There are many advantages to riding motorcycles. Motorcycles are a mode of transportation that helps riders save money on gas and are easy to maintain. Another great feature is that motorcycles are easy to park and help the rider avoid traffic congestion conditions. With touring bikes for long trips, dual sports for off-roading, and a Vespa or a scooter for getting around short distances in cities, there are options for nearly every circumstance.
The disadvantages, on the other hand, involve safety. While riding is enjoyable because the motorcyclist is one with the road, they are exposed to the weather and can be severely injured following a motorcycle accident. Accidents can cause serious injuries and long periods of expensive recovery.
If you have been in a motorcycle accident in Boca Raton, it is important for you to fight for your right to compensation with the help of a skilled injury attorney. Call our motorcycle accident attorneys in Boca Raton at (561) 375-9500 today. We can help to review the factors to consider after your accident and file an effective claim right away.
What Are Some Common Causes of Collisions?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has identified Florida as the state with the most motorcycle fatalities. Even though motorcyclists only represent 7% of all motorists in Florida, they account for 19% of all fatal traffic accidents.
While accidents all have unique facts, the factors that lead to accidents often follow familiar patterns. Some of the most common factors leading to motorcycle collisions include:
- Distracted Driving – Texting while driving has become a serious problem, taking a driver’s hands off the steering wheel and attention and eyes off the road. While hands-free devices help, phones, other devices, and many distractions in and around a car or motorcycle can become a factor in an accident.
- Drunk Driving – Drinking and driving is taken seriously as a criminal matter in Florida, but many still violate the law. Drunk driving is a serious enough problem on the roads in Florida that the law requires additional insurance for drivers with DUI convictions. Drunk driving accidents can involve Dram shop liability on the establishment that overserved an individual who then causes an accident.
- Aggressive Driving – Aggressive driving includes speeding, leaving little margin of error while merging lanes, tailgating, or other reckless behavior that disregards laws or appropriate safety measures and norms in traffic.
- Speeding – Speeding reduces reaction time to avoid hazards that cause accidents, such as a car door opening into traffic or a car in front of traffic needing to suddenly brake for a child. Speeding is also a major factor in the extent of damages caused by an accident.
- Sleep Deprivation – Sleep deprivation can have similar effects on a driver as intoxication, delaying reactions and reducing decision-making skills. Cases involving sleep deprivation can involve liabilities for employers that required employees or independent contractors to work unsafe hours.
- Improper Left Turns – These can lead to a side-impact or “T-bone” accident. Vehicles striking the side of a car can be particularly hazardous for occupants as the side panels offer little protection (with no protection offered for motorcycles), and both glass and metal can be broken inwards and onto occupants.
- Improper Lane Changes – Hitting a motorcycle in the next lane when merging too quickly or slowly, cutting off other vehicles, or crossing multiple lanes can cause injuries. It can also cause the cyclist to lose control, cross lanes, and even veer into a head-on collision. Side impact accidents from improper lane changes happen fairly commonly due to blind spots.
- Inexperienced Driving – Drivers lacking in experience can allow themselves to be more easily distracted, and may not know how to react to hazards. Additionally, younger people, drivers or otherwise, tend to take more risks.
- Running Stop Signs or Lights – This is another risk that can lead to a side-impact accident. Additionally, a car running a red light or stop sign is at risk of striking a motorcyclist stopped at the light or sign.
- Failure to Yield – When a driver fails to yield to another driver, motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian who has the right of way and causes an accident.
- Blind Spots – The places around vehicles where the drivers cannot see. On cars, this is to the back and either side of the car. On large trucks, this is near the truck on either side, in the back of, and directly in front of the truck.
- Negligent Drivers – Drivers can fail to exercise reasonable caution on the road in many ways, i.e., speeding, failure to yield, etc. If a driver owes a duty that their negligent behavior caused them to violate, such as driving in a safe manner, they may be liable for the damages that their negligent behavior caused.
Motorcyclists have to be mindful of the road conditions and pay attention to other vehicles because they are more susceptible to injury because there is no barrier between the motorcyclist and another vehicle. Florida did away with its helmet laws, no longer requiring motorcyclists to wear one when riding. Motorcyclists, however, should wear helmets, a face shield, glasses, boots, gloves, a jacket, or protective armor vest to help protect themselves.
Avoiding Accident Injuries
Common motorcycle accident injuries can be minimized if the motorcyclist wears a helmet, face shield, glasses, boots, gloves, and jacket.
Safety equipment and gear help prevent injuries, including:
- Head Injuries – this includes brain injuries such as a concussion, skull fracture, brain damage, swelling, or hematomas. The prevalence of head injuries is why Florida has helmet laws today
- Neck Injuries – injuries which may cause paralysis
- Road Rash – motorcyclists thrown off the bike slide across the pavement or roadway, scraping off layers of skin, even if fully clothed. Skin infections and nerve damage may result and skin grafting may be necessary to treat injuries. Additionally, muscle damage is possible
- Biker’s Arm – a common reaction to being thrown off a motorcycle is to raise one’s hand and arm to protect the face. Motorcyclists are injured because the arm absorbs the full force of the impact, causing broken bones and severe nerve, muscle, and tissue damage
- Knee and Leg Injuries – fractured and broken bones are common injuries
Can I Sue After a Motorcycle Accident?
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you will generally have 2 years from the date of the accident to file a negligence lawsuit as per Florida’s statute of limitations. Should the person involved in the accident die as a result of injuries from the accident, family members will have 2 years to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If a lawsuit is filed after its statute of limitations has run, it will likely be dismissed.
Although Florida law requires injured parties to go through their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance initially, PIP is not required in Florida for motorcycles. This does not mean that any particular motorcycle insurance policy does not have a PIP policy, just that, despite a policy being compliant with Florida law, it may not be included. Should PIP apply, it will cover up to 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages.
While PIP is a good resource for many Floridians as “no-fault” insurance, it is capped at $10,000. This is obviously less than the potential emergency room visit, subsequent medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses incurred in many accidents.
When medical and other bills surpass PIP, health insurance, and other coverage, there are typically options to file a claim with the insurance of an at-fault driver, or file a negligence lawsuit against the driver.
A negligence lawsuit will involve proving:
- Duty – There was a duty owed to the injured party, i.e., to drive in a reasonably safe manner
- Breach – This duty was breached when a defendant failed to perform their duty
- Injury – The plaintiff suffered an injury
- Causation – The defendant’s breach of their duty caused the injury
Once liability has been established through this logic formula, the parties will then use evidence to debate damages, that is, the financial amount of the harm that the defendant is liable for.
Florida is a pure comparative fault jurisdiction, meaning that damages will be reduced by the amount of fault a party has for their injury. A similar formula to the one above can be utilized by analyzing breach and causation more closely to determine the degree of fault of each party to apportion damages. Despite this, a party that is mostly at fault for their injury will still be able to recover part of their damages.
A Boca Raton motorcycle accident lawyer helps individuals injured following a motorcycle accident to deal with their insurance companies and to receive compensation for personal injuries, including economic damages like medical care and treatment and noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering.
The potential damages available will depend on the details of the case.
For a typical negligence lawsuit, the potential damages include:
- Property Damage: Such as damage to a motorcycle, as well as any other property that may have been on the bike or driver. This could include a laptop with expensive programming or vital work data, or a gift in transit for a birthday party in a saddlebag.
- Medical Bills: Such as emergency medical attention immediately following an accident, including a trip to the closest emergency room.
- Rehabilitation: Depending on the severity of the injury (and motorcycle accidents tend to produce severe injuries), an injured driver may require physical therapy to recover part of their mobility. This can also include different forms of rehabilitative therapies to recover physically and psychologically, as well as appointments with career counselors if an accident necessitates a career change.
- Lost Wages: A motorcycle accident can result in significant time lost at work. Even if an employee can return to work, they may need to re-start at part-time until they fully recover from their injuries. The resulting lost wages may be recoverable.
- Disability: Disabilities such as paralysis caused by spinal cord trauma, partial limb amputation, posttraumatic stress disorder, and other debilitating injuries can be recovered.
- Pain and Suffering: The physical and emotional pain that is suffered as a result of an accident.
- Mental Anguish: The high degree of psychological trauma that can be experienced from the disturbing scenes during and after an accident may be recoverable.
- Childcare Costs: If a parent provides childcare and is no longer able to due to an accident, the costs of childcare may be recoverable.
- Hospital Care: An initial emergency room trip alone can go far beyond any medical payment coverage. These bills are recoverable against the at-fault party.
In the tragic event of a death resulting from an accident, the family may have the option to pursue a wrongful death action.
In addition to those mentioned above, some of the potential damages in wrongful death cases to attempt to compensate family members include:
- Loss of support and services: This can include lost wages, benefits, and other earnings; loss of childcare or care for a disabled spouse; or other services for family members that can vary widely.
- Loss of decedent’s companionship and protection
- Loss of parental companionship, instruction, and guidance
- Funeral expenses: Such as those paid by the family or estate.
Because many motorcycle collisions could involve the death of the motorcyclist, a Boca Raton motorcycle accident attorney can help survivors file wrongful death claims following a motorcycle accident fatality.
Who Can Be at Fault in a Motorcycle Accident?
The parties that may be at fault for a motorcycle accident may not always be as immediately apparent as another individual who was directly involved at the scene.
These additional parties that may be liable for the damages of an accident victim include:
- Other drivers – even if another driver did not strike a motorcyclist, they may have acted negligently and caused a responsible driver to swerve out of the way to compensate, striking a motorcyclist or causing them to act in an emergency in a way that caused an accident.
- A parts manufacturer who may have made a deficient part that malfunctioned and caused an accident.
- A mechanic shop that made negligent repairs responsible for an accident, or negligently failed to diagnose or take action to correct a condition that caused an accident.
- An employer who forced an employee to work too many hours to get sufficient sleep, such as a trucking company or set design company.
- A local government that knew or should have known about a hazard that they were responsible for. This could include a pothole that caused a driver to lose control and get into a serious accident that should have been fixed by the town government.
Next Steps After a Motorcycle Accident
The immediate steps after an accident should be to secure the safety of those involved, including calling emergency medical services if needed. After this is done, the police should be notified to come to the scene.
After the police are called, those involved in an accident should immediately start to gather information, while not divulging any information themselves.
Much of this can be done immediately at the scene of the accident with a smartphone. This includes:
- Filling out a police report – The police will arrive at the scene and take a report. Though this report does not make the police a witness, it will be considered during a settlement negotiation or trial as an important statement.
- Record your own account – Making a video while your memory is fresh may help to preserve important details in a reliable account.
- Speak with potential witnesses – Try to get the account of witnesses, on video if possible, while not discussing your own too much. Get their contact information in case a statement is needed later.
- Document evidence at the scene – The conditions that led to the accident are important for proving liability, and photos can help provide forensic evidence. Road signs, traffic lights, weather, road conditions, hazards, damaged property, and injuries are all relevant and can be immediately documented with a phone.
- Receive medical evaluation and treatment – Injuries can take time to become apparent, especially immediately following an accident when someone may be in shock or have injuries masked by adrenalin. Many of these difficult-to-detect medical issues can be detected and treated early with the right diagnostics. These diagnoses will also inform an accident victim of what damages they are entitled to.
- Common mistakes following an accident – Be sure not to speak about things like your motorcycle or circumstances leading up to the accident that could have contributed, i.e., a distracting passenger or phone call. This includes sharing posts or updates on social media, as an opposing party or insurance agent may be checking social media for evidence to argue or negotiate liability or damages. Statements given to witnesses or posted online may make it into the record and become an issue of comparative negligence during a settlement or trial.
What to Expect When Pursuing a Settlement Claim
After the bills have been collected and damages calculated to the extent that they can be considered ongoing expenses, it will be time to gather and organize your documents and speak with a motorcycle accident attorney Boca Raton locals know they can depend on. Keep in mind, while insurance companies have obligations under the law and their policies, they are a business whose model is dependent upon minimizing or denying claims.
Insurance companies will often offer a settlement for a quick payout to discharge their liability before the full damages of the accident can be discovered which seems like a good deal at the time, but will not cover the long-term consequences. For this reason, it is highly recommended to consult with an attorney about how much your claim could be worth before negotiating with insurance.
Once a claim has been filed, the insurance company will review the claim and make a settlement offer. At that point, the offer could be accepted, or a counteroffer could be made. Should the resulting negotiations not provide a satisfactory conclusion, it may be time to weigh your options, risks, and merits of your case to decide if going to litigation would be right for you.
Contact Our Boca Raton Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Today
Riders injured in motorcycle accidents and their families can receive compensation for their injuries, including economic damages like lost wages, medical care and treatment, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering and emotional damages. Pursuing damages is not always easy, but the experienced Boca Raton personal injury lawyers at Kogan & DiSalvo can help.
We work on a contingency fee basis, so there are no upfront costs to meet with an attorney to discuss your claim and no fee unless your case is accepted and compensation is recovered. Contact our Boca Raton motorcycle accident lawyers to schedule an initial consultation right away.