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I was injured in a motorcycle accident, but I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Can I still recover damages from the other driver?
- March 29, 2017
If you were injured in an accident while riding on your motorcycle, whether you were wearing a helmet could be a key factor in your damage claim against the at-fault driver, depending on the type of injuries you sustained and the state where the accident occurred.
The location of your injuries plays an important role in this situation. For a defense attorney or an insurance adjuster to try to dismiss or reduce your damage claims, they must prove that wearing a helmet would have either prevented or reduced your injuries. If you suffered an injury to the head or neck, such as a mild traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury, then the defense will argue that these were preventable injuries had you worn a helmet. On the other hand, if you suffered a broken leg or arm, road rash, or another type of injury that didn’t affect the head or neck, then it will be very difficult for the defense to argue that a helmet would have made a difference.
If a defense attorney uses this defense in court, they’re likely going to call expert witnesses to the stand, such as doctors, who can testify that your injuries were preventable if you wore a helmet. Another way that the defense may use your failure to wear a helmet against you is by portraying you as an irresponsible rider. If it’s not clear who was at fault for the accident, this could make the difference.
The state where the accident took place also determines whether the defense and the other driver’s insurance company can use your failure to wear a helmet against you. Not every state has laws requiring that you wear a helmet while you ride a motorcycle. Illinois and Iowa don’t have any helmet laws in place, while quite a few other states only have partial helmet laws that apply to drivers under a certain age. If you weren’t required by law to wear a helmet where you were riding, then your failure to wear a helmet doesn’t constitute negligence.
If you are found negligent because you failed to wear a helmet, then your state’s fault laws come into play. States have either no fault, pure contributory fault, pure comparative fault and proportional contributory fault systems.
In a no fault state, negligence won’t matter in regards to your injury claim, as your own insurance covers that anyway. You can’t go after the other driver for injuries from the accident.
In a pure contributory fault state, your failure to wear a helmet can make a major impact on your claim. If you’re found at all at fault in the accident, even just 1 percent at fault, you can’t recover damages from the other driver.
In a pure comparative fault state, your fault percentage will be taken off any damages you recover. If you’re 20 percent at fault for the accident, then your damages are reduced by 20 percent.
In a proportional comparative fault state, you can only recover damages if your fault percentage is at or below a set amount. Depending on the state, this amount may be 50 or 51 percent.
The two most important factors will be your injuries and whether you were breaking a helmet law. The defense won’t have a case if you weren’t breaking the law or if your injuries weren’t preventable with a helmet.
You can give yourself the best chances of recovering damages in your claim by consulting with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Your attorney will know all the relevant laws in your state and will be able to advise you on how those laws could affect your claim. If your claim goes to court, your attorney can represent you and create a strategy for handling any defenses that the other side may use, including a defense that focuses on your failure to wear a helmet. The right attorney can make the difference between receiving compensation for all your medical bills or having your damages reduced because you weren’t wearing your helmet.