Can I Receive Compensation if I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet in a Motorcycle Accident?
Just because you aren’t wearing a helmet, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to compensation if you are injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence. According to a motorcycle injury post by CCD Law, in Washington state, if you are not wearing a helmet and suffer a head injury, this alone can’t keep you from getting compensation for your injuries. If the other driver/rider is at fault, then you can get compensation for your economic losses stemming from the wreck even if you weren’t wearing a helmet.
Motorcycles travel on two wheels rather than four, so they’re 50% less stable than a passenger car. With no steel body or frame around them, riders have no physical barrier to protect them. They don’t have crumple zones, air bags or seat belts either. Those facts make motorcyclists exposed and vulnerable to severe injuries or death in the event of an accident. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to die from injuries suffered in a traffic accident than drivers or occupant of passenger cars.
Only 19 States Have Mandatory Helmet Laws
Serious injuries are a common thread running through motorcycle accidents, even at low speeds. The NHTSA estimates that helmet use when riding a motorcycle reduces accident fatalities by 37% and traumatic brain injuries by 67%. Those numbers alone should make riders think twice about not wearing a helmet. Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire are the only states in the country without motorcycle helmet laws. Only 19 states make helmets mandatory for anybody on a motorcycle, while the others don’t require wearing a helmet after reaching a certain age.
Severity and Nature of Injuries vs. Risk of an Accident
How not wearing a helmet might influence compensation in a motorcycle accident that was caused by the negligence of another driver can depend on the nature of the injuries suffered by the motorcyclist. The general rule is that negligence by a motorcyclist that might increase the severity of any injuries suffered in an accident isn’t likely to bar him or her from compensation for damages. It might operate to reduce any such compensation though.
If the motorcyclist’s negligence increased the risk of an accident, he or she might be barred from any compensation at all. That’s a question of fact for a jury to decide under what’s known as the law of comparative negligence. In nearly all states, any percentage of negligence for the accident that was attributable to the motorcyclist would be deducted from the jury’s award. Depending on what state the accident happened in, if the rider was 50 or 51% at fault for the accident, he or she takes nothing. In other states, a rider might be more than 51% at fault and still receive proportionate compensation. Then, there are the contributory negligence states. In these states, if the claimant shares any degree of fault at all, he or she can be barred from any recovery. The harsh contributory negligence rule is used in Alabama, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
What About Negligence Per Se?
The law of negligence per se might arise when a person violates an ordinance or statute. That violation standing alone is generally considered to be negligence. If a rider who didn’t wear a helmet in a mandatory helmet state was in an accident that was caused by somebody else, the lack of a helmet could give rise to allegations of negligence per se. That might only be a viable defense though if the motorcyclist suffered head injuries. If the injuries suffered by the motorcyclist involved multiple extremity fractures, negligence per se allegations are likely to go nowhere.
Indeed, you’re eligible for compensation for your injuries in a motorcycle accident if you weren’t wearing a helmet. That issue of any compensation that might be awarded turns on the nature of your injuries and whether you were partially at fault for your accident. Consult with a qualified and effective motorcycle accident lawyer in your state for more specific information and answers.