Typically, a motorcyclist suffers severe injuries in an accident. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, motorcyclists are nearly five times more likely to die in an accident than individuals riding in a vehicle.
A variety of factors explain why motorcycle accidents are often so severe. One of the main reasons for the severity of bikers’ injuries is that motorcycles do not offer riders any kind of protection. When a motorcyclist gets hit from any direction, the impact is likely to knock them off the bike and onto the ground—leaving them at risk of being run over by another motorist.
The severity of the injuries motorcycle accident victims typically face makes having a lawyer on your side all the more important. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer will work closely with victims of motorcycle accidents and their families to pursue the financial compensation you need and deserve after suffering life-changing injuries. You will probably have questions about how to pursue a claim after a motorcycle accident, and a competent attorney should be ready and willing to supply the answers.
Reducing Chances of Severe Injury Following a Motorcycle Accident Is Possible by Wearing a Helmet
It’s a fact that helmets can significantly reduce the risk of injury or death in a motorcycle accident. The effectiveness of helmets explains why 49 states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets.
Every state has a different approach. In 28 states, only certain types of riders—typically, those under the age of 18—must wear helmets. New Hampshire is the only state without a helmet law. Regardless of a state law requiring the use of helmets, all motorcyclists should wear a helmet anytime they get onto a bike.
Suppose you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Can a motorcyclist still pursue a personal injury case against another driver even when they do not wear a helmet?
Quite often, the answer to this question is yes. The only thing you need to note is that states vary in their approach to permitting or restricting helmet non-use evidence, or what is popularly known as the “helmet defense.” In theory, states take one of three general approaches concerning the helmet defense.
1. Prohibition of the Helmet Defense Altogether
In some states, a defendant in a motorcycle accident lawsuit cannot bring up any evidence suggesting that the plaintiff was without a helmet.
This approach is consistent with rules in which defendants in a car accident case are prohibited from bringing up an accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt. Generally, if a state decides that defendants in car accident cases cannot blame an accident victim for not wearing a seatbelt, the same logic extends to helmet non-use evidence in a motorcycle collision claim.
2. Permitting the Raising of the Helmet Defense by a Defendant to Reduce the Damages of an Accident Victim
In some states, a defendant can introduce a plaintiff’s failure to wear a helmet only for the damages phase of a personal injury trial. In other words, the helmet defense can be used in determining the appropriate amount a defendant should pay for the victim’s damages, but not in determining liability for causing the collision.
To some extent, this strategy makes sense. While it is impossible for a helmet to prevent an accident from happening in the first place, wearing one can potentially mitigate the injuries that an accident victim suffers.
Usually, the defendant has to prove how a helmet could have prevented a plaintiff’s severe injuries following an accident. That means that if a motorcycle accident victim breaks some bones in an accident but does not suffer head injuries, the victim’s failure to wear a helmet becomes irrelevant.
States that adopt this approach typically allow the jury to apportion fault between all parties in a lawsuit, including the accident victim. Generally, victims can recover compensation for their injuries as long as they are less than 50 or 51 percent at fault, depending on state law. However, note that the court will reduce the damages award an accident victim should receive by their fault percentage.
For instance, assume a plaintiff suffers serious head injuries and broken bones in a motorcycle accident. After careful consideration, the jury may decide that the plaintiff suffered $1,000,000 in damages but is 30% responsible for their injuries due to their failure to wear a helmet. In such a situation, the plaintiff can only recover $700,000.
3. Permitting a Defendant to Argue the Helmet Defense in Both the Liability and Damages Phases
The strategy of allowing the defendant to raise the helmet defense in both the liability and damages phases of a trial is quite rare, and for a good reason. First and foremost, a motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet does not contribute in any way to an accident happening. Further, there is no obligation for adult riders to wear a helmet in many states, which means most motorcycle accident victims who choose not to wear a helmet aren’t breaking any laws.
The implication, in this case, is that a defendant cannot claim that the plaintiff wearing a helmet could have prevented an accident from happening in the first place because this argument defies logic. Wearing or not wearing a helmet had no influence on whether or not the accident occurred, only potentially on the type and severity of injuries the victim sustained.
Contact a Reliable Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today
If you are a victim of a motorcycle accident, you can pursue financial compensation for damages. In many cases, motorcycle accidents raise intricate legal issues, including the helmet defense. You want an attorney with specific experience handling motorcycle accidents to represent you in your personal injury claim.
Our motorcycle accident attorneys have more than two decades of experience successfully handling personal injury matters and representing clients in all types of motor vehicle accident claims.
If you want to pursue a claim for compensation without the hassle, understand what’s going on in your case from start to finish, and get the full amount of money you deserve, we’re here to help.