Getting into a car accident is always a stressful experience. Whether it’s a fender bender or a serious crash, you have to deal with the aftermath — filing a police report, exchanging information with the other driver, medical expenses, repairs, missing time from work, and often, litigation. And, while there are never black and white answers, some circumstances may make you wonder whether fault can be pinpointed on someone. For example, if you crash into a cyclist who wasn’t wearing a helmet, are you responsible for all injuries?
Bicycle Helmet Laws in Florida
In the same way there are many laws regulating driving motor vehicles in Florida, there are plenty of regulations establishing the duties and responsibilities of cyclists. Some of them include having headlights when riding at night, brakes that work well, and using bike lanes when available. When it comes to helmets, Florida Statutes section 316.2065 requires that all riders or passengers under 16 years of age must wear a helmet that is properly fitted and fastened by a strap that meets federal safety standards.
How Bicycle Helmet Laws Determine Fault for Car Accidents in Florida
Since Florida law requires certain individuals to wear a helmet, it makes sense to initially wonder whether failing to wear one can bar someone from filing suit against a driver who hit them. However, the answer is not so clear cut. The Sunshine State is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. This means that the totality of circumstances will be taken into account to determine whether the lack of helmet was the cause of injuries or whether the driver was also negligent.
For example, a 15-year-old could’ve been riding a bicycle without a helmet and crashed into a car that ran a stop sign. In such an event, both parties were negligent. In order to determine the degree of negligence of each side, the attorneys involved would attempt to reconstruct the accident. This can be done by:
- Subpoenaing witnesses and/or the police officer at the scene
- Requesting surveillance footage from nearby businesses and/or homes
- Seeking testimony from medical professionals who provided treatment
- Seeking testimony from accident reconstruction experts
All of the factors would be considered. If the cyclist broke a limb, a helmet wouldn’t have made a difference. So if the driver was negligent, they will be responsible for those injuries — as well as for related costs, bicycle repair, lost wages, future medical bills relating to the accident, and any emotional distress and/or PTSD arising from the crash. On the other hand, if the injuries were to the head, the attorneys involved will have to investigate the case to determine the degree of liability of each party involved, including:
- Was the driver of the motor vehicle speeding?
- Did the driver of the motor vehicle fail to heed a traffic sign or light?
- Was the driver texting or otherwise driving distracted?
- Was the driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
- Was the cyclist riding at night without a headlight?
- Was the cyclist over the age of 16?
Now, even if the cyclist was over the age of 16 — and thus not required to wear a helmet — the driver can’t use as a defense that the specific roadway where the accident occurred was dangerous and the cyclist should’ve taken the additional precaution. Florida’s bicycle law specifically states that the failure of a person to wear a bicycle helmet may not be considered evidence of negligence or contributory negligence.
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Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.