Motorcycle Injury: Helmet Usage and Damages

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 What Are Personal Injury Accidents?

Personal injury accidents occur when a person suffers some type of harm, which is caused by someone else’s carelessness or disregard. After an accident, the injured party may be allowed to file a personal injury claim against the responsible party through a civil court proceeding, in order to collect damages for their injuries.

Personal injuries can occur from any event. However, the most common types of accidents include:

In a claim for personal injury, the plaintiff asserts that they have sustained an injury, either mental, physical, or both. Additionally, they claim that this injury is due to an act or failure to act by the defendant. The ruling court may award the plaintiff with money damages for personal injury.

Personal injury may occur intentionally, such as when the defendant deliberately injures a victim, or intends to commit an act that results in injury to the victim. However, personal injury may also occur unintentionally. If an unintentional injury results from someone’s negligence, the plaintiff may file a lawsuit based on the negligent behavior. Auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, and injuries that are sustained from medical malpractice are all considered to be negligence cases.

An intentional injury occurs when the defendant’s deliberate act, or intent to commit an act, injures the plaintiff. Examples of when intentional injury occurs would be when the defendant commits battery, assault, or false imprisonment.

A negligence personal injury claim involves the plaintiff claiming that the defendant injured the plaintiff as a result of breaching a duty of care that the defendant owed to the plaintiff. If a plaintiff can show that this breach caused injury which then resulted in damages, the plaintiff has made out a claim for negligence. The duty of care that is owed to a plaintiff depends on the circumstance; in general, a defendant is under the legal duty to exercise that degree of care that an ordinary person would use under a particular set of facts.

Whether a duty of care to a plaintiff exists depends upon the foreseeability, or predictability, of harm that may result if the duty is not exercised. The legal test for whether a plaintiff is owed a duty of care is phrased as a question: would an average person, in the position of the defendant, foresee that the type of injury sustained by the plaintiff was likely to take place?

If the answer to this test is “yes,” then the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care. If the defendant breaches that duty, which causes an injury resulting in damages, the defendant has committed personal injury through negligence. If the answer to the test is “no,” then no duty is owed, and as such the defendant cannot have committed negligence.

Why Would A Court Limit Damages Based On Helmet Usage During A Motorcycle Injury?

If a motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet when an injury occurs, their recovery may be limited in terms of 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 of the generally awarded damages. This will be discussed further later on.

Most courts recognize the important role that helmets play in preserving a motorcyclist’s safety. As such, failure to wear a helmet is generally considered to be a conscious disregard for your own well-being.

Courts generally explain this rationale as one of the following:

  • Negligence: Negligence is the legal theory that allows for an injured person to recover for the carelessness of others. A person is said to be negligent if they were careless given the circumstances of the situation. The most obvious example of negligence would be personal injury. However, negligence is a flexible idea that can be applied in many different contexts. Emotional harm, such as PTSD, developing because of negligent conduct would also be considered during a lawsuit;
  • Assumption Of Risk: Civil liability refers to the legal obligation that a person has to pay for damages, or to follow other court orders, as associated with a civil lawsuit. Assumption of risk is one type of defense that is available for most civil liability lawsuits, and it becomes relevant when a plaintiff knowingly and voluntarily assumes a risk of harm connected with the negligence of the defendant. If the plaintiff has assumed such a risk, they cannot recover damages for any harm resulting from the defendant’s conduct. This remains true, even if the defendant was negligent or reckless in some way;
  • Mitigation Of Damages: When a person suffers damages resulting from a breach of contract, they have the legal obligation to minimize the effects and losses resulting from the injury. The duty to mitigate works to deny recovery of any part of damages that could have been reasonably avoided; this has no specific definition, but generally refers to what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances. An innocent party is not required to take extraordinary efforts or to sacrifice any substantial right in order to avoid losses resulting from a breach of contract; and/or
  • Simply, an avoidable consequence.

What Factors Could Affect A Motorcyclist’s Ability To Recover For Damages?

While each specific motorcycle injury case is different, courts generally consider the same factors when determining a motorcyclist’s ability to recover. Some examples of such factors include, but may not be limited to:

  • Whether there are any state or local laws in place requiring helmets, that prescribe fines and/or punishment. However, it is imperative to note that the existence of motorcycle helmet laws does not preclude full recovery of all personal injury damages;
  • The probability of preventing injury if the helmet was worn;
  • Whether any exacerbation or addition of injuries would be caused by failure to wear a helmet;
  • The motorcyclist’s relative fault in causing their own personal injuries; and
  • Various public policy considerations, such as the question of whether allowing motorcyclists full recovery would promote or deter helmet usage.

What Are Various State Requirements Regarding Wearing A Helmet When Riding A Motorcycle?


Helmet Required?


Do I Need An Attorney For Motorcycle Helmet Usage And Damages?

If you have been involved in a motorcycle, especially if you believe your damages will be affected because you were not wearing a helmet, you should consult with an area personal injury attorney.

An experienced and local personal injury lawyer can help you determine your best course of legal action according to your state’s specific laws. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, while providing a suitable defense as needed.


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

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