Who’s Responsible For Damages In Florida Motorcycle Crash Claims?
Motorcycle crashes often cause extremely serious injuries. In fact, motorcycles are almost thirty times more likely to die in vehicle collisions that four-wheel vehicle occupants.
These victims usually incur substantial medical bills. Between hospitalization, follow-up care, and physical therapy, they may require months in a hospital or other care facility. During that time, and as they recover at home, they are unable to work. Other losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life, are impossible to express in financial terms. However, money damages can make these losses easier to deal with.
To obtain this compensation, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence or negligence per se by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
First Party Liability in Motorcycle Crash Cases
Generally, either some kind of driver impairment or a violation of a safety law causes motorcycle crashes.
Driver impairment almost always involves a lack of ordinary care, which is the basis of a negligence claim. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the five main types of driving impairment are:
- Alcohol: Most drivers are not legally drunk until they consume three or four drinks. But driving impairment begins with the first drink. Alcohol slows muscle reflexes and impairs judgement.
- Drowsiness: Alcohol and fatigue affect the brain in about the same way. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is the same as driving with a .08 BAC. Moreover, just like only time cures intoxication, only sleep cures fatigue. Those old fixes, like driving with the windows down, really do not work.
- Drugs: Prescription medications, like Fentanyl and Xanax, can impair driving functions even if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is taking the medicine according to a physician’s orders. Street drugs, like cocaine and LSD, also adversely affect drivers. The same is true for many over-the-counter remedies, like Nyquil.
- Medical Condition: Epilepsy, diabetes, heart conditions, and many other illnesses may cause sudden and unexpected losses of consciousness. Even a few microseconds could cause a tragic loss-of-control motorcycle crash.
- Distraction: Hand held cell phones are highly distracting, and there is evidence that hands-free devices may be even more distracting. Other dangerous behaviors include eating while driving or arguing with passengers while driving.
Some of these items involve a lack of ordinary care, as mentioned above, and others involve negligence per se, as outlined below.
Driver inattention causes a significant number of motorcycle crashes in Florida. Many drivers simply do not maintain a proper lookout for motorcycle riders. So, riders must always drive their bikes as if they are invisible, because they probably are. Always run with your light on, wear bright colored clothing when possible, and weave slightly in your lane as you ride.
Failure to maintain lookout is a violation of the Florida vehicle code. Under the negligence per se rule, this inattention basically creates a presumption of negligence. So, these claims are much easier to establish in court.
Third Party Liability in Florida
Many employers are vicariously liable for motorcycle crash damages. The respondeat superior rule applies if the tortfeasor was an employee who was acting in the scope of employment. Both these prongs are defined in broad, victim-friendly terms.
Additionally, Florida also has a dram shop law. This law holds commercial alcohol providers liable for damages if their impaired patrons later cause motorcycle crashes. The law applies to any alcohol sales to persons under 21. If the tortfeasor was over 21, the victim/plaintiff must introduce additional evidence to establish third party liability.
Third party liability theories like these are especially important in catastrophic injury cases. These legal doctrines give victims additional sources of recovery.
Count on Assertive Attorneys
Motorcycle crashes often raise complex liability questions. For a free consultation with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).