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Motorcycle Injury: Helmet Usage and Damages

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Motorcycle Injury: Helmet Usage and Damages

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.

Photo of page author Matthew Izzi

, LegalMatch Legal Writer and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 08-25-2015 10:29 AM PDT

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