Who is Responsible for a Crash Between Two Motorcycles?
In order to examine what happens when two motorcycles crash into each other, it might help to think consider a hypothetical situation. Assume there are two motorcyclists, Motorcyclist A and Motorcyclist B. They are both approaching an intersection on the same street, but they are coming from opposite directions. The light at the intersection is red for both of them. In a strange twist of events, they both run the red light, but Motorcyclist B crosses the center line and runs into Motorcyclist A, causing significant physical injury and damage to each of their bikes. Motorcyclist A brings a claim against Motorcyclist B for personal injury and damage to the motorcycle. Since both cyclists were partially at fault for this accident, how would a court determine liability?
Determining Liability in Motorcycle Accidents
Liability for crashes involving motorcycles is the same as liability for crashes involving passenger vehicles–that is, whoever is found to be at fault for the accident is liable for the damages he or she causes. However, this fault determination can become more complicated if both parties are at fault for the accident, such as a situation where two motorcyclists crash into each other. Traditionally, a plaintiff could only recover damages from a defendant if the plaintiff was entirely free from fault. Thus, if it was found that the plaintiff was even 1% at fault, he or she recovers nothing, even though the defendant was 99% at fault. This old system led to a number of undesirable litigation outcomes, which is why most states replaced it with a system that is known as “.”
There are three forms of comparative negligence:
Pure comparative negligence: Under pure comparative negligence schemes, a plaintiff who is partially at fault for an accident is able to recover from a defendant regardless of his or her percentage of fault. Using our example above, let’s assume that Motorcyclist A was 60% at fault for the accident, and sues Motorcyclist B, who was 40% at fault for the accident. Under a pure comparative negligence system, Motorcyclist A would be able to recover $4,000 from Motorcyclist B.
Comparative negligence at 50%: Under this scheme, a plaintiff may recover only if his or her fault is less than the defendant’s fault. In the above example (where Motorcyclist A was 60% at fault and Motorcyclist B was 40% at fault), Motorcyclist A would not be able to recover, since his percentage of fault is greater than Motorcyclist B’s.
Comparative negligence at 51%: Under comparative negligence at 51%, a plaintiff may recover only if his or her fault is equal to or less than the defendant’s fault. Now assume that Motorcyclist A was 50% at fault for the accident, while Motorcyclist B was also 50% at fault. Under comparative negligence at 51% Motorcyclist A would be able to recover 50%, since his fault is equal to that of Motorcycle B. This would not be the case under comparative fault at 50%, as that system requires the plaintiff’s fault to be less than the defendant’s.
Florida, along with 11 other states, uses a pure comparative negligence system. This system is codified at Chapter 768.81 of the 2016 Florida Statutes. The operative portion of the statute reads:
(3) APPORTIONMENT OF DAMAGES.—In a negligence action, the court shall enter judgment against each party liable on the basis of such party’s percentage of fault and not on the basis of the doctrine of joint and several liability.
In other words, negligence on the part of the plaintiff (“contributory negligence”) merely reduces the plaintiff’s damages but does not bar recovery, and damages are apportioned strictly according to each party’s percentage of fault.
Motorcycle Insurance in Florida
Florida is one of the few states that does not require motorcyclists to carry insurance. Rather, each motorcyclist is required to be financially responsible for crashes, and fault is determined using the pure comparative liability system outlined above. There are three ways to establish :
Purchase liability insurance coverage: This is the easiest and most common way that motorcyclists can demonstrate financial responsibility in Florida. A good rule of thumb when choosing liability insurance is to stick to the state minimums, even though this is not required for motorcyclists. In Florida, this is $10,000 for one person in bodily injury liability, $20,000 for two or more people in bodily injury liability, and $10,000 per crash in property damage liability.
Obtain a final responsibility certificate: The Bureau of Financial Responsibility will issue you a certificate of financial responsibility after you post a surety bond with a state-licensed company.
Obtain a self-insurance certificate: The Bureau of Financial Responsibility will also issue you a self-insurance certificate if you are able to provide evidence of a net unencumbered worth of at least $40,000.
It is worth mentioning that that motorcycle insurance regulations in Florida (or lack thereof), are a notable departure from the state’s regulations for automobile insurance, which require every driver to carry a no-fault (PIP) policy. What this means is that each driver’s insurance company pays for the injuries and losses of its own policyholder regardless of fault. Florida is in the minority of states that use a no-fault system, as fault-based insurance systems are much more common.
While the state of Florida requires all drivers to carry PIP insurance, please note that these policies do not cover their policyholder’s motorcycles.
Contact a Florida Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may have a claim against the other driver, even if you were partially at fault. Please contact the attorneys at the for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765