If a motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet when an injury occurs, his recovery may be limited for a subsequent personal Injury lawsuit. While some states limit a motorcyclist’s recovery for failure to wear a helmet, other states still allow a motorcyclist to collect all damages.
Why Would a Court Decide to Limit Damages?
Most courts recognize the importance that helmets play in preserving a motorcyclist’s safety. Therefore, failure to wear a helmet is often regarded as a conscious disregard for one’s own well-being. Courts usually explain this rationale as either negligence, assumption of risk, mitigation of damages, or simply as an avoidable consequence.
What Factors Affect a Motorcyclist’s Ability to Recover for Damages?
While each motorcycle injury case is different, courts generally look at the same factors when determining a motorcyclist’s ability to recover:
- Any state or local laws requiring helmets that include fines or punishment (NOTE: The existence of motorcycle helmet laws does NOT preclude full recovery of all personal injury damages.)
- Probability of preventing injury if helmet was worn.
- Any exacerbation or addition of injuries caused by failure to wear a helmet
- Motorcyclist’s relative fault in causing his or her own personal injuries
- Public policy considerations (e.g. would allowing motorcyclist full recovery promote or deter helmet usage?)
Do I Have to Wear a Helmet When I Ride?
This depends on the state. Below is a chart with a general explanation of the helmet law for each state:
|Alabama||For all riders|
|Alaska||For riders 17 and younger|
|Arizona||For riders 17 and younger|
|Arkansas||For riders 20 and younger|
|California||For all riders|
|Colorado||For riders and passengers 17 and younger|
|Connecticut||For riders 17 and younger|
|Delaware||For riders 18 and younger|
|District of Columbia||For all riders|
|Florida||For riders 20 and younger|
|Georgia||For all riders|
|Hawaii||For riders 17 and younger|
|Idaho||For riders 17 and younger|
|Indiana||For riders 17 and younger|
|Kansas||For riders 17 and younger|
|Kentucky||For riders 20 and younger|
|Louisiana||For all riders|
|Maine||For riders 17 and younger|
|Maryland||For all riders|
|Massachusetts||For all riders|
|Michigan||For riders 20 and younger|
|Minnesota||For riders 17 and younger|
|Mississippi||For all riders|
|Missouri||For all riders|
|Montana||For riders 17 and younger|
|Nebraska||For all riders|
|Nevada||For all riders|
|New Hampshire||No law|
|New Jersey||For all riders|
|New Mexico||For riders 17 and younger|
|New York||For all riders|
|North Carolina||For all riders|
|North Dakota||For riders 17 and younger|
|Ohio||For riders 17 and younger|
|Oklahoma||For riders 17 and younger|
|Oregon||For all riders|
|Pennsylvania||For riders 20 and younger|
|Rhode Island||For riders 20 and younger|
|South Carolina||For riders 20 and younger|
|South Dakota||For riders 17 and younger|
|Tennessee||For all riders|
|Texas||For riders 20 and younger|
|Utah||For riders 17 and younger|
|Vermont||For all riders|
|Virginia||For all riders|
|Washington||For all riders|
|West Virginia||For all riders|
|Wisconsin||For riders 17 and younger|
|Wyoming||For riders 17 and younger|
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
If you suffered a motorcycle injury while not wearing a safety helmet, you should contact a personal injury attorney to help assess your case. A lawyer can inform you of your state and local government helmet laws, and how they may affect your ability to recover damages.