Florida Motorcycle Accidents – Injured Motorists and the Relevant Law Applicable to Motorcycle Insurance Claims

Florida Motorcycle Accident Law_fightsforyou.net

Dramatization/Actor – Not An Actual Event

Every year, thousands of accidents occur on South Florida roadways (particularly in the Florida Keys down in Monroe County, including Key Largo, Marathon, Islamorada and Tavernier — these roads are considered prime motorcycle accident territory given the amount of riders that ride down US 1, a two-laned highway for many portions of the road), wherein many crashes involve motorists who are seriously injured as a driver, passenger or even pedestrian (if riding a bike or simply walking down the street).  Many of these accidents involve motorcycle riders and/or passengers who are rear ended, cut off or struck by cars that are speeding.  Unfortunately, when riders are involved in a motorcycle crash, they usually sustain catastrophic injuries such as an amputation, brain injury (including traumatic brain injury – TBI), head injury (concussion), back injury (lumbar or thoracic disc tears, bulges or herniations), shoulder injury (torn labrum, tendons, ligaments or rotator cuff), neck injury (whiplash, cervical disc tears, bulges or herniations), chest injury (bruised or fractured sternum), face injury (fractured cheek or orbital bones), degloving injury, paralysis (quadriplegic, paraplegic or other forms of spinal cord injuries), burn injury, road rash, or severely broken legs, arms, feet, elbows, wrists, hips (pelvis), knees, ankles or vertebrae (typically requiring surgeries with implantation of hardware).  Sometimes, a motorcycle crash is bad enough wherein the rider, driver or passenger is killed, ie., a “wrongful death.” The question most often asked is what law is applicable to Florida motorcycle accident claims and what are the layers of Florida motorcycle insurance wherein you may be able to recover money for your injuries and damages.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS AND THE MOST COMMON CAUSES: whether one is involved in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, some of the most common causes of accidents on our South Florida road ways include the following:

    1. speeding;
    2. failing to yield;
    3. sudden lane changes or cutting vehicles off (especially without the use of an indicator or blinker);
    4. following too closely (should have multiple car lengths between vehicles depending on the speeds);
    5. weaving in and out of traffic (especially motorcycles, such as “lane splitting”);
    6. driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and/or alcohol and/or prescription medication;
    7. driving while distracted or using a cell phone (calling or texting);
    8. driving while tired or fatigued, or even falling asleep at the wheel;
    9. road defects (potholes, uneven pavement (dips, rivets, cracks, loose gravel), drop offs)
    10. road sign or traffic control issues (blocked signs by vegetation, out of order lights, downed signs);
    11. poorly designed streets, highways and roadways;
    12. construction and crews improperly warning oncoming motorists, cars, trucks and other motor vehicles;
    13. improperly or poorly lit streets, highways and roadways;
    14. defective motorcycle part or design;
    15. tire blowouts; and
    16. bad weather (whether fog, rain or wind).

For a discussion on Florida Motorcycle laws and regulations governing motorcycle safety, equipment (including Florida’s motorcycle helmet law and the law regarding protective eye wear), age requirements and restrictions, and Florida’s traffic laws such as the one on lane splitting, see my article on the Florida law applicable to motorcycle owners and operators.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE CRASHES AND APPLICABLE LAW TO INJURED MOTORISTS:  when a motorcycle rider or passenger (whether on a Harley, sport bike, cruiser (such as a Harley or chopper), standard (muscle bike or Ducati), crotch rocket, touring bike, dirt bike (for off road, such as motocross, enduro, rallies, trail, trials and track racing), dual purpose/sport (supermoto), police motorcycle, moped, sidecar, underbones or scooter) is involved in a car accident or crash, the following are some of the relevant laws applicable to these types of Florida motorcycle injury claims:

State Uniform Traffic Control Definitions (Chapter 316):

    1. Florida Statute section 316.003(22): under Florida’s state uniform traffic control section of the Florida statutes, a motorcycle is defined as any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding a tractor or a moped.
    2. Florida Statute section 316.003(21): under Florida’s state uniform traffic control section of the Florida statutes, a motor vehicle is defined as a self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway, but not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, swamp buggy, or moped.
    3. Florida Statute section 316.003(77): under Florida’s state uniform traffic control section of the Florida statutes, a moped is defined as any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels; with a motor rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground; and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement may not exceed 50 cubic centimeters.
    4. Florida Statute section 316.003(82): under Florida’s state uniform traffic control section of the Florida statutes, a motorized scooter is defined as any vehicle not having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, designed to travel on not more than three wheels, and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
    5. Florida Statute section 316.003(89): under Florida’s state uniform traffic control section of the Florida statutes, a swamp buggy is defined as a motorized off-road vehicle that is designed or modified to travel over swampy or varied terrain and that may use large tires or tracks operated from an elevated platform. The term does not include any vehicle defined in chapter 261 or otherwise defined or classified in this chapter.

Florida’s Motor Vehicle License Definitions (Chapter 320):

    1. Florida Statute section 320.01(1)(a): under Florida’s motor vehicle license section of the Florida statutes, a motor vehicle is defined as an automobile, motorcycle, truck, trailer, semitrailer, truck tractor and semitrailer combination, or any other vehicle operated on the roads of this state, used to transport persons or property, and propelled by power other than muscular power, but the term does not include traction engines, road rollers, special mobile equipment as defined in s. 316.003(48), vehicles that run only upon a track, bicycles, swamp buggies, or mopeds.
    2. Florida Statute section 320.01(26): under Florida’s motor vehicle license section of the Florida statutes, a motorcycle is defined as any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, excluding a vehicle in which the operator is enclosed by a cabin unless it meets the requirements set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a motorcycle. The term “motorcycle” does not include a tractor or a moped.
    3. Florida Statute section 320.01(27): under Florida’s motor vehicle license section of the Florida statutes, a moped is defined as any vehicle with pedals to permit propulsion by human power, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels, with a motor rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and not capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground, and with a power-drive system that functions directly or automatically without clutching or shifting gears by the operator after the drive system is engaged. If an internal combustion engine is used, the displacement may not exceed 50 cubic centimeters.
    4. Florida Statute section 320.01(45): under Florida’s motor vehicle license section of the Florida statutes, a swamp buggy is defined as a motorized off-road vehicle that is designed or modified to travel over swampy or varied terrain and that may use large tires or tracks operated from an elevated platform. The term does not include any vehicle defined in chapter 261 or otherwise defined or classified in this chapter.

Florida’s Drivers License Definitions (Chapter 322):

    1. Florida Statute section 322.01(26): under Florida’s driver’s license section of the Florida statutes, a motorcycle is defined as a motor vehicle powered by a motor with a displacement of more than 50 cubic centimeters, having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider, and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding a tractor, tri-vehicle, or moped.
    2. Florida Statute section 322.01(27): under Florida’s driver’s license section of the Florida statutes, a motor vehicle is defined as any self-propelled vehicle, including a motor vehicle combination, not operated upon rails or guideway, excluding vehicles moved solely by human power, motorized wheelchairs, and motorized bicycles as defined in section 316.003.
    3. Florida Statute section 322.01(43): under Florida’s driver’s license section of the Florida statutes, a vehicle is defined as every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway or operated upon rails or guideway, except a bicycle, motorized wheelchair, or motorized bicycle.
    4. Florida Statute section 322.01(46): under Florida’s driver’s license section of the Florida statutes, a tri-vehicle is defined as  an enclosed three-wheeled passenger vehicle that:

      (a) Is designed to operate with three wheels in contact with the ground; (b) Has a minimum unladen weight of 900 pounds; (c) Has a single, completely enclosed, occupant compartment;(d) Is produced in a minimum quantity of 300 in any calendar year; (e) Is capable of a speed greater than 60 miles per hour on level ground; and (f) Is equipped with: 1. Seats that are certified by the vehicle manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 207, “Seating systems” (49 C.F.R. s. 571.207); 2. A steering wheel used to maneuver the vehicle; 3. A propulsion unit located forward or aft of the enclosed occupant compartment; 4. A seat belt for each vehicle occupant certified to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 209, “Seat belt assemblies” (49 C.F.R. s. 571.209); 5. A windshield and an appropriate windshield wiper and washer system that are certified by the vehicle manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 205, “Glazing Materials” (49 C.F.R. s. 571.205) and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 104, “Windshield Wiping and Washing Systems” (49 C.F.R. s. 571.104); and 6. A vehicle structure certified by the vehicle manufacturer to meet the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 216, “Rollover crush resistance” (49 C.F.R. s. 571.216).

Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law Definitions (Chapter 627):

    1. Florida Statute section 627.732(3): under Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law Section of the Florida statutes, a motor vehicle is defined as any self-propelled vehicle with four or more wheels which is of a type both designed and required to be licensed for use on the highways of this state and any trailer or semitrailer designed for use with such vehicle and includes: (a) A “private passenger motor vehicle,” which is any motor vehicle which is a sedan, station wagon, or jeep-type vehicle and, if not used primarily for occupational, professional, or business purposes, a motor vehicle of the pickup, panel, van, camper, or motor home type; and (b) A “commercial motor vehicle,” which is any motor vehicle which is not a private passenger motor vehicle.

      The term “motor vehicle” does not include a mobile home or any motor vehicle which is used in mass transit, other than public school transportation, and designed to transport more than five passengers exclusive of the operator of the motor vehicle and which is owned by a municipality, a transit authority, or a political subdivision of the state.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE RIDERS OWNERS OPERATORS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SECURE PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION BENEFITS (PIP) UNDER FLORIDA LAW AS PART OF THEIR INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS: under Florida Statute section 627.732(3), Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law Section of the Florida statutes, because a motor vehicle is defined as any self-propelled vehicle with four or more wheels, owners of motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, trikes, motorcycles with a side car or  tri-vehicle’s, are not required to secure the $10,000 in Florida personal injury protection insurance that owners of motor vehicles are required to purchase in order to drive on the roadways. For more on Florida’s new personal injury protection (PIP) law, see my previous article.

Florida Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law Definitions (Chapter 324):

  1. Florida Statute section 324.021(1): under Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law Section of the Florida statutes, a motor vehicle is defined as every self-propelled vehicle which is designed and required to be licensed for use upon a highway, including trailers and semitrailers designed for use with such vehicles, except traction engines, road rollers, farm tractors, power shovels, and well drillers, and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead wires but not operated upon rails, but not including any bicycle or moped. However, the term “motor vehicle” shall not include any motor vehicle as defined in s. 627.732(3) when the owner of such vehicle has complied with the requirements of ss. 627.730-627.7405, inclusive, unless the provisions of s. 324.051 apply; and, in such case, the applicable proof of insurance provisions of s. 320.02 apply.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE RIDERS OWNERS OPERATORS MUST COMPLY WITH FLORIDA’S FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY LAWS AND BE ABLE TO PROVE THEIR ABILITY TO PROVIDE $10,000 PER PERSON OR $20,000 PER ACCIDENT FOR BODILY INJURY LIABILITY, AND $10,000 PER ACCIDENT IN PROPERTY DAMAGE LIABILITY: under Florida Statute section 324.021(1), Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law Section of the Florida statutes, a motor vehicle is defined as every self-propelled vehicle which is designed and required to be licensed for use upon a highway.  The the Florida Supreme Court has held that this definition of a motor vehicle within Florida’s Financial Responsibility, includes motorcycles.  As such, pursuant to Florida Statute section 324.021(7), all owners and operators of motorcycles must prove their ability (ie., in general, you are not required to secure this type of insurance but must be able to respond in case of a motorcycle accident or crash) to respond in damages for liability on account of crashes arising out of the use of a motor vehicle (ie., motorcycle):

(a) In the amount of $10,000 because of bodily injury to, or death of, one person in any one crash;

(b) Subject to such limits for one person, in the amount of $20,000 because of bodily injury to, or death of, two or more persons in any one crash;

(c) In the amount of $10,000 because of injury to, or destruction of, property of others in any one crash; and

(d) With respect to commercial motor vehicles and nonpublic sector buses, in the amounts specified in ss. 627.7415 and 627.742, respectively.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE RIDERS OWNERS OPERATORS ARE GENERALLY NOT REQUIRED TO SECURE ANY INSURANCE (PIP, BODILY INJURY LIABILITY AND/OR PROPERTY DAMAGE LIABILITY) IN ORDER TO OPERATE A MOTORCYCLE ON FLORIDA ROADS:  under Florida law, in general, operators of cars, trucks, etc., are required to have $10,000 in PIP insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability insurance (bodily injury liability insurance is optional).

As for motorcycles, as stated previously, personal injury protection insurance is not required (must have four wheels).  Moreover, motorcycle riders, owners, operators and/or drivers are also not required to secure $10,000 of property damage liability insurance.  Pursuant to Florida Statute 324.022(1), every owner or operator of a motor vehicle required to be registered in this state shall establish and maintain the ability to respond in damages for liability on account of accidents arising out of the use of the motor vehicle in the amount of $10,000 because of damage to, or destruction of, property of others in any one crash. The requirements of this section may be met by one of the methods established in s. 324.031; by self-insuring as authorized by s. 768.28(16); or by maintaining an insurance policy providing coverage for property damage liability in the amount of at least $10,000 because of damage to, or destruction of, property of others in any one accident arising out of the use of the motor vehicle. The requirements of this section may also be met by having a policy which provides coverage in the amount of at least $30,000 for combined property damage liability and bodily injury liability for any one crash arising out of the use of the motor vehicle. The policy, with respect to coverage for property damage liability, must meet the applicable requirements of s. 324.151, subject to the usual policy exclusions that have been approved in policy forms by the Office of Insurance Regulation. No insurer shall have any duty to defend uncovered claims irrespective of their joinder with covered claims.

It should be noted that under this same section, to wit, 324.022(2), a “motor vehicle” is defined as any self-propelled vehicle that has four or more wheels (ie., excluding motorcycles, trikes, scooters, mopeds and the like) and that is of a type designed and required to be licensed for use on the highways of this state, and any trailer or semitrailer designed for use with such vehicle. The term does not include:

1. A mobile home.

2. A motor vehicle that is used in mass transit and designed to transport more than five passengers, exclusive of the operator of the motor vehicle, and that is owned by a municipality, transit authority, or political subdivision of the state.

3. A school bus as defined in s. 1006.25.

4. A vehicle providing for-hire transportation that is subject to the provisions of s. 324.031. A taxicab shall maintain security as required under s. 324.032(1).

Thus, Motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, trikes and the like (all of which have less the four wheels) are not required to secure a policy of insurance for property damage liability (ie., when you are in an automobile accident, are at fault and cause property damage to another vehicle).  Moreover, under Florida Statute s. 324.023, bodily injury liability insurance is only required if you have been found guilty (by adjudication or guilt) or plead no contest to driving under the influence. Under  s. 324.023, every owner or operator of a motor vehicle (this definition is  not limited to four or more wheels) that is required to be registered in this state, or that is located within this state, and who, regardless of adjudication of guilt, has been found guilty of or entered a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to a charge of driving under the influence under s. 316.193 after October 1, 2007, shall, by one of the methods established in s. 324.031(1) or (2), establish and maintain the ability to respond in damages for liability on account of accidents arising out of the use of a motor vehicle in the amount of $100,000 because of bodily injury to, or death of, one person in any one crash and, subject to such limits for one person, in the amount of $300,000 because of bodily injury to, or death of, two or more persons in any one crash and in the amount of $50,000 because of property damage in any one crash. If the owner or operator chooses to establish and maintain such ability by furnishing a certificate of deposit pursuant to s. 324.031(2), such certificate of deposit must be at least $350,000. Such higher limits must be carried for a minimum period of 3 years. If the owner or operator has not been convicted of driving under the influence or a felony traffic offense for a period of 3 years from the date of reinstatement of driving privileges for a violation of s. 316.193, the owner or operator shall be exempt from this section.

IN CONCLUSION – FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS: in general, all Florida Motorcycle riders, owners, drivers and/or operators are not required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) no fault insurance, nor are they required to carry bodily injury liability or property damage liability insurance.  However, if you have been found guilty (by adjudication or plea of guilty) or plead no contest to driving under the influence after October 1, 2007, you are required to secure insurance for bodily injury liability ($100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident) and property damage liability ($50,000 per accident or crash). Notwithstanding the aforementioned, all Florida motorcycle owners and operators must still be able to comply with Florida’s financial responsibility laws under Florida Statute section 324.021(7), to wit, they must be able to respond to a judgment in case of a motorcycle accident of crash in the amount of $10,000 per person and/or $20,000 per accident for bodily injury liability, and $10,000 per accident in property damage liability.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE RIDERS OWNERS DRIVERS OPERATORS CAN PURCHASE UNINSURED (UM) AND/OR UNDERINSURED (UIM) MOTORIST INSURANCE:  Florida UM and UIM coverage can provide one with another source of benefits when the adverse owner and/or operator who was in the motorcycle accident or crash with you, has no insurance or their limits are too low (drivers and owners typically only have $10,000 in bodily injury liability limits).  For an extensive discussion on Florida Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage, see my previous article.

FLORIDA MOTORCYCLE INJURED MOTORISTS DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE PERMANENCY TO SECURE PAIN AND SUFFERING AS DAMAGES IN A CLAIM OR LAWSUIT: under Florida Statute section 627.737(2), Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law Section of the Florida statutes, in any action of tort brought against the owner, registrant, operator, or occupant of a motor vehicle with respect to which security has been provided as required by ss. 627.730-627.7405, or against any person or organization legally responsible for her or his acts or omissions, a plaintiff may recover damages in tort for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of: (a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function; (b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement; (c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; and/or (d) Death.

Because the definition of a “motor vehicle” under Chapter 627 is a self-propelled vehicle with “four or more wheels,” injured motorists arising out of accidents or crashes where they are driving a motorcycle, moped, scooter or  tri-vehicle, are not required to prove permanency in order to recover past or future pain and suffering damages within a Florida lawsuit or claim.

Moral of the Story: as you can see, whether you are a Florida motorcycle rider, owner, driver, passenger or operator, and you are involved in a motorcycle accident or crash in Coral Springs, Cooper City, Hallandale, Boca Raton, Homestead, West Kendall, Key Biscayne, Weston, Pompano Beach, Tamarac, Wilton Manners, Hialeah, Naples, Fort Myers, Stuart, Martin or another area within Miami-Dade, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach or the Florida Keys, there is a lot to think about when it comes to securing insurance for your motorcycle, the Florida law you must comply with to drive your motorcycle on the Florida highways, and the law that may be applicable in case you are in a deadly motorcycle accident and require the services of a Florida personal injury attorney to advise you with regards to any motorcycle claims or lawsuits you may have to bring.

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