Although motorcycles offer an exhilarating experience, these two-wheeled vehicles come with significant risks. Even skilled and experienced riders can be endangered by the carelessness and indifference of other motorists. When other drivers make errors like drifting into a motorcyclist’s lane or cutting off a rider, the rider has a small margin for error when responding to an emergency. Motorcycles lack the stability of a four-wheel vehicle and lack safety features standard in cars like a reinforced enclosed passenger compartment, seatbelts, and airbags. When motorcycles are involved in collisions, the rider suffers injury or death 80 percent of the time. The lack of protection available to riders means that any crash can result in serious debilitating injuries.
If you or a family member has been injured in a motorcycle accident, your skilled motorcycle accident attorney can analyze your situation, advise you of your rights, and guide you through the process of pursuing your claim for compensation. We frequently receive questions about the ability of a negligent driver’s insurance company to rely on a rider’s lack of head protection to avoid liability. Although it is always safer to wear a helmet, a motorcycle enthusiast usually can pursue a valid claim even if the injured rider elected to forgo head protective gear, but the value of the claim might decrease.
The rules regarding motorcycle helmets fall into three categories. 24 states have partial helmet laws that impose a requirement that some riders wear helmets. Universal helmet laws have been enacted in 19 states. In these states, all riders must wear a helmet if they elect to operate a motorcycle. Three states do not have helmet laws that require any riders to wear head protective gear.
Regardless of which type of state you live in, the decision to wear a helmet constitutes the single most effective way to prevent severe injury or death when riding a bike on the open road. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that strapping on a helmet can reduce the risk of a head injury by 69 percent and reduce the danger of suffering fatal injuries by 37 percent. Most motorcycle fatalities involve head injuries, so riders have a strong reason to wear a helmet even if they are not required to wear one.
While a personal injury claim usually will not be barred even if the rider was helmetless, the insurance company for the other driver might attempt to limit an injury victim’s recovery by asserting a comparative fault type defense. Although the law differs from state to state, the insurance company typically will argue that the victim failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent self-injury by electing not to wear a helmet. This defense could limit the amount of any recovery to the extent a helmet would have mitigated the rider’s head injury. However, this defense would not be relevant in cases where the motorcycle injury victim did not suffer a head or neck injury.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a motorcycle crash, an experienced motorcycle accident attorney can take on the other driver’s insurance company and anticipate potential defense strategies to maximize your claim.
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