According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were an estimated 385,430 people living in Tampa, FL in 2017, and indeed, Tampa is clearly changing in major ways. The hustle and bustle of the downtown area or the expansion of the University of the University of South Florida are evidence of that. As the city grows, more and more people are deciding to travel to work, school, and places around the city by bicycle. Unfortunately, as the number of cars on the roads of Tampa also grow, more and more bicyclists around the bay area are getting involved in car accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were an estimated 840 people killed in bicycle accidents nationwide in 2016. In Florida specifically, during the same time period, there were 138 bicycle accident fatalities across the state thereby making Florida the second leading state in the nation for bicycle accident fatalities. In fact, Florida had more bicycle accident fatalities than New York, Michigan, and Georgia combined in 2016. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, bicycle accidents in the sunshine state resulted in an estimated 6,263 injuries. So, if you or a loved one have been involved in a bicycle accident in Tampa, you should always contact bicycle accident attorney to discuss your legal options, because most of the time these types of accidents result in the bicyclist being killed or injured, not the driver.
Florida Bicycle Accident Laws
Under Florida’s bicycle laws, a bicycle is considered a vehicle, and as such, bicyclists are required to obey all of Florida’s traffic laws, except as otherwise provided by statute. There are some specific laws that do apply to bicyclists but not operators of motor vehicles. Due to this, there tend to be some common misconceptions among bicyclists with regards to what their obligations are under Florida law. One such misconception is often made with respect to Florida’s helmet laws and how they can affect a bicyclist’s claim after being involved in an accident.
Helmet Laws in Tampa, FL
You should always discuss the specifics of your case with a Tampa bicycle accident attorney if you have been involved in an accident, but as a general matter, Fla.Stat.§316.2065(3)(d) only requires bicycle operators under the age of sixteen to wear a helmet. Currently, the City of Tampa doesn’t have any ordinances requiring bicyclists over the age of 16 to wear a helmet. Moreover, Fla.Stat.§316.2065(18) states that the failure of a bicyclist to wear a helmet cannot be used as evidence of contributory fault or negligence, but there are a number of safety requirements that Florida Law does require bicyclists to comply with the most common of which are listed below:
- Bicyclists are required to use a fixed regular seat while riding.
- Bicyclists are prohibited from carrying more people on their bike than it is designed to carry.
- Bicyclists are required to have at least one hand on the bicycle’s handlebars while riding.
- Bicyclists who operate their bike after sunset and before sunrise are required to have a lamp fixed to the front of their bicycle that can be seen from up to 500 feet away, a reflector on the back of their bicycle, and a lamp on the back of their bicycle that can be seen from up to 600 feet away.
Comparative Fault Laws in Florida
The reason all of these safety measures are relevant from a legal perspective is, motorists typically argue comparative negligence, under Fla.Stat.§768.81, in bicycle accident cases, which essentially means the driver is claiming that the bicyclist is either partially or completely responsible for having caused the accident. This typically occurs, because bicyclists are usually the only one injured in a bicycle accident. The motorist might have some damage to their vehicle, but the damages incurred by drivers are typically much lower than the severe injuries that are normally sustained by bicyclists. As such, the driver and their insurance company have a financial incentive to ultimately blame the bicyclist.
Most bicycle attorneys work to protect their clients from this defense by building a case that is strong enough to break through it, because bicycle attorneys are very aware that any percentage of fault assigned to a bicyclist will directly reduce the number of damages awarded to a bicycle accident victim at trial.
Calculating Damages after a Bicycle Accident
There are two categories of damages that can be awarded to an accident victim, punitive damages and compensatory damages. Punitive damages are awarded to punish a defendant, not to compensate the accident victim, and they can only be awarded when the trier of fact, the judge or jury, determines that the defendant was guilty of gross or intentional misconduct, pursuant to the provisions of Fla.Stat.§768.72. In contrast, compensatory damages are awarded to compensate you for the damages you incurred as a result of the at-fault party’s negligence, and this category of damages can be divided into two subcategories, economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are damages that can be assigned a value based on testimony and documentary evidence, and they include compensation for things such as:
- Medical bills
- Past and future lost wages
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future medication costs
In contrast, non-economic damages are based on the severity of your injuries and how your injuries have and will affect your life in the future. The most common non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
The overall value of both the economic and non-economic damages you have incurred as a result of the accident should be calculated with the guidance of an experienced bicycle accident attorney in Tampa, FL
Tampa Bicycle Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in a bicycle accident in Tampa, you should speak with bicycle accident attorney who can explain your legal rights and evaluate the strength of your claim against the negligent driver that caused the accident. 1-800-Injured is a medical and lawyer referral service that connects accident victims with local bicycle accident attorneys in the Tampa area. Don’t wait until it’s too late to file your claim. Call 1-800-Injured today to be connected with a bicycle accident attorney near you.