The History of Florida’s No Helmet Law for Motorcycles
Florida law does not require riders over the age of 21 to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, but only if they follow other insurance requirements. This law was passed in 2000 under much controversy. Miami motorcycle accident lawyer Prosper Shaked discusses the history of this law and how wearing a helmet – or not wearing a helmet – can affect your motorcycle injury lawsuit. Call The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked today for help with your motorcycle accident case.
Overview of Florida’s Motorcycle Helmet Laws
The current iteration of the motorcycle helmet law in Florida was signed into law on June 16, 2000, and it went into effect July 1, 2000. This law, now over 18 years old, is different than many other state helmet laws. While many states require helmets for minors and young adults, they do not require helmets for adult riders. Under § 316.211(3)(b), Fla. Stat., riders and passengers over 21 can forgo a helmet, but only if they have proof of insurance that would cover their injuries up to $10,000 in the event of an accident.
Many states had motorcycle helmet laws reaching back to the late 60s or 70s. During this period, federal safety standards increased, and many states enacted universal helmet laws for motorcycles. Into the late 90s, these laws stayed on the books, but movements for increased freedom pushed back against these laws. Riders commonly believed that they were only hurting themselves if they didn’t wear a helmet, and the government should not have that much paternalistic control over them.
In Florida, the universal helmet law was ruled partly unconstitutional on December 8th, 1995. The court in Florida v. Raynal declared parts of the law requiring Department of Transportation approval on helmets unconstitutional because it was too vague. In that case, the plaintiff challenged a ticket for not wearing a helmet and, upon close scrutiny during appeals, the ticket was dismissed, and part of the law was stricken as unconstitutional. Police throughout Florida continued to enforce this law anyway, ignoring the unconstitutional portion, and later cases continued to challenge tickets for violating the helmet requirement. By May 8, 1996, the court in Florida v. Landry ruled the rest of the statute unconstitutional.
To replace the law, then Gov. Jeb Bush signed the new helmet statute into law in 2000. This law is a bit of a compromise, since it does allow adult riders to leave the helmet at home if they want, but it requires them to carry insurance that will pay for their injuries if they get hurt.
Are Motorcycle Helmet Laws Effective?
Motorcycle riders and health experts often disagree on whether helmets should be required. Doctors and personal injury lawyers see the terrible effects of traumatic brain injuries and other head and skull injuries that can occur if a rider is not equipped with a proper helmet. Riders may not agree with these risks, but you can’t always rely on your own skill to prevent head injuries while riding a motorcycle.
Courts in Florida have heard cases challenging the new helmet law by saying it is too much government control. The courts sided with the government in these challenges, holding that debris and other objects could cause a danger to riders and that helmets and eye protection are important for protecting these riders. Not only that, but if a rider is struck in the head or eye and loses control, they then become a danger to others on the road. Under this logic, the decisions of whether or not to wear a helmet on a motorcycle does not just affect you as the rider, but it also affects others on the road.
Can You Sue if You Weren’t Wearing a Helmet in a Motorcycle Accident?
Even though riding a motorcycle without a helmet can be legal in Florida, it can still hurt your chances of recovering compensation in case of an injury. In any auto accident lawsuit, the court will hear both sides’ claims and arguments and decide which parties were at fault. In cases involving multiple at-fault drivers, the blame will be divided among each at-fault party. In some cases, this may mean assigning a percentage of the blame to the victim, too.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, the court could consider the fact that you did not wear a helmet a contributing cause of the injuries you suffered. If the court finds that but for your decision not to wear a helmet your injuries may have been avoided, you could be assigned a percentage of the blame for the accident. The damages you receive in court will typically be reduced by this percentage of fault.
Miami Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Offering Free Legal Consultations
If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident, talk to an attorney about your case immediately. Whether you were wearing a helmet or not can have an impact on how your case is handled, and it is vital to talk to an attorney about what your case might be worth and how to best maximize your compensation. For help with your case, call Miami personal injury lawyer Prosper Shaked today at (305) 690-0244. The Law Offices of Prosper Shaked offer free, confidential consultations on personal injury cases, including motorcycle accident claims.