Can I Sue if I Wasn’t Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet in an Accident in Florida?
Were you injured by another driver while you were riding your motorcycle without a helmet in Florida? Can you bring and win a case against the other driver? Whether you were wearing a helmet at the time of your accident or not, you cannot win a personal injury case against another driver unless you can prove the other driver was negligent. If you can’t prove negligence, you can’t win.
So before I explain the role a helmet plays in your case, I need to explain negligence more fully. In motorcycle accident cases in Florida, there are two types of negligence: 1) common law negligence and; 2) negligence per se. Boca Raton, FL motorcycle accident lawyer Brian Schwechter explains how not wearing a helmet may affect your lawsuit in Florida.
Common Law Negligence in a Florida Motorcycle Accident
Common law negligence is made up of 4 elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The defendant breached that duty of care;
- Plaintiff was injured;
- The Plaintiff’s injuries were proximately caused by the Defendant’s breach of duty of care.
To better explain these elements, let’s use an example. We will pretend there is a case involving Mr. Hogg and Mr. Bimmer. Here are the facts.
Harley Hogg, was riding his motorcycle, without a helmet, westbound on Yamato near the intersection of Yamato and Jog Road. Mr. Hogg was traveling at 50 mph. The speed limit in that area is 40 mph. Bobby Bimmer driving his car southbound on Jog Road and attempted to make a left turn to travel east on Yamato. Mr. Bimmer then made a left turn just as Mr. Hogg approached the intersection.
As a result, he failed to slow down and rear-ended Mr. Hogg. Mr. Hogg, who never saw Mr. Bimmer’s vehicle coming, fell off his motorcycle and struck his head on the cement. Mr. Hogg went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a crack in his skull and a concussion. In the months that followed, Mr. Hogg often experienced headaches and blurred vision. This is how the four elements of common negligence operate within this hypothetical.
Defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
Drivers using public roadways, have a duty of care to other drivers using the roadway. As Mr. Hogg was another driver on the roadway, he was owed a duty of care by Mr. Bimmer.
Defendant breached the duty of care
The question is would a reasonably careful driver, under the same circumstances look down to read a text message while operating a moving vehicle? As a reasonable driver would likely not do so, Mr. Bimmer breached his duty of care.
Plaintiff was injured
Mr. Hogg was diagnosed with a cracked skull by medical doctors at the hospital. This objective finding, by hospital personnel, would likely spur a jury to conclude Mr. Hogg was indeed injured.
Plaintiff’s injuries were proximately caused by defendant’s breach of duty of care
Did Mr. Bimmer’s breach of his duty of care, cause Mr. Hogg’s injuries? If Mr. Bimmer had not texted while driving, his car would not have struck Mr. Hogg’s motorcycle which, in turn, caused Mr. Hogg to strike his head on the ground. As you can see from the chain of events, Mr. Bimmer’s actions, at least in part, caused Plaintiff Hogg’s injuries.
Proving Negligence in a Florida Motorcycle Accident Case
In addition to common law negligence, a plaintiff can also prove a defendant was negligent through negligence per se. Negligence per se states an act is negligent when a defendant’s act violated a law designed to protect the public. Some examples of such laws are violations of speed limits, failure to use a seat belt, texting while driving and blood alcohol content limits.
In a typical motorcycle or car accident, negligence per se include offenses such as:
- Driving under the influence;
- Reckless driving;
- Running a traffic light or stop sign
In order to prove negligence per se, the plaintiff must show:
- The defendant violated a public safety statute;
- The plaintiff is a member of the class that the statute intended to protect;
- The plaintiff’s injury is one that the statute was designed to prevent; and
- The violation of the statute caused the plaintiff’s injury.
In our example, Florida’s Texting While Driving Ban, statute 316.305, would be at issue. As written in the statute, the Florida legislature stated the purpose of §316.305 was to “improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users….and…reduce injuries…related to motor vehicle crashes.” With that purpose in mind and with our fact pattern, it certainly appears Mr. Hogg would be able to satisfy the four elements of negligence per se.
How Not Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet Can Affect Your Accident Lawsuit
Even though Mr. Bimmer’s conduct would be considered common law negligent and/or negligent per se, Mr. Bimmer may be only partly responsible for Mr. Hogg’s injuries. That is because negligence in Florida can be shared between parties. Therefore, a jury might also find Mr. Hogg’s actions were also negligent.
Using the common law negligence elements and examining Mr. Hogg’s conduct, a jury may conclude a reasonable motorcyclist, in the same situation, would have worn a helmet AND that wearing a helmet would have reduced the severity Mr. Hogg’s injury.
If that is indeed the case, the judge would adjust the jury’s award. For example, if a jury found Mr. Bimmer 75% and Mr. Hogg 25% responsible for the accident, Mr. Hogg’s award would be reduced by his negligence. So, if the jury awarded Mr. Hogg $50,000, that award would be reduced by $12,500 (25% of $50,000), leaving Mr. Hogg with a verdict of $37,500.
Remember the plaintiff’s negligence must have either played a role in the accident occurring or increased the severity of the plaintiff’s injury from the accident.
Let’s say instead of cracked skull Mr. Hogg’s injury was a broken arm? In that scenario, wearing a helmet would not have changed the severity of Mr. Hogg’s injury. Consequently, Mr. Hogg’s award would not be reduced.
Boca Raton, FL Motorcycle Accident Attorney Offering Free Consultations
Whether you were wearing a helmet or not during your motorcycle accident in Florida, it is important to seek experienced counsel to protect your rights and forcefully present your claim. Boca Raton personal injury lawyer Brian Schwechter of Schwechter Law Group we represent helmeted and helmetless motorcyclists and fight every day, protecting our clients’ rights and getting them the compensation they deserve. If you were on a motorcycle and were injured because of another driver’s negligence, call us today so we can discuss your claim, answer your questions and get you the justice you deserve. At Schwechter Law Group, we take your injuries personally.