Although any type of motor vehicle crash can cause major injuries, the risk is considerably higher when you’re riding a motorcycle. Motorcycles don’t have anywhere near the safety features that cars do, which means riders are often injured worse than drivers when an accident occurs.
You could end up with large medical bills after a motorcycle crash, and if another driver was at fault for the accident, you’ll obviously want them or their insurance to compensate you for your damages. But what if you weren’t wearing a helmet? You can often still receive compensation, although it will depend on a few key factors.
The State Where the Accident Occurred
There are two types of state laws that can affect your insurance claim after a motorcycle accident – helmet laws and fault laws.
A state can have a universal helmet law, a partial helmet law or no helmet law. There are 19 states, along with Washington D.C., that have universal helmet laws requiring everyone riding on a motorcycle to wear a helmet. There are 28 states that have partial helmet laws, which only require riders under a certain age to wear a helmet. Partial helmet laws usually set that requirement at any rider under the age of 18. And there are three states which don’t have helmet laws and allow riders of any age to ride without a helmet on.
So, the first factor in your claim is what the helmet laws were. If the law didn’t require you to wear a helmet, then an insurance company can’t use your lack of a helmet against you for your claim, because you weren’t breaking any laws.
The state’s fault system for accidents is also important. If you’re in a no fault state, then your own insurance policy’s coverage will apply regardless of which party caused the accident. You won’t be able to recover damages from the other driver’s insurance because that’s not an option in a no fault state. In an at fault state, you can recover damages from the driver who caused the accident.
Let’s say that you were legally required to wear a helmet but chose not to and you’re in an at fault state. This is where the other driver’s insurance could try to use your lack of a helmet against you in your claim.
Your Level of Negligence
If there is any dispute regarding who was at fault for the accident, then the other driver’s insurance will likely bring up the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet. They will use this to paint you as negligent.
Even if the other driver is found at fault, their insurance company can use your lack of a helmet to try to avoid paying for your injuries or settle your injury claim for a lower amount. They will make the argument that the severity of your injuries is because you didn’t wear a helmet, and that if you had followed the law, you wouldn’t have these medical bills.
Now, for this tactic to work, your injuries must be ones that a helmet could have prevented. Any head or neck injury will likely fit the bill, but a broken arm or a leg would not. If you end up going to court, the insurance company will probably bring in expert witnesses to testify that it was your lack of a helmet that led to your injuries.
How to Proceed with Your Injury Claim
Going through the injury claim process with another driver’s insurance company isn’t easy. You’re already injured and stressed, and trying to get the compensation you deserve only adds to your worries.
If your state has a helmet law that you failed to follow and your injuries were related to your lack of a helmet, that could weaken your claim. This doesn’t mean you’ll get nothing, but it’s possible that you get less. To give yourself the best chance of success, you’ll want to consult with a personal injury lawyer who has experience with these cases and knows all the laws that will apply.