Florida’s beautiful weather makes it a great place to own a motorcycle, whether you wish to have a faster commute or ride during the weekend as a hobby. Although driving a motorcycle is exciting and fun, it can also be very dangerous if you’re involved in a collision.
What are Florida's motorcycle helmet laws? Wearing a helmet protects riders and passengers from serious head injuries, permanent brain damage, and even death. But many riders prefer the feeling of the wind in their hair and the sunshine on their faces.
Should you wear a motorcycle helmet in Florida? Many people may ask a Port Richey motorcycle accident lawyer what their obligations are and what kind of penalties can happen if they fail to wear helmets.
Learning About Florida Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Florida helmet laws cover anyone who rides a motorcycle, whether they are an operator or passenger. All riders and drivers under 21 must wear a helmet. Motorcycle drivers over the age of 21 may ride without a helmet if they carry personal insurance with at least $10,000 in benefits, a separate Personal Insurance Policy (PIP) from their motorcycle insurance, or other health care insurance.
If a driver or passenger doesn’t meet these criteria, the state of Florida requires them to wear a helmet that meets federal safety standards.
If you’re unsure what kind of helmet you need, look for a sticker that says it meets U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) or Snell Foundation standards. The manufacturer has created these helmets according to federal safety laws and tested them for safety and quality.
Florida recently changed its helmet laws, which until July 2020, required all motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear a helmet meeting USDOT standards. The PIP requirement remained in place, however. Florida’s new helmet law was challenged in state courts, and the challenge reached the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the new helmet exemption in Florida laws. The court deemed wearing a helmet a personal decision.
Selecting a Helmet That Meets Florida Helmet Law Requirements
Motorcycle drivers and passengers required to wear a helmet as per Florida helmet laws must wear protective headgear securely fastened on their heads.
The helmets must meet the USDOT safety standards, but Florida does not have a separate safety standard for bike helmets. As long as the helmet is federally compliant, it will be in compliance with the state standard.
The USDOT’s safety standards are rigorous and evaluate the efficacy of helmets based on several criteria:
- How well the helmet protects the head from impact with a hard surface (concrete, etc.) or a collision with a large object
- Stability, or the ability of the helmet to remain in place on the head if the rider is subject to a violent motion
- Retention system strength, which measures how well the chin strap keeps the helmet in place upon impact
- The extent of the overall protection of the head by the helmet
Always choose a helmet meeting USDOT standards; those that do not may not provide the protection you need on impact.
Even the best helmet won’t protect a rider if it doesn’t fit correctly. Helmets should be snug around the head, have a chin strap that fits from around the ear to under the chin, and sit low on the forehead, just below the eyebrows.
Does Florida Have Exceptions to Motorcycle Helmet Laws?
There are a few exemptions to Florida helmet laws, but the privilege of going without one will cost drivers and passengers.
Experts recommend that anyone on a motorcycle wears a helmet, even if they are a veteran driver or meet one of these standards of exemption:
- A driver or passenger over 21 who holds a PIP with more than $10,000 in bodily injury coverage
- Operators of a moped with less than 50 cc displacement
- Sidecar riders (riders in an enclosed cab)ing
- Drivers 16 and up operating a moped with a max speed of 30 mph and that has two-brake horsepower
Any moped driver 16 and under is required to wear a helmet that meets federal safety standards.
Helmets protect riders from injuries to the head, face, and brain. Even if you’re an exempt rider, the difference between wearing a helmet and not wearing a helmet could be the difference between life and death or between a slight concussion and permanent brain damage. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are some of the most common motorcycle accident injuries, which can have life-changing consequences for riders.
How Can a Motorcycle Helmet Improve Your Chances of Safety in a Crash?
Because motorcycle riders lack the protective shield of metal that a car or SUV driver has, they usually come off much worse for the wear after an accident. Motorcyclists account for a much larger proportion of accident fatalities than drivers of other vehicles, with a chance of collision death about 28 times higher than car or truck drivers.
Most operators choose to wear a helmet and other protective gear, like gloves, a visor, and leather clothing, to reduce the severity of an injury if they’re in a collision.
According to the CDC, wearing a helmet is the most effective method of reducing your chances of a life-changing injury or death from a motorcycle collision. While the CDC has established that helmets are effective, just how effective are they?
The Effectiveness of Motorcycle Helmets for Preventing Catastrophic Injury
Over the years, researchers have conducted numerous studies into the effectiveness of helmets in motorcycle collisions. These include studies performed by expert medical professionals and helmet-designing engineers.
Anecdotal evidence about the efficacy of helmets can surprise you—seeing just one or two photos of an unhurt motorcycle rider holding a crushed helmet or one with a projectile sticking out may be enough to convince even the staunchest helmet-reluctant rider.
Wearing a helmet will reduce your chances of suffering from a traumatic brain injury. They also reduce the severity of brain injuries for those who experience head trauma. Helmets increase the survival chances of both drivers and passengers.
State-by-state data for motorcycle accident fatalities also supports specific studies about the effectiveness of helmets. States with universal helmet laws have lower motorcycle collision fatality rates than states that do not have these laws, like Florida.
In states with a universal helmet law, an average of 99 percent of motorcycle riders wear helmets. Those with helmet law exceptions see only about 71 percent of riders wearing helmets.
What Happens if I Was in a Motorcycle Collision and I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?
If you are struck by another driver while operating a motorcycle in Florida, you will probably be hurt worse than the other driver. Motorcycles lack the protective metal shell of a car, which means drivers aren’t protected from the force of another vehicle. A motorcycle operator or passenger has a high risk of being thrown from the vehicle, which can cause brain injuries.
However, if you are involved in an accident, always call 911. The police officer that responds creates an accident report, which your motorcycle accident attorney can use in a personal injury lawsuit. Your insurance company will also need a copy of the report.
Prompt medical attention may make a difference in saving your life after a crash and can help your chances of recovery. Many people attribute a head injury to being “just shaken up” from the accident, but EMS professionals can accurately diagnose this.
Even if you weren’t wearing a helmet, you could still be eligible to seek damages from the driver who hit you to cover the damage to your bike and any medical bills from the crash. A motorcycle accident lawyer can evaluate your case and tell you for certain, but not wearing a helmet doesn’t automatically prohibit you from filing the suit.
Florida PIP Insurance Doesn’t Cover Motorcyclists
Florida motorcycle drivers cannot obtain PIP medical insurance and won’t cover damage to your bike.
Work with a motorcycle accident lawyer to file a suit against the other driver can help you recoup the cost of repairing or replacing your bike.
Are There Penalties for Violating Florida Helmet Laws?
Yes, the penalty for not wearing a helmet in Florida is considered to be a non-critical, non-moving violation. Police officers can’t pull you over for not wearing a helmet, but if they catch you breaking another traffic law, they might give you a citation for violating helmet laws. Expect to get a ticket and a fine.
Even if you’re involved in a collision and have representation from a motorcycle accident attorney, you may still have a ticket if you were supposed to be wearing a helmet and weren’t at the time of the crash.
Frequently Asked Questions About Helmet Laws and Motorcycle Accidents in Florida
If I Was in an Accident and Didn’t Wearing a Helmet, Is the Other Driver Still Liable for My Injuries?
Liability in a motorcycle crash depends on which driver was mostly responsible for the accident. If you are in a crash and weren’t wearing a helmet, it’s unlikely that not wearing it changes how much your actions contributed to the collision.
Each case and circumstances are different, though, but simply not wearing a helmet will not exclude you from filing a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.
I Was in a Crash and Wore My Helmet, but the Helmet Broke and I Was Seriously Injured. What Are My Options?
The helmet is designed to protect your head. It should absorb energy from the impact and stop objects from impaling you. Due to this, a damaged helmet, even a severely damaged or crushed helmet, is normal after a violent collision.
However, like any consumer product, there is a chance that the helmet itself was defective and failed to protect you as it should have. If this occurs, we could investigate and hold the helmet manufacturer accountable for releasing a defective or unsafe consumer product.
I Was Wearing a Helmet, but My Passenger Was Not. Who Is Responsible for Their Injuries in a Crash?
The accident’s liability lies in the person who committed the act that caused the accident. If your passenger has followed Florida helmet laws—that is, if they are over 21 and have appropriate PIP insurance—their choice to wear a helmet should not affect liability in your case.
However, each situation differs, so you should consult your motorcycle accident attorney about your particular circumstances.
Is Not Wearing a Helmet Considered Reckless Endangerment in Florida?
Some states with universal helmet laws consider not wearing a helmet in violation of state regulations to be evidence of partial responsibility for any accident the motorcycle operator suffers due to the decision.
However, if you met all the requirements to waive wearing a motorcycle helmet, your decision is perfectly legal and should not be a factor in determining liability.
Even though you have obeyed the law, the other party may look for any reason to avoid paying your claim. Their attorneys may try to argue that you endangered yourself and are responsible for your injuries because you opted not to wear a helmet.
This is one reason why having an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer represent you is so important. Lawyers have the training needed to defend you against these arguments.
Do You Need a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Florida?
If you were in a motorcycle accident in Florida, you were probably been hurt. Even if you wore a helmet, severe and extensive injuries can require a long recovery period, serious medical care, or even surgery.
If another driver caused the accident that led to your injuries, a Port Richey personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages to cover your medical bills and personal property damage. Even if you were not wearing a helmet, motorcycle accident attorneys can still review your case to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit.