Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 at 2:21 am
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, wearing a motorcycle helmet is about 37% effective in preventing deaths and 67% effective in preventing brain injuries in a motorcycle crash. Head injuries are one of the most common types of injuries sustained by motorcycle riders in a crash. Therefore, 19 states have a universal helmet law, including California, requiring all riders to wear a motorcycle helmet.
Because California is one of the states with a universal motorcycle helmet law and California has a comparative negligence law, choosing not to wear a motorcycle helmet could substantially decrease the compensation you receive in a motorcycle accident claim.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence is the legal theory that an accident victim should not receive compensation for the percentage of fault assigned to the victim for the accident. In other words, if you are partially to blame for your injuries (i.e. you contributed to the cause of the accident), you should not be entitled to recover 100% of your losses. For example, if a driver turned left in front of you but you were speeding, the jury may find that you contributed to the accident by speeding. If the jury assigns 20% of fault for the accident to you, the damages you receive will be reduced by that percentage.
For a motorcycle rider, not wearing a motorcycle helmet could result in catastrophic injuries. According to the NHTSA, in states that have a universal helmet law, 59% of the riders killed in 2013 were not wearing helmets compared to only 8% in states with a universal helmet law. Data compiled by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) revealed that riders who wore motorcycle helmets had an 85% reduced incidence of serious and critical injuries. Statistics like these make it very easy for a defense attorney to argue that the motorcycle rider is partially if not fully responsible for his or her injuries for failing to wear a helmet.
Because the amount of compensation awarded in motorcycle accidents can be substantial due to the level of injuries sustained in crashes, insurance companies search for every way to reduce the amount of money it must pay to the accident victim. Comparative negligence gives the insurance company a means to reduce the compensation if the rider was not wearing a motorcycle helmet at the time of the accident.
If I Was Not Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet, Should I Still See an Attorney?
Absolutely, you should seek the advice of an attorney whenever you are involved in a motorcycle accident. Even if you were not wearing your helmet at the time of the crash, you may still be entitled to partial compensation for your injuries. An experienced motorcycle attorney can help you recover compensation from the at-fault driver by mounting a strong defense to the insurance company’s comparative negligence argument.
Contact the motorcycle accident lawyers of the Tiemann Law Firm by calling (916) 999-9000 or by visiting our website to speak with a representative online. We offer free, no obligation consultations — it does not cost you anything to get sound legal advice regarding your motorcycle crash.