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If a motorcyclist isn’t wearing a helmet, can they still recover for injuries caused by another driver?

30 Jul 2017

Wearing a motorcycle helmet is extremely important for the safety of the rider and passengers. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration notes that helmets are effective at preventing brain injuries in 67% of crashes and also 37% effective at preventing fatalities. Of course, many motorcyclists continue to ride without a helmet in spite of the obvious safety benefit they provide. For this reason, it is important to look at how not wearing a helmet may affect a motorcyclist’s ability to receive compensation for their injuries in the event of an accident.

State Helmet Laws
The fact that helmets provide such an important safety benefit has led most states to enact helmet laws, and these helmet laws can potentially have a big impact on whether or not you’re able to receive an injury settlement following an accident caused by another motorist.

Washington D.C., New York and 18 other states have what is termed a universal helmet law, which means that all motorcyclists and passengers are required to wear helmets. In addition, another 33 states have laws that require only some types of motorcyclists to wear helmet. As of writing, Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire are currently the only states that have yet to enact any type of helmet laws.

Helmet Laws and Head Injuries
In any of the helmet law states, there will be several consequences if you get into an accident and you’re not wearing a helmet. The very first thing that will happen is that you’ll be ticketed for violating the helmet law. Not wearing a helmet will also see you legally classified as contributorily negligent, which basically means that your negligence directly contributed to any head and neck injuries you suffered.

It can be reasonably assumed that your head and neck injuries wouldn’t have occurred or would be less severe had you been wearing a helmet. For this reason, you will have little to no chance of receiving compensation for any head and neck injuries if you weren’t wearing a helmet. This is virtually always the case in helmet law states, and the rule of contributory negligence is also frequently applied even in the three states without helmet laws. In short, the only way to ensure that any head or neck injuries that occur in an accident will be covered is to make sure you cover your head with a helmet.

Receiving Compensation for Other Injuries
If you sustained injuries to any part of your body other than your head or neck, you should still be able to receive a settlement for these injuries no matter whether you were wearing a helmet or not. For instance, a personal injury attorney may still be able to help you get a settlement to cover the cost of your medical bills should you suffer serious upper or lower body injuries, burns or other damage as long as the other driver is proven to be at fault. Although not wearing a helmet will see you ticketed for breaking New York’s helmet law, this violation generally doesn’t have an effect on your ability to seek compensation for any injuries not related to your head or neck.

Injuries Sustained While Wearing a Helmet
If you are wearing a helmet when you get into an accident, this fact can generally provide several benefits in your effort to seek compensation for your injuries. For starters, wearing an FDA-approved helmet means you are far less likely to be found contributorily negligent for any head and neck injuries. That being said, you can still be found to be at least partially responsible for your injuries if you were partially at fault for the accident.

Wearing a helmet also makes it much easier for your lawyer to argue that you’re a responsible motorcyclist. This has the potential to make the judge or jury view you more favorably. In this way, you may be able to decrease your chances of being held partially responsible for the accident no matter what the defense attorneys try to claim.

The simple fact is that motorcycle helmets can save lives. At the same time, just because you weren’t wearing a helmet during an accident doesn’t mean that you should be automatically disqualified from being compensated for your injuries. If the accident wasn’t your fault, there is no reason you should be stuck paying your own medical bills. Therefore, if you or a loved one were in a motorcycle accident, it is essential that you seek help from an experienced personal injury law firm no matter whether you were wearing a helmet or not.

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