What Changes to Florida’s Comparative Negligence Laws Mean For Motorcyclists
I realize this is not going to be the most popular view, but I have been advising every biker I know to start wearing a helmet. Here’s why you should, too.
Florida’s new tort reform law, HB837, went into effect on March 24, 2023. One of the absolute worst parts of the bill is that we are now a contributory negligence state. What this means is that if a biker is injured in an accident and is found to be 50.1% at fault, they could be barred from recovering damages. A possible “real world” example – you are riding your motorcycle without a helmet as you are legally allowed to do, you are stopped at a red light, a person in a car rear ends you causing you to fly off your bike and suffer a brain injury. With the new law, the lawyer for the insurance company can argue that because you were not wearing a helmet, your negligence contributed to your injury, if they can prove that you were 50.1% or more negligent, you can lose the case and get absolutely zero recovery.
Let that sink in. You are riding your motorcycle without a helmet, a freedom that riders in the state of Florida have been legally allowed since July 1, 2000, another person is at fault and causes the accident and your injuries, but, because of contributory negligence, you might not be able to recover anything for your injuries, pain and suffering, long-term care, NOTHING!
This means that riders who choose not to wear a helmet could be putting themselves at a much greater financial risk in the event of an accident. Even if another party is primarily at fault for the accident, the rider’s decision not to wear a helmet could be used against them in court and could result in a complete loss of damages.
During the legislative hearings, there were at least 4 separate amendments to exempt helmetless motorcyclists who complied with the helmet law – s. 316.211 – from the new contributory negligence law. All the amendments were voted down by the Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.