If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you need to speak to a lawyer who specializes in motorcycle accident law. While each and every case is unique and different from the next, cases involving motorcycle accidents involve a system of insurance separate and apart from typical motor vehicle cases. This is one reason why you should speak to an attorney who has experience handling issues specific to motorcycle riders.
Why You Need To Wear A Helmet
One question that is unique and specific to motorcycle riders is: What if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident? Will the insurance company try to use this to avoid paying for the full extent of your injuries?
Florida Statute 316.211 governs the conditions in which motorcycle riders may permissibly drive or ride without a helmet. First of all, persons riding in an enclosed cab are exempt. Second, certain bikes are exempt as well (50 cc motors or less which cannot exceed 30 mph). Otherwise the statute requires riders and drivers to wear a helmet unless that person is covered by an insurance policy providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries that result from an accident.
If a rider or driver fails to have the appropriate coverage in place and was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, an insurance company may argue that they are entitled to a set-off or reduction in damages in the amount of the $10,000 in insurance benefits that should have been in place.
A rider/owner may think that the $10,000 Personal Injury Protection policy that is required to be maintained on their motor vehicle will cover them in the event of a motorcycle accident or qualifies under F.S. 316.211 so that they can ride helmet free without consequence. Neither of those beliefs, unfortunately, is true.
Motor vehicle PIP coverage does not extend to operators or passengers on motorcycles. In fact, Florida Law does not require motorcycle operators to maintain any insurance on their bikes or selves while riding. As a result, if injured in a motorcycle accident your potential sources of recovery will be limited to the at-fault party’s bodily injury coverage or possibly underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage maintained by you.
As a practical manner this means motorcycle drivers and passengers who fail to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage are categorically at a higher risk of there being insufficient insurance coverage to cover their medical bills and injuries. The reason why, explained in more detail below, is part of what’s wrong with the insurance scheme in operation in Florida today.
Why You Need to Get Underinsured / Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Most individuals are unaware that Florida does not have a minimum Bodily Injury (BI) coverage requirement for motor vehicle operators. BI coverage is the type of car insurance that provides compensation to other people when your negligence causes injury to them. In the example of a motorcycle accident where the operator of the motorcycle was not at fault, the BI coverage of the automobile who caused the accident could be the only source of recovery for the motorcycle rider and is completely and entirely discretionary under the laws of Florida.
In this scenario, where there is minimal (insufficient) or no BI coverage, an injured individual can protect themselves by maintaining a healthy underinsured/uninsured motorist (UM) policy that covers their motorcycle. This is part of the reason why maintaining UM coverage is so important. Aside from obtaining and maintaining UM coverage to protect yourself and your family, the other thing a concerned citizen can do is call or write to your local State of Florida representative and request a change in the law – to require some minimum amount of BI coverage on automobiles in Florida. Other states, such as Alabama do have minimum BI requirements. In Alabama the minimum bodily injury limits required on a motor vehicle is $25,000. Having a similar requirement in Florida would provide at least some coverage for individuals injured on motorcycles by the negligence of a lawfully insured operator of a motor vehicle.
If you have questions or find yourself in need of a motorcycle accident attorney, contact Michles & Booth.