Many individuals like motorcycle riding. It’s fun, and it’s completely different from driving a car. You feel free, but you also feel exposed.
You’re out there in the wind and the elements, and there’s no steel shell surrounding you. The road flies by beneath you, and if you overbalance or hit a bump, you could experience some road rash firsthand. You also might hit your head, break bones, etc.
When you get on a motorcycle, you risk severe injury, but that’s your choice. So is wearing a helmet. In this article, we’ll talk a little about motorcycle helmet use and how that sometimes comes into play if a car hits you.
Can You Bring a Motorcycle Accident Claim if You Were Not Wearing a Helmet?
As the Console and Associates Law Firm notes, “the nature and extent of a motorcyclist’s injuries following an accident are typically very severe.” Some different factors will probably come into play, such as:
- How fast you were going
- The road conditions
- Whether you ingested alcohol or other substances before riding
However, whether you were wearing a helmet or not will make a huge difference regarding what happens to you. If you were wearing a helmet, a severe injury is less likely.
If a car hits you, and you’re confident that it was their fault, you will probably want to know if you can bring a lawsuit against them. Their insurance might cover the medical bills, motorcycle damage, and lost wages, but it might not cover your pain and suffering.
If you weren’t wearing a helmet, you can still bring a lawsuit in almost all cases. However, when you do, you need to think about the so-called “helmet defense.”
What is the Helmet Defense?
The helmet defense refers to how different states handle car and motorcycle accident cases if the rider was not wearing a helmet. If that happens with you, you should know that one of three things is likely. They are:
- Helmet defense prohibition
- Allowing the helmet defense to reduce accident victim damages
- The helmet defense allowance in the damages and liability phases
We’ll examine each of those, so you know what might happen if you bring a lawsuit.
1. Helmet Defense Prohibition
Most states have some sort of helmet laws. However, just because a law says you should wear a helmet when you’re on a motorcycle, that does not mean a fellow motorist can break the law and hit you while you’re out riding.
If they do, and you were not wearing a helmet, you might be in a helmet defense prohibition state. If that’s true, the state will not allow the defendant (the other motorist) to bring up any evidence showing that you were not wearing a helmet. This is similar to car crash cases where the state will not allow the accused party to bring up that the plaintiff was not wearing a seatbelt.
If you are bringing a lawsuit, this is what you hope for most. You’re liable to get the most money if the defendant’s lawyer cannot mention or allude to the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet.
2. Allowing the Helmet Defense to Reduce Accident Victim Damages
Some states will allow the defendant and their lawyer to bring up that you were not wearing a helmet. This means you’re probably not going to get as much money if the jury finds in your favor.
You don’t want a state that allows this, but it makes sense when one does. The other driver might have broken a traffic law and hit your motorcycle, but maybe you would not have hurt yourself as severely if you had a helmet on.
However, there is one caveat. The states that take this approach also usually make the defendant establish that you wearing the helmet would have made a difference in how badly they injured you. If you broke some bones but did not suffer a traumatic brain injury, the helmet would presumably have made no difference.
If you are in one of these states, and a car hit you while you were motorcycle riding, but you did not hit your head, then you should get all the money to which the accident entitles you, even though you chose not to wear a helmet.
3. Helmet Defense Allowance in the Damages and Liability Phases
The third way some states handle you not wearing a helmet and bringing a lawsuit is that they will let the defendant talk about that in both a trial’s damages and liability phases. In other words, the driver’s lawyer might say that because you chose not to wear a helmet, that directly contributed to the accident happening.
However, in most states, adult riders do not legally have to wear helmets, nor will you wearing a helmet either cause an accident or prevent one. That’s why most states don’t bother with this trial structure concerning motorcycle riders and their helmet-wearing choices.
If You Start Wearing a Helmet, You Can Avoid All This
It’s always going to be your choice whether or not you want to wear a helmet when you go for a motorcycle ride. The state laws will be what they are, but there is no one standing in your garage, insisting that you put a helmet on before you start the motorcycle.
However, aside from the fact that helmets can save your life if a car hits you or you skid on the road and fall over, you might want to wear one because of how they can help you in court. If a car strikes you, and you’re wearing a helmet, then the defendant’s lawyer cannot argue that you injured yourself because of your negligence, regardless of how that state handles the issue.
Wearing a motorcycle helmet can help you avoid serious injury, but it can also help you get more money if a vehicle strikes you. You might decide to start wearing one for that reason alone if you do not do so already.