On July 1, 2023, a new law went into effect in Florida that could have a significant impact on helmetless motorcyclists. HB837, also known as the “Comparative Fault” bill, changes how personal injury lawsuits are handled in the state.
Under the old law, Florida followed a system of pure comparative negligence. This meant that even if a plaintiff was partially at fault for their own injuries, they could still recover damages from the defendant, as long as the defendant was also at fault. The amount of damages that the plaintiff could recover would be reduced in proportion to their own negligence.
However, HB837 changes Florida to a modified comparative negligence system with a 51% bar. This means that if a plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault for their own injuries, they cannot recover any damages from the defendant, even if the defendant was also at fault.
This change is particularly significant for helmetless motorcyclists. Helmets are the most effective way to prevent head injuries during a motorcycle crash. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets are estimated to save 1,872 lives annually.
However, Florida is one of only three states in the country that does not have a universal helmet law. This means that adult motorcyclists over the age of 21 are not required to wear a helmet while riding.
As a result, a significant number of motorcyclists in Florida choose not to wear a helmet. In 2021, approximately 44% of motorcyclists killed in crashes in Florida were not wearing a helmet.
Under the new comparative fault law, helmetless motorcyclists injured in a crash are now at a much greater risk of being barred from recovering any damages. If the insurance company for the other driver can argue that the helmetless motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet contributed to their injuries, the court could find that the motorcyclist is 51% or more at fault for their own injuries. In this case, the motorcyclist would be barred from recovering any damages, even if the other driver was primarily at fault.
This means that helmetless motorcyclists who are injured in a crash could be left on the hook for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.
If you choose not to wear a helmet, be sure to have adequate PIP insurance coverage and be extra cautious when riding on the road.
Here are some tips for motorcyclists to stay safe:
- Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to react quickly to unexpected situations.
- Ride defensively and assume that other drivers do not see you.
- Avoid riding in bad weather or at night.
- Be especially careful when riding in areas with heavy traffic.
- Obey all traffic laws.
If you are involved in a motorcycle crash, even if you are not wearing a helmet, it is crucial to contact an experienced attorney to discuss your legal rights.