Do I Need to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in Florida?

Florida repealed the universal helmet law in 2000 for motorcycle riders over the age of 21. Current law states that if you are over 21 years of age, you do not have to legally wear a helmet in Florida. However, if you choose to ride a motorcycle unhelmeted, you must be covered by a $10,000 medical insurance policy to cover any injuries resulting from a crash. 

Twenty years ago, all of Florida’s motorcyclists were required by law to wear a helmet in an effort to prevent deaths and catastrophic injuries during an accident. Citing personal freedoms, lawmakers amended the law, giving approved riders the option to forgo helmet use while riding their motorcycle.

What is the Difference Between Certified and Non-Certified Helmets? 

If you choose the protection of wearing a motorcycle helmet (and we recommend you do), there are several styles from which to choose. Full-face and modular helmets protect the head, chin, and neck, offering the most protection, while open face ¾ helmets cover the top, back, and sides of your head.

You can spot an unsafe, or non-certified, helmet when it fails to meet the following minimum safety standards:

  • “DOT” approved sticker on the helmet
  • At least 1” stiff foam inner liner
  • Weighs an average of three pounds
  • Chinstrap with strong rivets (not plastic buckles)
  • Objects do not extend further than two-tenths of an inch from the helmet’s surface

Should I Buy a Used Motorcycle Helmet?

Motorcycle helmets can be costly, but it’s a piece of protective equipment that should never be purchased secondhand. 

  • Helmets are designed for various head shapes. Without a universal helmet size, it’s best to select from multiple options in order to find a helmet that fits without gaps. A used helmet shapes to the wearer’s head over time, often resulting in an uncomfortable fit on a secondhand user. 
  • Motorcycle helmets are viable for one crash only. The outer shell cracks, and the inner shell compresses to cushion your head in an accident. During the event, the inner shell becomes compromised. 
  • All motorcycle helmets expire after several years. This is true even if they haven’t been in an accident. Polycarbonate helmets typically expire after four years, and composite helmets expire after an average of six or seven years. 

Is Choosing Not to Wear a Helmet Considered Negligence?

Although bikers are not required to wear helmets, there are legal reasons why you should. After a motorcycle accident, many riders question whether riding unhelmeted constitutes “negligence” that could reduce the damages they might receive. 

Because Florida is a pure comparative fault state, insurance carriers and litigators often use what has been named “the helmet defense.” They will often claim that the victim’s injuries might have been less severe if he or she had been wearing a helmet. In Florida, if the judge and jury agree, they can proportionally reduce the amount of financial compensation by the amount of the victim’s liability. 

Riding without head protection will require your Florida motorcycle accident attorney to supply proof that you would have suffered the same injury even if you had been wearing a helmet. This argument often involves getting doctors to testify. 

This one fact remains: a judge and jury will experience much more sympathy for a helmeted rider than one who was injured while not wearing one. 

Are Helmets Effective in Preventing Motorcycle Injuries?

The effects of Florida’s repeal of its all-rider motorcycle helmet use law were analyzed in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study. Florida’s results showed an increase in the following:

  • Injured motorcyclists’ hospital admissions increased by 40% 
  • Admissions for head, brain, and skull injuries increased by more than 80%. 

Total gross treatment costs for these cases more than doubled, and the costs per case also increased substantially. Fewer than 25% of riders admitted to the hospital received treatment that cost less than $10,000. 

Thankfully, the NHTSA reports that helmets are 37% effective in preventing deaths in a motorcycle accident, and 67% effective in preventing brain injuries. You can learn more about choosing and caring for a helmet from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Contact a Tampa Bay Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, contact a Tampa Bay motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Florida law allows victims to recover compensation for injuries and other losses as a result of a collision. Whether you were wearing a helmet or not can impact how your case is handled, and speaking to an experienced attorney can help maximize your compensation. Call our Tampa Bay motorcycle accident attorneys from The Fran Haasch Law Group at (727) 784-8191. Or contact us online today for a free, no-risk consultation. 

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