A motorcyclist was killed in a crash involving an SUV early Tuesday morning in Polk County.
According to witnesses, the 22-year-old was driving his 2006 Suzuki sport motorcycles at a high rate of speed on SR 60 when he crashed into a 1993 Ford Explorer that was turning left onto Pine Grove Road from westbound SR 60.
Deputies said the impact of the crash caused the SUV to flip onto its side.
According to the crash report, the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet but it came off during the crash. First responders pronounced him dead on scene.
The driver of the SUV suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital.
The EB lanes of SR 60 were closed for nearly three hours during the investigation.
The investigation remains ongoing and no charges are anticipated, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2016, 33 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 19 percent for passenger car drivers, 15 percent for light-truck drivers, and 7 percent for large-truck drivers.
Road conditions, operator errors, and driver behaviors such as speeding all play important roles in motorcycle crashes. Our Tampa Bay Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have put together these safety recommendations for all motorcyclists:
- Take a motorcycle education and certification course. The Florida Rider Training Program (FRTP) uses curriculum developed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). FRTP Sponsors offer a 15-hour MSF Basic RiderCourse® (BRC) and Basic RiderCourse updated® (BRCu), which provides an introduction to the fundamentals of safe, responsible motorcycling. This includes the knowledge and skills necessary to ride safely on the streets and highways. You can find a list of safety courses in your area here.
- Always wear a helmet. While a helmet is not required in Florida for riders over the age of 21 as long as they can prove they are covered by a $10,000 medical insurance policy to cover any injuries that may arise as a result of a crash, there is a general consensus that helmet use is an important preventive measure against some of the most serious accident injuries, such as head or brain injuries that can cause paralysis, permanent disability, or wrongful death.
- Follow traffic laws and avoid speeding. Motorcycle operators are required to follow the same laws as other drivers sharing the roadways.
- Ride in open zones. Always ride in open zones in traffic so that you have additional room to maneuver and allow you to keep away from dangerous blind spots.
- Cover your brakes. When you are riding in traffic you must react quickly, so you do not want to be fumbling for the brake lever or pedal. Keep a finger or two on the brake lever and your right toe close to the rear brake pedal to minimize reach time.
- Never drive drunk or distracted. Do not drink, use drugs, or take prescription medications that can cause drowsiness or other impairment when getting behind the wheel of your motorcycle. Likewise, do not use a phone while driving.
- Maintain your bike. Keep your motorcycle working properly and undertake repairs when needed. Watch for recalls, check tires, keep your cables oiled, and consult your owner’s manual to grease the appropriate machinery.
- Dress to be seen. Wear brightly-colored clothing to increase your visibility.
- Drive defensively. Never assume that other drivers can see you. You need to be aware of other vehicles and drivers on the road with you.
How is Fault Determined in a Motorcycle Crash?
When it comes to a negligence lawsuit, there are four elements: duty, breach, harm and causation. All drivers, including motorcyclists, have a duty to drive safely and follow the rules of the road. If a driver breaches this duty and causes an accident, they may be liable for damages. This can be easy to determine in cases where a driver broke a traffic law, such as ignoring a stop sign. In other accidents, this can be more tricky to conclude. In some cases, the other driver’s behavior can be deemed so risky that they are charged with recklessness. This often happens when a driver is drunk. Lastly, the accident resulting from a breach must be determined to have caused harm to the plaintiff for a personal injury or wrongful death case to be filed.
What if both the motorcyclist and the other party were at fault?
It is entirely possible for a motorcyclist and a driver to be found to share the fault in an accident. Maybe the accident was caused by a speeding motorcyclist and a car who made an unsafe turn. In this type of situation, the percent that each driver was at fault will have to be determined. This is where the legal standard of comparative damages comes into play, and those who are partly responsible for an accident receive damages at a reduced rate based on the percentage that they are at fault.
Let’s say the motorcyclist was 30% responsible for an accident, so that means they will only be able to collect 70% of the damages. Keep in mind that if a motorcyclist is responsible for over 50% of the accident, they will not be eligible for damages.