevent it from occurring.
For this reason, the attorneys at Syprett Meshad encourage all motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear a helmet. However, it’s important to understand that while this safety precaution can save your life or lessen the severity of an injury, it isn’t always required by law in the state of Florida.
Florida Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Florida has changed its motorcycle helmet laws a few times in recent decades. In 2000, Florida repealed its mandatory helmet law. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this action had a significant impact on injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents throughout Florida:
- Within the next 30 months, the number of motorcycle accident fatalities to riders under the age of 21 almost tripled (rising from 35 to 101)
- Hospitalizations after motorcycle accidents increased 40%
- The cost of treating brain injuries caused by motorcycle accidents rose to $44 million, more than double the cost before the change in the law
- The number of deadly motorcycle accidents increased 20% over the next decade
These alarming statistics prompted another change to Florida motorcycle helmet laws in 2010. Under the new law, all riders and passengers under the age of 21 must wear a helmet at all times. However, you may be allowed to ride without a helmet if:
- You are over the age of 21 and your insurance policy provides a minimum of $10,000 in medical benefits coverage
- You are riding in an enclosed cab
- You are at least 16 years old and are operating a motorcycle that is unable to exceed 30 mph on level ground and is powered by a motor with a maximum displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or has less than a two brake horsepower rating
These broad exceptions to helmet requirements allow a large number of individuals to ride without a helmet.
Why should I Wear a Helmet if I Qualify for an Exemption?
Florida’s lack of mandatory helmet laws for all riders has a serious impact on the use of this important safety equipment. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), states with mandatory helmet laws tend to experience almost 100% compliance with these laws. On the other hand, approximately 50% of riders choose not to wear helmets when they aren’t required by law. This is a significant drop in helmet usage, and it creates a serious safety risk to those individuals not wearing them.
According to the CDC, wearing a motorcycle helmet:
- Reduces the risk of brain injuries by 69%
- Reduces the risk of motorcycle accident fatalities by 37%
- Saves over $1 billion in medical costs nationwide each year
Florida’s Negligence Laws can Limit Your Motorcycle Accident Damages if You don’t Wear a Helmet
There is another important reason why you should always wear a motorcycle helmet. If you suffer a brain injury in a crash and you weren’t wearing a helmet, it can significantly reduce the amount of compensation you receive from the negligent driver.
Florida follows the doctrine of comparative negligence, which states that your compensation may be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to your actions. If you suffer a brain injury in a motorcycle accident caused by another driver, the insurance company may claim that your failure to wear a helmet was a negligent action that increased the severity of your injuries. If the jury determines that you are 25% at fault for failing to wear a helmet, your damages would be reduced by 25%. For example, if you were awarded $100,000 in damages, this 25% fault attributed to your actions would mean that you only recover $75,000.
Due to these comparative negligence laws, failing to wear a helmet can have serious consequences. Medical treatment for brain injuries can be very costly, and you will need to maximize the value of your compensation to ensure you receive the care you need without incurring significant debt.
Our motorcycle accident attorneys have extensive experience handling these cases and know the negligence laws that apply to your claim. We will fight aggressively to demonstrate that the other driver was at fault for your injuries. However, even with our best efforts, refusing to wear a helmet can potentially open you up to financial risks that simply aren’t worth taking.
Contact our Sarasota Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another driver, please contact Syprett Meshad using the form on this page or call 941-365-7171 today to schedule a complimentary consultation. We serve clients in Sarasota, Bradenton and throughout Florida.