Florida is one of the most dangerous states for motorcycle riders, with more than 500,000 registered motorcycles and more than 500 fatalities, 2,000 incapacitating injuries, and 5,600 other injuries each year. Fort Lauderdale is home to major highways, including I-75 and I-595, and is a popular location for motorcyclists.
The roadways of Fort Lauderdale represent a significant risk to motorcyclists, and these accidents often result in severe injuries. Read on to understand the common causes of motorcycle accidents in Fort Lauderdale and what to do if you are injured in an accident.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Congested cities like Fort Lauderdale are particularly dangerous for motorcyclists because smaller vehicles like motorcycles are harder to see on the road. Busy roadways obscure motorcyclists and increase the number of drivers who don’t pay attention.
Motorcycles are particularly susceptible to accidents because they are less stable and smaller in size, making them harder to control and more likely to be overlooked by other drivers.
Motorcycle accidents are often caused by:
- Unsafe Lane Changes. Drivers too often forget to check their blind spot or signal when changing lanes. This leaves motorcyclists at risk of a collision. When a driver doesn’t signal, a motorcyclist can’t react to a lane change, and motorcyclists are more likely to be hidden in a driver’s blind spot.
- Left Turns. Drivers are likely to misjudge distance when making a left turn, so vehicles turning left are one of the most dangerous scenarios for motorcyclists.
- Speeding. Speeding reduces a driver’s ability to see and react to other vehicles on the road, including motorcycles. Traveling at faster speeds also makes it more difficult to judge the distance between other vehicles, especially smaller vehicles like motorcycles. In addition to making accidents more likely, speeding also increases the severity of resulting injuries, especially for motorcyclists who are not protected by the rigid exterior of a car.
- Alcohol. An impaired driver is more likely to make poor driving choices and fail to see or react to changing road conditions and other vehicles on the road.
- Road Hazards. Heavily used roads are likely to suffer more damage and require roadwork. Road hazards like potholes and debris increase the risk that a motorcyclist will lose control of their vehicle.
- Weather Conditions: While the weather is often pleasant in Fort Lauderdale, this area is very susceptible to hurricanes. This type of inclement weather is very dangerous for motorcyclists, which are less stable, especially in inclement weather.
Motorcyclists in Florida must pass basic rider training to secure a motorcycle license endorsement, but motorcyclists are heavily dependent on the conscientiousness of other drivers for their safety.
Determining Responsibility for an Accident
If a party’s intentional or negligent actions caused a motorcycle accident, they are responsible for the resulting injuries. A negligent action is any that is outside the normal standard of care another driver would use under the same circumstances.
Your lawyer will work with you to assess liability and will consider:
- Negligent Driver. Failure to exercise the required level of care by a driver is a common cause of motorcycle accidents, especially accidents caused by speeding, impaired driving, unsafe lane changes, and left turns. If a driver violates a traffic law or regulation, this is strong evidence of negligence. A negligent driver will often turn the claim over to their insurance provider, so you might find yourself dealing with an insurance company rather than the negligent driver.
- Employer: Employers are responsible for the negligent actions of employees, including while driving a vehicle if it falls in the scope of their employment duties. While this applies to any employee, it is most common for jobs like delivery drivers and commercial truck drivers. While employers will also rely on insurance coverage, the policy limits are likely to be higher.
- Local Government: Local governments and their agencies are responsible for the maintenance and sake upkeep of roadways. This is very important to motorcyclists who are more likely to suffer an accident because of poorly maintained roadways. If the government fails to adequately maintain roadways, they are responsible for the accident, but it can be very difficult to recover. Government entities are often protected from lawsuits, so you will need to work with your lawyer to assess the possibility of recovery.
- Motorcycle Manufacturer: Motorcyclists depend on their bikes to work appropriately for their safety, and this is the responsibility of the manufacturer. Manufacturers should not sell any vehicles with defects. Common motorcycle defects include cracks or breaks in the frame, unexpected engine stalling, wheel and tire defects, malfunctioning brakes, and improperly installed handlebars. Your lawyer can help coordinate any required testing to compile evidence of vehicle flaws.
Your motorcycle accident attorney will assess the facts of your case to build a case against the responsible party. A police report is often a critical piece of evidence because it includes images of the accident scene, witness statements and contact information, and traffic citations issued against any driver.
Once you determine which party was responsible for the accident, you will need to prepare an assessment of the full scope of your damages to ensure you secure the recovery you deserve. Serious injuries are common after a motorcycle accident because the bikes don’t have the same protection that other vehicles provide in a crash, including the protective enclosure and airbags.
A motorcyclist is at risk of many injuries:
- Head injuries: If thrown from the bike, a motorcyclist is likely to suffer from a head injury like a laceration or concussion. Head injuries are particularly common for bikers that are not wearing a helmet.
- Traumatic brain injury: Concussions and lacerations are not the only injuries possible after a blow to the head. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is another possible injury, accompanied by a range of symptoms including physical and cognitive disabilities. At their worst, a TBI can cause brain death.
- Spinal injuries: The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that enables the brain to communicate with the body. The symptoms suffered by a victim depend on the area of the spinal cord that is injured but will cause muscle weakness or paralysis for some portion of the body.
- Neck and back injuries: When a motorcyclist’s body is twisted or impacted in an accident, the back and neck are often injured. Back and neck injuries often require long-term rehabilitation or physical therapy and place the victim in a constant state of pain.
- Road rash: Because motorcyclist’s bodies are often unprotected, their skin is likely to come into contact with the pavement. When the skin is scraped across the pavement, it can cause a painful injury called road rash. A serious case of road rash often requires skin grafting.
- Facial and Dental Injuries: If the victim’s face strikes the ground or any other hard object, facial and dental injuries can occur. These include a broken jaw, other broken facial bones, or cracked or chipped teeth.
- Broken bones and fractures: Broken bones seriously disrupt many victims’ day-to-day lives, and if a break is particularly severe, it can require surgery and ongoing rehabilitation.
- Cuts, bruises, and sprains: While these injuries can seem minor, they are uncomfortable and can limit the victim’s ability to perform day-to-day activities and work responsibilities.
Many of the injuries suffered by motorcycle accident victims are physical, but these aren’t the only injuries victims suffer. Your damages demand should include a monetary assessment of all your injuries.
Be sure to consider all possible damages:
- Medical Costs: A negligent defendant is responsible for all medical costs of your injuries including emergency transportation, costs of procedures, doctors’ bills, and prescription medication. They are also responsible for future medical expenses like rehabilitation.
- Lost Income or Wages: If your injuries force you to miss work or work a reduced schedule, include your lost wages in the damages demand. Also include an estimate of future lost wages and reduced future earning potential if you will continue to miss work.
- Property Damage: The defendant is responsible for the costs of repair or replacement of damaged property, including a damaged motorcycle. Your vehicle isn’t the only item that might be injured. If the crash damages other property like electronic devices, be sure to include these in your demand as well.
- Emotional Distress: An accident is a traumatic event, and victims often suffer from emotional distress like anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The defendant should compensate you for this distress.
- Loss of Enjoyment: Many injuries limit the victim’s ability to participate in activities that were once a meaningful part of their life. Imagine a marathon runner whose injuries mean they will never enter another race—this is an injury that deserves to be compensated. Work with your motorcycle accident lawyer to include appropriate compensation for this loss in your demand.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages punish defendants instead of compensating the plaintiff for their injuries. To recover punitive damages, the plaintiff must prove that their injuries were caused by the defendant’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence. Florida caps punitive damages at the greater of three times the amount of awarded compensatory damages or $500,000. Your lawyer will assess your case and advise if punitive damages are available.
Your comprehensive assessment of your injuries is an important tool for your recovery. Your attorney will involve experts as needed to substantiate your damages, including for future medical expenses and lost wages. If your case goes to trial, the jury will evaluate your damages demand when awarding recovery. Most cases are settled rather than going to trial, but your damages assessment will still help you evaluate any settlement offers.
The defendant and their insurance provider will try to avoid paying the full extent of their damages. Work with your motorcycle accident lawyer to make sure you don’t do anything to limit your ability to recover.
First, be sure not to post anything detrimental on social media. While a post might seem innocuous, the defendant will use anything you post online to combat your claims for recovery. For example, the defendant can use a picture of you on a hike to say your injuries do not limit your ability to perform certain work duties.
Second, keep track of all documentation related to the accident and your injuries. Your medical records, correspondence from the defendant or their insurance provider, and any details demonstrating the impact your injuries have had on your life will be critical as you establish your case.
Third, be sure to bring your claim on time. Florida requires that plaintiffs bring all personal injury claims within four years of the accident. While four years sounds like a long time, it will pass quickly as you manage your injuries and prepare for trial.