Motorcycles are a fairly common site in our community, whether during the popular Thunder Beach Rally, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, or even during rush hour traffic. Many people mistakenly associate riders with tough attitudes and a cavalier attitude towards safety. We know the reality -- most riders are kind individuals, committed to their own safety as well as the safety of others on the road. Attorney Pittman has more than 30 years' experience and is committed to staying up-to-date on motorcycle law and trends in motorcycle accidents.
As of June 17, a motorcycle rider injured in a collision in Bonifay on June 12 was still hospitalized and police were still investigating the incident, per a WMBB update. On the day of the crash, a 62 year-old Bonifay man from was driving north on State Road 79 in a 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe. The crash reportedly occurred when the Tahoe's driver made a left-hand turn into the path of a 36 year-old rider travelling south aboard a 2001 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Emergency responders transported the injured motorcyclist to a Bay County hospital, where he was still being held at the time of WMBB's update. The Tahoe's driver was treated at the scene and released. The Bonifay Police Department continues to investigate.
In June 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") released Traffic Safety Facts, 2012 Data: Motorcycles, the NHTSA's most recent look at motorcycle accidents (including two- and three-wheeled motorcycles, mopeds, off-road motorcycles, mini-bikes, scooters, and pocket bikes). Per the report, a total of 4,957 motorcyclists (including both operators and passengers) died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2012. This was a 7% increase from 2011 and the highest number of deaths since 2008. In 2012, 93,000 motorcyclists were injured, a startling 15% rise over the prior year and again the highest number since 2008. Looking at fatalities in relation to miles travelled, motorcyclists were more than 26 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of passenger cars and 5 times more likely to be injured.
Slightly more than half of fatal motorcycle crashes involved a motorcycle plus another form of vehicle. The scenario involved in the recent Bonifay collision is particularly common. Of the 2,317 fatal two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle and a second vehicle of another type, in 41% (953) the other vehicle was turning left while the motorcycle was travelling straight. We do not know the details of these incidents, but experience would suggest that many involved a driver failing to notice the oncoming motorcycle, and turning directly into its path, leaving the rider (who had the right-of-way) unable to stop in time to avoid the crash.
This is not to say riders bear no responsibility for crashes. In 2012, 29% of motorcyclists killed in vehicle crashes had a blood-alcohol level at or over 0.08. Further, 34% of riders involved in fatal crashes during 2012 were speeding (vs. 22% for passenger car operators).
We urge riders to take safety precautions including obeying the laws and the posted speed limit. However, the fact that an injured rider shared some of the responsibility for the crash does not bar him or her from recovery in civil court. Florida's comparative negligence rule allows victims to recover from an at-fault defendant even if the victim was also at fault. Typically, the court will take the victim's role in account at the damages stage.
For example, suppose the court found a rider 20% at fault for a crash because she was speeding and deemed the driver 80% at fault for failing to yield to an oncoming motorcycle. Florida law allows the rider to recover. However, if the court deemed the rider's injuries to merit $100,000 in damages, she might be awarded $80,000 instead of the full amount.
The rising number of motorcycle accidents is a serious concern. Far too often, riders are injured because a negligent driver failed to share the road with other travelers. If you were injured in a motorcycle crash caused by a negligent driver, call our law firm to discuss your legal rights.