Wearing a motorcycle helmet provides a high degree of protection in a motorcycle accident. Unfortunately, all too many riders choose not to wear their helmets when they head out on their bikes. Many riders consider helmets constricting, heavy, or too hot, especially on summer days in Florida. Unfortunately, failing to wear a helmet can lead to serious injury, especially when the rider has an accident. If you plan to ride through Florida, learn from an experienced Florida motorcycle accident attorney why you should fully understand Florida’s helmet laws.
Legal Requirements for Helmet Use in Florida
For bikers looking for a state with lenient helmet use laws, Florida seems like the perfect choice. Under Florida law, bikers need not wear helmets if they are over the age of 21 and carry at least $10,000 of medical coverage to assist with any medical bills acquired as a result of the choice not to wear a helmet.
Florida and South Carolina remain the last two states in the Southeast to allow riders to choose whether they wish to wear a motorcycle helmet once they turn 21, which makes these locations popular vacation destinations for bikers who want the freedom to decide for themselves if they want to wear a helmet. Florida law, however, does have some motorcycle equipment requirements when it comes to helmet use.
- Motorcycle riders under the age of 21 must wear a helmet. Both drivers and passengers under the age of 21 must wear helmets that meet Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218. This safety standard includes ensuring a proper fit for helmet wearers, without too much mobility in the helmet and with substantial coverage to reduce the risk of head injuries.
- Drivers and riders who do not carry at least $10,000 in medical coverage must wear a helmet. If you cruise through Florida without medical insurance, especially if you live out of state and do not carry personal injury protection insurance, you will need to wear a helmet while on Florida streets. Because Florida has a no fault law, your personal injury protection insurance will provide the first $10,000 of coverage if you suffer serious injuries, including head injuries, in a motorcycle accident.
- Young drivers riding mopeds must also wear helmets. Sixteen-year-olds who choose to drive mopeds, for example, must wear helmets on Florida streets.
- You must wear eye protection approved by the department of transportation even if you do not wear a full helmet. While Florida law does not require you to wear a helmet, it does require you to protect your eyes while riding. Bugs, debris, and even weather hazards can cause substantial vision problems for drivers in vehicles, but they usually hit the windshield rather than hitting the driver directly. When you ride a motorcycle, on the other hand, your helmet usually takes the blow. Florida law requires you to protect your eyes so that even if something hits you in the face, the protection may prevent an accident.
How Does Helmet Use Affect Your Motorcycle Accident Claim?
Florida law may not require bikers to wear a helmet every time they hit the streets, but what happens if you suffer injuries in a serious motorcycle accident? Will you still receive the same coverage from the responsible driver’s insurance if you suffer a head injury, even if you don’t wear a helmet?
Helmet use—or lack thereof—does not change the other driver’s liability in an accident. The fact that you chose not to wear a helmet while riding your motorcycle will not, for example, change the fact that the other driver caused the accident if they pulled out in front of you or tried to crowd you out of your lane, resulting in an accident. The driver bears just as much responsibility for his actions regardless of whether you choose to wear a helmet when you ride.
You can still claim the same compensation regardless of your helmet use. After a motorcycle accident, you have the right to seek compensation for your injuries regardless of who causes the accident. While the compensation you can claim will vary based on the extent of your injuries and the coverage offered by the responsible driver’s insurance policy, generally, you can claim:
- Compensation for your medical expenses, including compensation for any permanent brain injury sustained with or without helmet use
- Payment for pain and suffering
- Compensation for lost wages when you cannot return to work due to your injuries from the motorcycle accident
- Compensation for lost earning potential if the accident causes injuries, including traumatic brain injury, that prevent you from ever returning to work in your former profession
Helmet use—or lack thereof—does not change your liability in an accident. In some cases, motorcycle riders may contribute to or even cause auto accidents. If, for example, you fail to follow the rules of the road, from running stop signs and red lights to speeding to deciding to slip your motorcycle between two lanes of traffic, you may bear liability for your own injuries. Just as your helmet use, or lack thereof, does not change the liability of the other party in the accident, it also does not change yours. If you cause the accident, the severity of your injuries will not affect your inability to seek compensation.
Legally speaking, your decision not to wear a helmet should not change your ability to seek compensation for an accident. Florida law does not require you to wear a helmet, so you will not receive a citation for lack of helmet use unless you fail to comply with other requirements, such as not being over the age of 21 or carrying medical insurance that will cover your injuries after an accident.
Why Should You Wear a Helmet?
While Florida law does not require you to wear a motorcycle helmet, that does not necessarily mean that you should avoid wearing a helmet. If your trip takes you through other states, you will likely need to wear a helmet while in those states anyway. Even if you live in Florida and only ride here, however, investing in and wearing a good motorcycle helmet offers these advantages:
Motorcycle helmets can reduce the risk of death by about 37 percent. Hundreds of lives are saved each year by proper helmet use. You can’t know when you will have an accident while riding your motorcycle, so wearing your helmet every time provides the most effective protection you can ask for.
Motorcycle helmets can reduce the risk of serious head injury by as much as 69 percent. Even bikers who suffer head injuries while wearing a helmet can have less severe injuries than those injured when not wearing a helmet. Traumatic brain injury may cause many symptoms that have the potential to permanently impact your life, including:
- Inability to remember the accident itself or the events surrounding the accident.
- Loss of memory of events before the accident, including large chunks of your life
- Loss of short-term memory or the ability to retain long-term memories after the accident
- Trouble focusing
- Sensory changes
- Vision or hearing difficulties
- Changes in sleep habits, both sleeping more frequently and struggling with insomnia, depending on the severity of the injury and how your brain responds
- Increased sensitivity to light or sound
- Difficulty completing cognitive tasks
- Mood swings
In serious cases, symptoms of traumatic brain injury may linger long after the initial accident. Some people find that they feel the impact of TBI for the rest of their lives. Wearing your helmet, and wearing it properly, every time you get on your motorcycle may reduce the severity of traumatic brain injury symptoms or even prevent you from facing those challenges in your life.
Motorcycle helmets can reduce problems with bugs and debris. If you have ever taken a bug full in the face while driving, you know just how uncomfortable it can be. While a motorcycle helmet will not prevent the bug from splattering across the helmet, it will decrease the odds that it will hit you directly in the face, which could cause serious lacerations and discomfort. Simply wearing your helmet will also decrease distraction when you get hit with bugs or road debris kicked up by the vehicles in front of you, keeping your attention on the road and reducing the odds that you will cause an accident.
Helmets can decrease the risk of road rash on your face and neck. Road rash occurs when your unprotected skin slides across pavement, gravel, hard dirt, or sand. Any time you lay your motorcycle over, you run the risk of road rash, even if it occurs at low rates of speed. Not only does road rash cause extreme discomfort and require removing all foreign debris from the injury at the hospital after the accident, but also it can lead to serious scarring. By wearing your helmet, on the other hand, you protect your face and reduce the risk of road rash. Wearing other protective gear, including leathers and gloves, can also help decrease the risk of road rash and other injuries if you suffer a serious motorcycle accident.
Helmet use helps decrease other types of injuries. When you wear your helmet properly, it does not just decrease the risk of traumatic brain injury. Helmet use can also protect you from a wide range of other types of injuries. Wearing your helmet will decrease the likelihood of neck injury, which could prevent you from riding or driving any vehicle until it heals. Your helmet can help protect against facial injuries, including gashes, bruising, and crushing damage, depending on the severity of the accident. Helmet use can also help prevent expensive dental damage. While a skilled dentist can replace your teeth after an accident, extensive dental damage can cause substantial pain and suffering, not to mention high dental bills. If you suffer an accident, wearing your helmet can offer more protection than you think.
Wearing your helmet helps save money. No, you will not see an immediate drop in your gas bill or other cost savings that you can put your finger on. You will, however, save money for your local county: lack of helmet use costs more than $1 billion across the United States each year. That money represents taxpayer dollars that could go to fixing roads, improving education, and helping support other vital projects throughout each state.
Helmets can make you more visible to other drivers. When you choose a helmet, consider choosing one that offers a reflective covering or other attention-grabbing design. Simply choosing a highly visible helmet can make it easier for other drivers on the road to see you, calling more attention to your presence and decreasing the risk of an accident. As a biker, you know that many drivers fail to notice your presence on the road. Choosing the right helmet can increase the odds that another driver will notice you, which may prevent an accident down the road.
Motorcycles may represent just 3 percent of the vehicles registered across the United States, but motorcycle riders make up around 14 percent of the total traffic fatalities each year. Wearing a helmet correctly, and wearing it every time you get on your motorcycle, can help decrease the odds that you will become a statistic, providing a vitally needed level of protection between you and the road, as well as debris, other objects around you, and other vehicles. Even though Florida law does not require helmet use, get in the habit of putting on your helmet every time you get on your bike, even if you just need to make a short trip. You never know when it could save your life.
Did you suffer serious injuries in a motorcycle accident? Regardless of whether you chose to wear a helmet while you rode, you may need an attorney to help fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact a lawyer as soon after your accident as possible to determine your eligibility to seek compensation for your injuries.