Florida has more motorcycles on its roads than any other state in the country except California, with almost 573,000 registrations. Florida also has a significant number of motorcycle accidents, injuries, and fatalities. These accidents can have serious repercussions, and recovery can be extensive.
If you or a family member have been involved in a motorcycle crash, it is imperative that you seek a Stuart motorcycle accident lawyer right away. An experienced Stuart injury attorney can help you pursue a claim for necessary compensation.
Motorcycle Accidents Statistics
Most accidents involving motorcycles are the fault of people at the controls of cars and trucks, according to research conducted by the South Florida Center for Urban Transportation. The principal reason is that drivers are not looking for motorcycles, so they do not see them. Florida’s motorcyclists were involved in 10,201 crashes in 2015, resulting in 8,231 injuries and 548 deaths, including 38 passengers, reports the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Agency.
The number of fatalities in that year was 72.73 percent higher than the previous year, and Florida has more motorcycle deaths than any other state. The number who were injured was only slightly higher than in 2014. A significant reason for motorcycle injuries and deaths is that riders are not wearing helmets and protective gear. Current Florida law requires protective strapped headgear that meets the Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard.
However, the law does not apply to people older than 21 years if they are covered by insurance providing a minimum of $10,000 in medical coverage.
Compensation for a Motorcycle Accident
When you pursue a civil lawsuit following a motorcycle accident, you do so with the intention of seeking financial compensation. Unlike a criminal case that can lead to jail time or fines, the result of a successful civil lawsuit is a monetary award based on the extent of your damages.
The severity of your injuries will likely play a major role in determining what your case is worth. It is important to understand that a settlement in a motorcycle accident case is made up of several different types of damages. These types of damages include:
- Medical bills. It is not uncommon to face substantial medical bills following a motorcycle accident. The cost of emergency treatment after a crash can be high. If your injuries are serious, you could also face ongoing expenses related to your care. Recovering compensation for your medical expenses is an important part of most personal injury cases.
- Property damage. One of the most expensive aspects of a motorcycle accident involves the damage to your vehicle. If the accident was not your fault, you could be entitled to damages based on the cost of replacing or repairing your bike.
- Pain and suffering. Physical pain is common following a motorcycle accident. With some injuries, this pain is temporary. With serious conditions—including nerve damage—the pain from a motorcycle accident can last a lifetime. You could be entitled to compensation for the pain you suffered due to a motorcycle accident.
- Lost wages. For many people, a serious injury in a motorcycle accident means they are unable to work. These injuries could cost you weeks or months of paychecks. Your personal injury lawsuit could replace your lost wages.
Stuart motorcycle accident attorneys legally determine fault in personal injury cases by proving negligence. Florida uses the modified comparative negligence standard. In applying the modified comparative negligence doctrine, all parties involved in a personal injury case bear none, some, or all of the fault in causing the accident. If a plaintiff in a motorcycle accident case is 50% or less at fault for their injuries, their recovery will be reduced in proportion to their fault. If they are 51% or more at fault, they are barred from recovery entirely.
For example, a motorcyclist who is weaving in and out of traffic lanes and is hit by a car changing lanes will share some percentage of fault with the driver of the car. If the motorcyclist is determined to be 40 percent at fault, they are allowed to recover only 60 percent of the damages claimed.
Elements of Negligence
Involvement in a motorcycle accident does not entitle you to compensation on its own. For you to recover a monetary award following a collision, your personal injury lawyer in Stuart must be able to establish that the defendant in your case was negligent. To be successful in claiming damages, all four of the negligence elements must be proven. These are:
- Duty of care: A reasonable person is legally obligated to not cause harm to another. Motorists share the roads and therefore have a duty of care toward each other
- Breach: A party that is proven to have a duty of care, but causes an accident, has violated their duty of care
- Causation: The act of causing a collision resulted in harm to another person or property. This is also known as the “but for test.” But for the action of the defendant, the injury or damage would not have occurred. This element also includes an approximate cause in which the action that caused injury or damage was not foreseen
- Damages: The plaintiff must prove that actual injury or damage did occur
Negligence law allows certain defenses, and if one element is disproven, the case is dismissed.
Steps in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit
No two motorcycle accident injury claims are exactly alike. These accidents have different facts, result in different injuries, and involve different parties. That said, when these cases result in litigation, they follow a similar process. Understanding this process could be useful when pursuing compensation for your own injuries.
Initiating a motorcycle accident lawsuit involves filing a complaint against the at-fault parties. This complaint is a legal document that spells out the nature of your injuries, identifies the at-fault party, and explains in general detail why they are at fault.
Once the complaint is filed, it must be served on all of the defendants in the case. This means providing the defendant with a copy of the lawsuit and formal notice that court proceedings have begun. All parties have a right to be notified of any legal action before it can move forward, so serving the lawsuit on the defendant in your case is required.
Once the defendant is served, they have the right to file an answer. This answer goes line-by-line with your complaint, either accepting or disputing the allegations made. If the other party fails to respond to your lawsuit, you win by default.
Once the initial pleadings are filed, the next step is a process known as discovery. Discovery involves both sides sharing the documents and evidence they intend to use at trial. This process can take months and involves different methods of sharing information. In addition to written discovery, you could also be required to sit for a deposition. A deposition is similar to a court hearing, but it is not before a judge. Instead, both attorneys can ask you questions under oath, related to the case.
If your injuries allow it, gathering evidence at the scene of the wreck will prove crucial to building a strong argument for negligence on the part of other parties. Evidence in a motorcycle accident case includes photos and videos of the crash scene, eyewitness reports, the police report, medical records, and more. Your attorney can help you gather cell phone records of the drivers involved, any nearby surveillance footage, and reports from professional accident reconstruction experts.
At any time in this process, both sides could come to terms on a settlement agreement, which would resolve the case without having to go to trial. Most motorcycle accident cases do end with a settlement, whereby the plaintiff is paid an agreed-upon amount of damages to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other losses.
In a relatively small number of instances, the defendant’s settlement offer is not acceptable to the plaintiff, and the case proceeds past discovery to trial preparation. There can be motions filed by both sides in the lead-up to trial that could shape what evidence is heard by the court. At trial, each side can call witnesses and offer evidence. A judge or jury will consider this evidence and determine which side is entitled to compensation.
Types of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents can happen under many different circumstances. Some of these collisions occur due to the same factors that lead to collisions involving larger motor vehicles. Other accidents result from circumstances that are unique to motorcycles. If you were injured in a crash through no fault of your own, you could be entitled to compensation regardless of the specific type of collision. Some common types of motorcycle accidents include:
- Rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of motor vehicle accident. They typically occur when a driver fails to stop in time and strikes a motorcycle stopped in front of them.
- Blind spot accidents. One of the major risks associated with operating a motorcycle is issues with visibility. Because some drivers fail to keep a look out for smaller vehicles, motorcycles are often involved in accidents while in the blind spot of larger cars or trucks.
- Single-vehicle accidents. Some accidents do not involve a collision with another motorist. These accidents can occur due to a variety of reasons. A single-vehicle crash could result from driver error, bad weather, or even dangerous road conditions.
- Left-turn collisions. Some of the most devastating motorcycle accidents occur when riders turn left across traffic. Because of visibility issues, oncoming drivers do not always see motorcycles enter their path. This can lead to high-impact collisions.
- Lane splitting. Lane splitting is a risk factor that is unique to motorcycles. It occurs when a motorcyclist travels between two lanes of traffic. This often occurs when traffic has slowed. Accidents can happen when motorists attempt to change lanes in the path of a lane-splitting rider.
- Door accidents. Some motorcycle accidents occur while traveling near parked cars. It is not uncommon for a motorist to open the door of their vehicle in the path of an oncoming motorcyclist, which causes the rider to strike the door.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
There are countless ways for a motorcycle accident to result in a physical injury. While these vehicles are enjoyed for the freedom they provide, riding them is also known for resulting in serious injuries. Riders have little protection from impact, and a collision with a car or truck could be devastating. These accidents could result in two impacts: the initial impact with another vehicle, and a secondary impact when a rider strikes the ground.
One of the injuries that is frequently associated with motorcycle accidents is road rash. This injury occurs when a rider is thrown from their motorcycle. As the rider slides across the pavement, the friction leaves burn-like injuries across exposed skin. While common, road rash is not one of the most serious injuries related to motorcycle collisions. The other injuries from these accidents could have life-altering consequences. Some of the conditions commonly associated with motorcycle accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Severe burns
- Broken bones
- Spinal cord damage
- Internal bleeding
- Ligament and tendon injuries
- Cuts, bruises, and lacerations
When injuries happen, it is important to seek medical care right away. This is true even if you are uncertain that your condition is serious. Motorcycle injuries can worsen over time, and your chances of a full recovery increase by seeking immediate medical care.
Is There a Deadline to File My Lawsuit?
If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident in Florida, you face a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. The deadline that applies to your case is known as the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations exists in every state. However, the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit not only differs across jurisdictions, but also varies depending on the type of case you file. In Florida, the statute of limitations generally gives you two years to pursue your injury claim.
The two-year period that applies to your case begins to expire the day your accident occurs. If you do not file your case on time, you could face serious consequences in your personal injury case. Any time the statute of limitations is violated, the court will typically have little option but to dismiss the case with prejudice.
Dismissal with prejudice is the worst-case scenario for your lawsuit. Not only does it bring your lawsuit to an end, but it prevents you from ever pursuing the case again in the future. This is true even if the facts of the case are favorable to you. Given the important stakes, you have every reason to reach out to a qualified attorney to ensure your compliance with the statute of limitations.
Contact a Stuart Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one are involved in a motorcycle accident, you need to know and protect your legal rights. To do so, contact a Stuart motorcycle accident lawyer at Kogan & DiSalvo promptly to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
Your skilled attorney can explain the applicable law, advise you on the strength of your case, and aggressively represent your interest to achieve the compensation that you deserve. Contact us as soon as possible to learn how we can help.