Florida Motorcycle Injuries and Comparative Fault


A Florida motorcycle accident recently resulted in the death of the operator, a 24-year-old from Plantation who reportedly crashed into a concrete wall on a ramp, flew over the edge and fell roughly 24 feet onto the concrete below before he was struck by at least two – maybe three – vehicles on the turnpike.

Officials indicated the crash was under investigation, though suspected excessive speed may have been a factor. The posted speed limit on that stretch of Interstate 595 is 35 mph. Several witnesses indicated the decedent was operating his motorcycle recklessly.

The incident raises questions about whether his family might have any potential claim for wrongful death. The answer is: It depends. What we can say for certain is even drivers who share some part of the blame in crashes may be able to assert a claim for damages, though the ultimate award is reduced based on their percentage of comparative fault, as determined by a judge or jury.

Our West Palm Beach motorcycle accident lawyers know that while some motorcyclists do engage in driving that may contribute to an accident, it may be possible to bring a case if it becomes apparent another element of negligence was a factor. In this case, one possibility worth exploring is the design of the road. According to the Sun Sentinel, there have been several motorcyclist deaths along that stretch of I-595 and the Florida Turnpike. In several cases, operators similarly flew off the ramps.

Problematically, the turnpike ramp forces motorists to initiate a sharp left turn onto an overpass bridge.

Two years ago, two motorcyclists lost control going around that curve, struck the wall and fell off the ramp. One, age 22, was struck by a vehicle and killed. The other survived, though he was critically injured.

It’s further been noted that over a seven-month stretch in 2011, traffic analysts counted five deaths along I-595 that involved motorcyclists careening off ramps. Excessive speed appears to have been a factor in most.

This was part of the reason the interchange that links the turnpike and I-595 was widened in recent years. The idea was to give drivers more space for merging in the high traffic area. However, the portion of road where the recent crash occurred was not part of the reconstruction effort.

If plaintiff could establish there was a defect in the road that traffic engineers knew or should have known of and failed to take reasonable action to address, that could be grounds for legal action.

In many other personal injury cases, the issue of comparative fault becomes relevant. F.S. 768.81 governs comparative fault, holding each party is responsible for their own apportionment of damages.

So let’s say a motorcyclist operating outside the bounds of prudence, but another driver ran a red light and a collision resulted. The motorcyclist may be partially to blame, but he may not have caused the crash, meaning he could still sue the other driver for compensation. If a jury awards him $100,000 but finds him 40 percent at fault, he would receive $60,000 in damages.

The bottom line is just because an officer or insurance adjuster indicates you or your loved one were at-fault in a crash, don’t simply assume you have no possible avenue to seek compensation. Consult with an experienced lawyer to find out if there are other options you might pursue.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Motorcyclist killed when he plummets off highway ramp, is struck by vehicles on 595, Sept. 24, 2014, By Erika Pesantes

More Blog Entries:

Distraction and Discovery – Expect Your Phone to be Evidence, Oct. 30, 2014, West Palm Beach Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog