Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Impact on Safety and Personal Injury Claims

Wrecked helmet and motorcycle on the road due to accident.

Curious about the impact of helmet laws on personal injury claims? Depending on a state’s helmet regulations and safety laws, failure to wear a helmet may lead to reduced compensation and being found partially responsible for your injuries. Keep reading to discover the legal implications of helmet use and how compliance (or non-compliance) with helmet laws can affect personal injury claim outcomes.

What Are Helmet Laws? 

Many riders will tell you that there’s nothing like the feeling of freedom that comes with being on a motorcycle. However, with that fun and freedom also comes added risk due to the fact that motorcycles provide less protection than cars or other enclosed vehicles. To mitigate these dangers, many states enforce helmet regulations and safety laws aimed at keeping motorcyclists and passengers safe. 

California law requires that all riders and passengers wear a motorcycle safety helmet that complies with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards when operating or riding a “motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.” Keep in mind that laws vary widely by state, so be sure you also understand the rules and regulations wherever you travel.

Financial and Legal Implications of Helmet Use

Not wearing a motorcycle helmet can have serious legal and financial implications, such as: 

Costly tickets and fines, 

  • Missed work and lost wages due to injury, and
  • Exponential medical expenses.

Tragically, not wearing a helmet or requiring your passengers to do so can even result in death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5,500 motorcyclists die and 180,000 are injured each year in the United States. Regardless of any state’s laws, wearing a motorcycle helmet is always the smartest, safest option to reduce the threat of bodily harm. 

The Potential Impact of Helmet Laws on Personal Injury Claims

In California, not wearing a motorcycle helmet can lead to major difficulty with your personal injury claim, even if the other driver or participant was at fault for the accident. The outcome of your case may depend on the events surrounding the accident, the nature of your injuries, and the evidence and arguments you present. 

Insurance companies or lawyers representing the other party may argue successfully that your failure to wear a legally required helmet contributed to the degree of injuries you sustained. This can result in reduced compensation for your claim. 

Given the ever-rising costs of healthcare, reduced personal injury claim compensation could leave you paying out-of-pocket for massive medical bills. These expenses could hit even harder if you are forced to miss work due to your injuries. Luckily, you can help mitigate these risks by always wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle and consulting with a skilled personal injury attorney if you’re ever involved in an accident. 

Can I Still File a Claim If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet? 

In short, yes, you can still file a motorcycle accident claim if you weren’t wearing a helmet. While wearing a motorcycle helmet is always advisable, there are a few factors that make filing an accident claim more feasible, such as negligence of the at-fault party. This negligence may come in the form of: 

  • Speeding,
  • Failure to yield,
  • Distracted driving, 
  • Driving recklessly, 
  • Running a red light, and
  • Driving under the influence. 

California is a pure comparative negligence state. That means that you can still potentially collect damages even if you were 99% at fault. Your award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you are awarded $10,000 in damages, but deemed to be 30% at fault because you did not wear a helmet, then you would receive $7,000. 

Navigating a motorcycle accident claim can be especially challenging if helmet use is a factor. Make sure to consult with an experienced accident attorney who understands the legal complexities of motorcycle personal injury and accident claims. 

Proving Helmet Use

Finally, what if you’re in a motorcycle accident while wearing a helmet, but the other party claims you weren’t wearing one? Here are a few ways to prove you were wearing a motorcycle helmet: 

  • Eyewitness testimony; 
  • Traffic, security, or other camera footage; 
  • Your helmet, with the damage it sustained in the accident; and
  • Expert witnesses who will testify that they believe you were wearing a helmet. 

If your helmet sustains damage in an accident and you are involved in an accident claim, avoid making any repairs or changes to the helmet. Keeping it just as it is following the accident may provide the proof needed to show that you were wearing your protective gear during the event. 

Impact of Motorcycle Helmet Laws on Personal Injury Claims: Final Thoughts

Whether you wear a motorcycle helmet can have a dramatic effect on personal injury claims. Because California requires all riders to wear a helmet, you could see your compensation amount being dramatically reduced or even eliminated. 

Help protect yourself from physical and financial harm by opting to always wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. 

If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, consult with a skilled accident attorney at Henderson Law. With over 25 years of experience, we can help you navigate the complexities of a personal injury claim and work toward getting the compensation you deserve.