Florida Motorcycle Accident Payouts: Understanding the Range
What Is the Average Payout for a Motorcycle Accident?
The average payout for a motorcycle accident in Florida ranges from the low five figures to millions of dollars.
Several factors are responsible for this broad range. Firstly, accidents with minor injuries have much lower damages.
Also, motorcyclists are exempt from personal injury protection (PIP) insurance in Florida but may take it voluntarily. This has a significant impact on settlement amounts.
Finally, Florida is a comparative negligence state. As such, a plaintiff’s compensation must be reduced according to his proposition of fault.
How Does PIP Insurance Work in Florida?
PIP insurance in Florida covers the policyholder’s property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and other economic damages, regardless of fault. In essence, if all damages are monetary, then the injured party’s insurer pays all damages. The purpose of the PIP system is to expedite the payment of medical bills and reduce litigation time and expense.
This no-fault insurance covers the policyholder, passengers in the insured vehicle, and pedestrians and bicyclists in some cases.
The minimum PIP coverage limit in Florida is $10,000, but policyholders can choose higher coverage limits. Since most motorcycle accidents with injuries result in far more than $10,000 in damages, we advise carrying much higher limits.
PIP insurance has stricter time limits than fault-based insurance policies. In Florida, claims must be filed within 14 days of the incident. Failing to report the accident and seek medical treatment within this timeframe may result in a denial of benefits.
How PIP Insurance Impacts Motorcycle Accident Settlements in Florida
Florida is unique in that its PIP insurance law is inapplicable to motorcycles. However, many insurers offer voluntary PIP coverage for their motorcycle customers. If you choose PIP insurance as a motorcyclist, your insurer covers your medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, even if you are at fault.
This is exceptionally important because you may find that your insurer does not pay some of these expenses when you are the at-fault party, leaving you with no recourse. For instance, your non-PIP coverage may pay for your motorcycle’s damage but provide no reimbursement for lost wages due to your injury.
Whether You Have PIP Insurance Impacts Settlement Negotiations
When pursuing a settlement in a motorcycle accident case, whether you have PIP benefits impacts negotiations. For instance, if you have PIP coverage, the opposing party’s insurance may argue that the PIP benefits cover medical expenses and lost wages. Therefore, it is not liable for these damages. However, you may be able to pursue general damages, such as pain and suffering.
If you have no PIP coverage, you can argue that the other party bears liability for all your damages.
It’s important to note that if you carry PIP coverage, you may be subject to Florida’s serious injury threshold. According to this, to bring a lawsuit for damages beyond your PIP coverage, such as pain and suffering, your injuries must be serious or permanent. Florida law defines serious injuries as involving significant and permanent impairments.
Pursuing a Lawsuit If You Have No PIP Insurance
If you have no PIP insurance as a motorcyclist, you are safe from penalties because Florida’s PIP law applies only to four-wheel vehicles. When the accident is your fault, your only recourse is what your insurance policy(s) cover. However, if the other party caused your injury, you can pursue a legal settlement or judgment.
What Types of Damages Can a Motorcyclist Without PIP Sue for in Florida?
In Florida, where a motorcyclist has no PIP coverage, he may sue the at-fault party for economic- non-economic, and, rarely, punitive damages.
Economic damages are the financial losses incurred by the plaintiff. This damage compensates the injured party for specific, easily quantifiable financial impacts suffered.
Here are common types of economic damages that can be pursued in a personal injury lawsuit:
These consist of the costs of treating the injury, such as the following:
- Emergency care
- Ambulance charges
- Hospital stays
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Rehabilitation hospitals
- Any other necessary medical services related to the injury
Often, an injury precludes the plaintiff from working. For example, a waiter cannot earn wages with a broken leg. The specific types of damages depend on how the individual is compensated but include wages, salary, bonuses, commissions, and other forms of income.
Loss of Earning Capacity
While temporary disabilities, such as a broken leg, resulting in a clear loss of income for a time, loss of earning capacity damages relate to the plaintiff’s ability to earn income in the far future, sometimes for life.
Expert testimony may be needed to determine the impact on the plaintiff’s future earning potential.
If your motorcycle was damaged or totaled in the accident, you can include these damages in your personal injury claim.
There may be other out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the injury that you can claim, including transportation costs to medical appointments, home modifications, assistive devices, or other additional expenses.
Non-economic damages refer to the intangible losses resulting from the accident. These damages seek to compensate the injured motorcyclist for the diminishment of his life beyond medical bills and lost income.
Here are common types of non-economic damages that can be pursued in a personal injury lawsuit:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Disfigurement and scarring
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering refer to physical pain and discomfort experienced by the injured party as a result of the accident. It can encompass immediate and long-term impacts of the injury. For instance, a motorcyclist may have pain and suffering damages for the immediate pain of a broken leg and the chronic pain while walking after the broken leg healed.
Emotional distress includes psychological impacts such as anxiety, depression, fear, sleep disturbances, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or any other mental anguish. For instance, an injured motorcyclist may find himself unable to work and afford essential expenses, causing understandable anxiety resulting from the injury.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life
Injuries can severely diminish a person’s ability to enjoy life, such as by limiting participation in family life, activities, or hobbies. For example, an injured motorcyclist may no longer be able to take his children to school or help them with homework, have to give up playing a sport and become socially isolated.
Loss of Consortium
Severe injuries may interrupt meaningful relationships, resulting in the loss of companionship, affection, sexual relations, and the overall impact on the marital relationship.
Disfigurement and Scarring
When the accident results in permanent disfigurement, scarring, or other visible impairments, the motorcyclist may be entitled to compensation for the physical and emotional effects of these changes in their appearance.
Punitive Damages for Motorcycle Accidents in Florida
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, punish the defendant for their outrageous misconduct and seek to deter similar behavior in others. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages go beyond making the victim whole. As a result, they can be substantial but are also rare.
A typical vehicle accident occurs because of negligence, which does not merit punitive damages. On the other hand, if a motorcyclist was struck by a drunk driver traveling at 100 mph on the wrong side of the highway, punitive damages may apply.
Punitive damages apply if the defendant’s conduct goes beyond ordinary negligence through a high degree of recklessness, willful misconduct, or intentional wrongdoing. The defendant’s behavior must demonstrate a willful disregard for the safety and well-being of the plaintiff.
Wanton and Willful Conduct
Extreme or outrageous behavior that demonstrates a conscious indifference to the rights and safety of others may merit punitive damages. Punitive damages often apply when the defendant acts with a blatant disregard for the potential consequences of his actions.
Causing someone intentional harm provides a clear case for punitive damages. For example, if a motorist with road rage intentionally rams into a motorcyclist, punitive damages are certainly warranted.
How Comparative Negligence Can Reduce Settlements
Assuming the other party is 100% at fault, the plaintiff is entitled to every penny of the applicable damages. However, Florida is a comparative negligence state. As a result, if the plaintiff has partial fault, his award is reduced proportionally.
Florida is a pure comparative negligence state. Accordingly, a plaintiff’s recovery of damages is not barred if he is over 51% at fault. In states with modified pure comparative laws, this is known at the 51% bar. Even if a plaintiff is 1% at fault, he can collect damages, though they would be reduced by 99%.
In Florida, the defendant bears the burden of proof in demonstrating comparative negligence. In essence, once the plaintiff has proven the defendant’s negligence, the burden shifts to the defendant. Of course, if the plaintiff fails to prove negligence, then the defendant has no need to claim comparative negligence.
Comparative negligence has a severe impact on compensatory-, general-, and punitive damages in Florida. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault, his damages in all categories are reduced by 20%. It’s important to note that punitive damages can still be awarded in Florida even if the plaintiff is partially at fault. This is not the case in many other jurisdictions.
As with other personal injury cases, motorcycle accidents come with a broad range of settlement figures. The large differential is due to varying degrees of damages, the absence of a PIP requirement for motorcycles, and Florida’s pure comparative negligence standard.
For cases where no PIP applies, settlements are based on the total damages in all categories minus any comparative negligence. Severe injuries where the defendant was 100% at fault and acted outrageously merit the highest compensation. On the low end, we find minor injuries where the fault is shared.
Rosen Injury Law prides itself on assisting its motorcycle clients with their personal injury claims. We battle biker bias and fight until our clients receive a fair deal. Contact Rosen Injury Law for a free consultation.