Posted On November 6, 2020 Personal Injury
The nature and extent of a motorcyclist’s injuries following an accident are typically very severe. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, motorcyclists are nearly five times more likely to be killed in an accident than people who are riding in a car.
While a variety of factors play into why motorcycle accidents are often so serious, the main reason is that motorcycles do not offer any protection to riders. Thus, if a motorcyclist is hit from any direction, they will almost certainly be knocked off the bike and onto the ground, where they are at great risk of being run over by another motorist.
At the personal injury law firm of Console & Associates, our motorcycle accident lawyers work closely with victims and their families to help them pursue the financial compensation that they need and deserve following a severe accident. After an accident, you will likely have questions about how to pursue a claim. We can help.
Helmets have long been known to significantly reduce the risk of injury or death in a motorcycle accident. Because of their effectiveness, 49 states – as well as Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands – have laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. States vary in their approach, with 28 states requiring only certain types of riders wear helmets, typically riders under the age of 18. The only state that does not have a helmet law is New Hampshire.
Of course, regardless of a state law requiring the use of helmets, all motorcyclists should wear a helmet anytime they get onto a bike.
But when they do not, are they still allowed to pursue a personal injury case against another driver?
In most cases, the answer is yes. However, states vary in their approach when it comes to helmet non-use evidence or, as it is frequently referred to, the helmet defense. In theory, there are three general approaches that a state could take regarding the helmet defense.
Some states do not allow a defendant in a motorcycle accident lawsuit to bring up any evidence suggesting that the plaintiff was not wearing a helmet. The rationale behind this approach is often borrowed from other cases involving an accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt. Thus, if a state has already decided that defendants in car accident cases cannot bring up an accident victim’s failure to wear a seatbelt, chances are that the state will apply the same logic to helmet non-use evidence.
The majority of states allow a defendant to introduce a plaintiff’s failure to wear a helmet to help the jury determine the appropriate amount of damages. In some ways, this approach makes sense because, while not wearing a helmet will not prevent an accident, it can potentially mitigate an accident victim’s injuries.
Of course, many states that allow the helmet defense in the damages phase of a personal injury trial require the defendant to prove that the plaintiff’s injuries would not have been as serious had they been wearing a helmet. In other words, if a motorcycle accident victim suffered broken bones as a result of the accident, but no head injuries, the victim’s failure to wear a helmet would not likely be relevant.
Those states that have adopted this approach will typically allow the jury to apportion fault between all parties involved, including the accident victim. Depending on state law, an accident victim can generally recover for their injuries, provided they are less than 50 or 51 percent at fault. However, the court will reduce the accident victim’s damages award by their percentage of fault.
For example, assume a plaintiff sustains serious head injuries and broken bones in a motorcycle accident. The jury finds that the plaintiff suffered $1,000,000 in damages but also finds that he was 30 percent responsible for his own injuries. In this case, the plaintiff would be able to recover $700,000.
This approach is the rarest, and for a good reason. A motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet does nothing to contribute to the accident happening in the first place. In fact, in many states, adult riders are under no legal obligation to wear a helmet at all. Thus, allowing a defendant to argue that the plaintiff’s injuries would not have happened had they been wearing a helmet is counterintuitive and, to a large degree, defies logic.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation for all that you’ve been through. However, motorcycle accidents often raise complicated legal issues, including the helmet defense, and these cases should be handled by attorneys with specific experience handling motorcycle accidents. Console & Associates can help you understand the relevant laws and what your options are and can assist you in effectively pursuing a claim for compensation.
For more than two decades, veteran personal injury attorney Richard P. Console, Jr. has represented accident victims and their families in all types of motor vehicle accident claims.
At Console & Associates, we provide our clients with dedicated representation from the moment you allow us to assist with your case. We take the time to explain the process in understandable terms and promise to keep you up-to-date with all developments related to your case.
Our overarching goal is to provide you and your family with invaluable peace of mind as we aggressively pursue compensation on your behalf. To learn more about how we can help, and to schedule your consultation, call (866) 778-5500 today.