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Florida Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Experts In This Article

Motorcycle helmet laws are a frequently debated topic, with some people believing that helmets should be mandatory to protect the safety of all motorcycle riders and their passengers. In contrast, others believe that the decision to wear a helmet should be theirs—and theirs alone— to make.

Individuals injured in a motorcycle accident often become distressed about whether they will be able to obtain compensation for injuries incurred in an accident if they weren’t wearing a helmet when the accident occurred. Here is a look at Florida motorcycle helmet laws and how they can affect your ability to file a claim if an accident injured you.

Legal Requirements for Helmet Use in Florida

Motorcycle Helmet LawsFor 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.

Who Is Required to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in Florida?

Florida’s motorcycle helmet law states:

  • If a rider is under the age of 21, they and their passengers must wear a helmet that complies with Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218. This standard establishes minimum performance requirements for helmets designed for motorcyclists and other motor vehicle users.
  • If the rider is aged 21 or over, they are not required to wear a helmet, as long as they have an insurance policy that provides at least $10,000 in benefits that would be available for use if the motorcyclist becomes injured.

Will a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Policy Satisfy the Insurance Requirement?

Florida requires the drivers of four-wheeled motor vehicles to purchase a PIP policy of at least $10,000 in coverage before registering their car. This policy provides partial coverage of medical expenses and wage loss if the insured, members of their household, or passengers in their car are injured, regardless of who is at fault.

In many cases, a policyholder can use PIP to compensate expenses incurred by the insured or their household members if they become injured as pedestrians or bicyclists. However, these policies do not compensate for motorcycle accidents. Florida’s no-fault insurance scheme does not consider motorcycles motor vehicles.

However, some insurance companies provide PIP or medical payments policies specifically for motorcycles, and this type of coverage would satisfy the requirement. Many motorcyclists use their employer-sponsored health insurance plan to meet the $10,000 insurance policy requirement.

What Happens If an Accident Injures You and You’re Not Wearing a Helmet in Florida?

If you’re a motorcyclist who has been injured in an accident while not wearing a helmet, the impact that it can have on your ability to obtain compensation depends on your age.

  • If you’re over 21 and have the required amount of insurance, not wearing a helmet will generally not affect your ability to seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury through the personal injury claims process because it is legal in Florida to ride without a helmet.
  • If you are under 21, you can still seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. However, because you violated the state’s helmet law, the amount of compensation you can obtain for injuries that resulted from the lack of a helmet can be reduced to reflect the violation.

While not all motorcyclists must wear helmets, they must wear eye protection. Additionally, because those under 21 or who don’t have the required insurance are obligated to wear a helmet, you can be cited for a non-criminal, non-moving violation and forced to pay a fine if you violate Florida’s helmet laws.

What Is the Purpose of Motorcycle Helmet Laws?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies have shown that motorcycle helmets are highly effective in protecting a motorcyclist’s head during a crash.

Helmets reduce the risk of death from a crash by 42 percent and reduce traumatic brain injuries by 69 percent. States that have enacted universal motorcycle helmet laws requiring all riders to wear a safety-approved helmet have reported that helmet use increases on their roads from about 50 percent to 90 percent.

Studies also indicate that almost half of the motorcyclists admitted to hospitals to treat injuries sustained in an accident did not have sufficient health insurance coverage, so the public often winds up sharing the cost of treating these injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are among the most costly injuries an individual can suffer, as they often result in permanent disabilities and a lifetime of medical care required to treat the impacts and complications of the injury.

States generally enact motorcycle helmet laws to reduce the public’s burden in paying for uninsured injuries sustained by motorcyclists.

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.

Other Florida Laws that Can Impact Your Ability to Seek Compensation After a Motorcycle Accident

Generally, those over 21 with insurance coverage who fail to wear a helmet will not see an impact on their ability to seek compensation for their injuries through the personal claims process. However, several other Florida laws can impact your claim.

Most motorcycle accident claims are negligence-based, meaning that a motor vehicle operator’s reckless or careless behavior caused the accident. Motorists owe a duty of care to other roadway users to take reasonable actions to prevent injury and property damage to others. This duty includes operating the vehicle safely and legally.

Florida’s traffic laws make it illegal to do many dangerous things that can result in a motorcycle accident, such as:

  • Distracted driving. The state’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law makes it illegal to use a handheld wireless device for typing in multiple letters or numbers (such as you would if you were texting). If a police officer witnesses a texting driver, they can pull the driver over, even if the driver has not committed other traffic infractions.
  • Right-of-way laws require a driver to yield to other traffic at certain times. One of the most common types of motorcycle accidents is a left-turn accident. These occur when a driver turns left at an intersection without a green arrow and fails to notice a motorcycle traveling through the intersection, turning into its path. Drivers often don’t see the motorcyclist because they are less visible, or inattentional blindness—which causes the driver’s brain to focus on larger hazards at a chaotic intersection while disregarding smaller hazards such as a motorcyclist. No matter, drivers are still obligated to observe the right-of-way.
  • Laws that prohibit impairment by alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drugs can impair driving skills, and drivers and riders need to operate their vehicles safely. About 33 percent of motorists in fatal accidents are alcohol-impaired at the time of the crash.
  • Speed limits reduce accidents. Speeding is a major source of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving motorcycles. A speeding motorist has less time to perceive a hazard, such as a motorcyclist, less time to react to the hazard by braking, less ability to control the vehicle, and more distance needed to stop before colliding with the motorcycle.

In addition to traffic laws like the ones above that can help prove who was liable for the accident, laws regarding the personal injury process can impact your ability to seek compensation after being injured in a motorcycle accident. The law with the most potential impact on a personal injury claim is the statute of limitations, which provides the amount of time the claimant has to file their claim in court as a personal injury lawsuit if the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to settle the claim.

Failing to file your claim in court within the statute of limitations will generally bar you from using the court system to seek compensation for your injuries. Without the threat of litigation, if they fail to pay the claim, the at-fault party’s insurance company has little reason to offer a settlement, which means you likely can not obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts of your injury. In Florida, the statute of limitations on motorcycle accident claims is generally four years from when the accident occurred.

Additional laws that can impact your claim include laws relating to the insurance company that prohibits insurers from ignoring claims or offering ridiculously low settlements. The insurance provider also cannot misrepresent policy terms and conditions or fail to disclose policy exclusions. These laws provide some protection while obtaining insurance coverage either through your insurer or a personal injury claim.

Some laws protect personal injury claimants from attorney negligence, including protections against undue pressure for a client to accept a settlement, the requirement that attorneys act in the client’s best interest, and the prevention of attorneys making decisions on the claim that the claimant should make.

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
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty completing cognitive tasks
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • 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 Accident Causes

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.

How Can a Motorcycle Accident Attorney Help You With Your Claim?

Motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to suffer a serious injury or die due to an accident because of the lack of protection between the rider’s body and elements, such as hard road surfaces and the vehicles involved in the collision. To add insult to injury, however, riders frequently face assumptions and stereotypes about their chosen method of transportation, even from the medical system and insurance providers.

An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer understands that it does not matter what someone’s opinion of motorcycles is. As a lawful roadway user, the motorcyclist has the same right to compensation for injuries caused by a driver’s negligence as any other roadway user.

The knowledge of the law that an attorney provides also allows them to:

  • Determine the sources of liability and liability insurance policies to provide your compensation.
  • Manage communication with the at-fault party’s insurance provider to protect your claim from insurance tactics that, while not explicitly prohibited, are engaged in so the insurer can reduce the amount of your claim.
  • Negotiate a settlement based on the severity of your injury and the expenses and impacts you incurred, not on whether you were wearing a helmet.
  • Gather evidence that can help prove your claim. In personal injury claims, the burden of proof is not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt but the “preponderance of the evidence.” This standard means that the accident was more likely than not to occur the way you claim based on the evidence presented. The evidence often used in a motorcycle accident claim includes photographs from the scene, testimony from eyewitnesses and expert witnesses, video footage from nearby surveillance cameras, and information contained in the police report.
  • Litigate your case. The vast majority of Florida personal injury claims—including motorcycle accident claims—settle before trial. However, a small number of claims will go to trial for a judge or jury to determine liability and compensation. A motorcycle accident attorney represents the case in court by delivering opening and closing arguments, presenting evidence, and examining witnesses.
  • Collect your settlement or award after your claim concludes. Additionally, if the at-fault party appeals a court decision, a motorcycle accident attorney has the legal know-how to navigate their client through the appellate process.
Personal Injury Lawyer Orlando, FL - Michael T. Gibson
Micheal T. Gibson

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 a motorcycle accident injure you? Let an accomplished motorcycle injury lawyer help you understand the personal injury process and provide information about how a lawyer can assist you with your claim.

Contact a trusted Florida motorcycle accident attorney near you for your free case evaluation and get the compensation you deserve.

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