It can be easy to assume that, in a Miami bicycle-vehicle collision, the driver of the vehicle is at fault and liable for damages. After all, motor vehicles are much more dangerous than bicycles, and drivers should have greater responsibilities toward Florida’s vulnerable road users.
According to the law, however, this is not the case. The law considers bicycles “vehicles.” Bicyclists must obey all the rules of the road like drivers, as well as laws specifically in place for bicycles. These include helmet and headlight laws. Failure to obey bicycle laws could affect the outcome of a personal injury case in Miami.
Bicycle Laws in Miami-Dade County
Florida is one of the most relaxed states when it comes to bicycle helmet laws. There is currently no statewide law requiring adult cyclists to wear any type of helmet. However, cyclists under the age of 16 do have to wear helmets. Helmets must fit properly and securely fasten to the head with a strap. There are minimum federal safety standards bicycle helmets must meet to abide with the law. While some cities have their own bike helmet law, Miami is not one of them. Miami-Dade County follows the same rules as the rest of the state – no helmet required for cyclists 16 and older.
The state of Florida does, however, impose a few bicycle light and reflector laws. All bicycles operating at night or in the evening hours must have a white light on the front with a beam strong enough to be visible at 500 feet. They must also have a red reflector on the rear of the bike that’s visible from at least 600 feet. The law prohibits flashing lights on bicycles except in very limited circumstances. Always make sure you have the proper lights on your bicycle before riding from sundown to sunrise. Failure to obey the bicycle laws can lead to verbal warnings, pedestrian violations, and fines.
How Broken Bike Laws Could Hurt Your Personal Injury Case
The premise of a personal injury case is that one party should be legally responsible for paying the damages of another party. To receive compensation, the injured party must prove the other party’s negligence. In response, the defendant could allege a number of different defenses to try to reduce or eliminate his/her own liability for an accident. In Florida, comparative fault is one possible defense in a bicycle accident case.
Comparative fault is a doctrine in which the courts can assign fault to both parties for an accident. In the event that a bicyclist did not have the proper headlight, for example, leading to the driver not seeing the bicycle, the courts could assign the majority of the fault to the bicyclist. However, the driver may still be partially at fault for not paying enough attention to the road.
In this case, the bicyclist may still receive some compensation but not as much as he/she could have without contributing to the accident. If the courts decide lack of a headlight was 100% the cause of the crash, the bicyclist may not be eligible for any compensation.
Failure to obey Florida’s bicycle helmet laws can harm a personal injury case but only if the plaintiff was under the age of 16 and legally should have been wearing a helmet at the time. If the plaintiff sustained a head injury, the defendant could argue his/her injury would not have existed or been as severe, had the individual obeyed the helmet laws. Since Florida does not mandate helmet use for adult cyclists, however, the defense likely could not use this fact against the individual. It is the cyclist’s prerogative to not wear a helmet since he/she wasn’t breaking any laws. Speak to an attorney for more about how broken bicycle laws might affect your claim.