Having a bicycle helmet is a smart investment in your safety if you enjoy bicycling. Regardless of your age, especially in Florida, you need to have a helmet for your own safety. The Sunshine State has a reputation for being the most dangerous in the United States for cyclists. Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that thousands of cyclists are treated in hospital emergency departments for bicycle injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are the cause of 60% of bicycle accident deaths, 67% of admissions to the hospital, and 33% of cyclist injuries. Sadly though, only 16% of the cyclists killed in bicycle crashes were wearing helmets.
Why is Riding a Bicycle in Florida So Dangerous?
The sunny weather and comfortable temperatures make Florida the perfect location for cyclists to get out and about. However, with so much traffic mixed in, it creates the perfect location for bicycle accidents to take place. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in a single year, the following things occur:
- There are some 818 cyclist deaths each year and these deaths account for 2.3% of all traffic accident related deaths.
- There are some 45,000 bicycle injuries that account for 1.8% of all crash victims injured annually. They estimate that this figure is understated because many injuries are likely not reported.
- Some 70% of all fatal bicycle accidents occur in urban areas where cyclists are most likely to encounter heavy traffic and frequent intersections.
- In Florida alone, approximately 150 bicyclists are killed each year accounting for 5.1% of all motor vehicle related deaths.
What is Florida’s Bicycle Helmet Law?
If you were not wearing a helmet when you were involved in your bicycle accident, it could impact part of your claims and litigation in court. While there is not actually a universal bicycle helmet law in Florida, it may still play a role in your accident. People age 16 and old are not required to wear a helmet, but if you are younger than 16, the law says you must wear a helmet that meets federal safety standards and the helmet must be fastened to your head with a strap.
With that said, the defendant in a Florida bicycle accident claim can not use your lack of wearing a bicycle helmet, even if your child was not wearing one, as a way to gain the upper hand in a case. This defense strategy tries to claim that the cyclist’s choice to wear a known safety device is an act of contributory negligence and resulted in trauma that might otherwise have not been sustained. The defendant tries to claim that because of the contributory negligence, they should not be fully responsible for all the cyclist’s injuries.
Florida law specifically prohibits this tactic of defense. While a partially liable bicyclist may still be able to pursue damages against the other parties involved, contributory negligence in some states decreases the amount of money you may receive. Although this may not sound like a bad thing if you are still awarded a large sum of money, you have to factor in things such as medical expenses, loss of wages, and other expenses and these things add up. You are going to need the entire compensation allowable, which means that you need the assistance of an experienced Florida bicycle crash attorney on your side that is willing to fight for your rights.
I Thought Florida Was a No-Fault State?
You are correct. Florida is indeed a no-fault state when it comes to car insurance. Florida laws require all drivers to have an insurance policy that includes personal injury protection, or PIP, benefits up to a $10,000 maximum benefit for medical and disability and $5,000 in death benefits. These benefits come with several stipulations. In most situations, an individual’s own PIP insurance coverage pays for their own injuries. If the damages exceed a specific threshold, you may be able to pursue bodily injury liability coverage from the other driver if you can prove that they were negligent in the accident.
However, when it comes to bicycle crashes in Florida, things work much differently. While bicycles are considered vehicles when it comes to sharing the road, cyclists, however, are not required to carry any type of insurance in order to be considered street legal. If you are struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle, you will be able to collect PIP from the insurance policy of the vehicle’s driver. This same rule applies to pedestrians.
In the event the driver of the vehicle does not have the insurance that they are required to have, and you have PIP coverage on your own vehicle, or you are covered under the insurance policy of a relative, you may be able to use this insurance coverage to take care of you. You will still be able to pursue bodily injury liability insurance from the driver of the vehicle. You may also be able to use your underinsured/uninsured motorist policy to pay the difference if you have this type of insurance coverage.
Statute of Limitations for Florida Bicycle Accidents
If you have been injured in a bicycle crash, the state of Florida law allows you to take up to four years to file a personal injury claim in court. This is called the statute of limitations. However, even though you have this amount of time, it is best not to wait that long. It will take time for the personal injury attorney that you hire to begin an investigation and begin building your case. They will also have to create documents and still file all paperwork within the four-year statute of limitations. That is why it is imperative that you contact a personal injury attorney as quickly as possible if you or your loved on has been injured in a bicycle accident.
Contact a Florida Bicycle Accident Attorney Today
The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi will sit down with you and discuss your questions and concerns, then perform a full investigation into your accident so we can ensure you the most possible compensation for your case. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.