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:

 

State

 

 

Helmet Required?

 

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
Illinois No law
Indiana For riders 17 and younger
Iowa No law
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.