As the victim of a bicycle accident or motorcycle accident in Broward County, your helmet wearing or lack thereof, could become a point of discussion during a personal injury insurance claim or lawsuit. Florida’s helmet laws and comparative fault statute could end in at least partial liability for damages on the biker’s shoulders – even if another driver caused the accident. Here’s what to know about your helmet-wearing rights and responsibilities in the event of a collision in Florida.
Head and brain injuries are a significant cause of death in Florida auto accidents. Studies have shown that wearing a helmet reduces the odds of head injury by up to 50%. Twenty-one states have universal helmet laws, in addition to hundreds of local ordinances requiring helmet use for some riders. Under Florida law, only bicyclists under the age of 16 must wear helmets. Motorcyclists must wear helmets unless they are over the age of 21 and have an insurance policy that provides at least $10,000 in personal injury liability.
Florida’s statutes result in the majority of bikers of both types in the state lawfully riding without helmets. If a biker lawfully not wearing a helmet gets into a collision and suffers an injury to the head, face, neck, or brain, the insurance company likely could not say that the biker was negligent based purely on the state’s statutes. The biker was within his or her rights not to wear a helmet and therefore did not neglect any duties of care. However, despite the biker not breaking a law, these cases aren’t always so cut and dry.
Florida’s comparative negligence laws might result in the courts assigning some percentage of fault to the biker for failing to wear a helmet. Comparative fault means that the courts may reduce a plaintiff’s compensation amount by his/her percentage of fault for causing the accident. If, for example, the courts decided that a plaintiff was 60% at-fault for his/her injuries, the plaintiff would receive $40,000 of a $100,000 award. It is possible that the courts will hold a plaintiff comparatively at fault for a related injury if the plaintiff was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
A jury might decide that a biker was “negligent” in failing to wear a helmet because the biker knew or reasonably should have known that wearing the helmet could have reduced the risk of serious injury. For the jury to come to this conclusion, the defendant would have to prove that the plaintiff’s injuries likely would not have happened had the plaintiff been wearing a helmet. This might require expert testimony on the nature of the injury and the odds of the injury occurring with vs. without a helmet.
If the injuries in question do not relate to the head or face in any way, the question of the biker’s negligence for not wearing a helmet likely would not apply. The lack of helmet wearing must have reasonably contributed to the claimant’s injuries. In Florida, a plaintiff can be up to 99% accountable for his/her injuries and still receive 1% of a damage settlement or judgment award. It is up to the biker and his/her attorney to minimize the percentage of fault for not wearing a helmet through arguments that show the defendant was mostly at fault for the injuries. To learn how helmet wearing might play a role in your specific claim, talk to a personal injury attorney.