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Can You Sue For Head Injuries If You Weren’t Wearing A Motorcycle Helmet?

Posted May 1, 2024 | Personal Injury Blog

Head Injuries

While riding a motorcycle can be an exhilarating experience, it also comes with significant risks. In 2022, the National Safety Council reported that motorcyclists made up 14.6 percent of all traffic fatalities and 3.5 percent of all injuries. This report named helmet use as a significant factor directly impacting motorcycle fatality trends. 

Wearing a properly fitted, DOT-approved motorcycle helmet is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself on the road. However, not everyone wears a helmet.

If you suffer a serious head injury while not wearing a helmet, you may be wondering whether you can still pursue legal action against the at-fault party. Let’s take a closer look at this question and discuss the options available to you.

Helmet Laws and Liability

In the United States, helmet use laws vary from state to state. Some, like California and New York, have universal helmet laws requiring all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear approved helmets. Other states, like Utah and Texas, have partial helmet laws in place.

The legal requirements in Utah and Texas

Utah’s helmet law requires all motorcycle riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet. Riders who are 21 and older are not required to do so. 

Texas has a similar partial helmet law. In Texas, riders of 21 years of age and up are exempt from certain requirements. Riders are only exempt if they can prove they have completed a motorcycle operator training and safety course or have a medical insurance policy.

Liability in motorcycle accident cases

Proving liability is the key to receiving fair compensation. In a motorcycle accident lawsuit, the injured rider needs to prove that:

  1. The at-fault driver was negligent and caused the accident
  2. The injured victim sustained injuries and damages as a result of the accident, and;
  3. The accident was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the at-fault driver’s negligence

It’s important to note that in Utah or Texas, failing to wear a helmet does not automatically count as contributory or comparative negligence – so you would not be blocked from pursuing an injury claim. Instead, it may be used to reduce the amount of damages they can recover, based on the principle of “comparative fault.”

Comparative Fault and Helmet Use

Most states follow a system of comparative fault in personal injury lawsuits. This means that an injured party’s compensation can be reduced depending on the percentage of fault.

Burden of proof

The burden of proving the injured party’s comparative fault typically falls on the at-fault driver. Thus, the at-fault driver must provide evidence demonstrating how the injured party’s lack of helmet use contributed to their injuries.

Factors considered by the court

In the context of a motorcycle accident where the rider was not wearing a helmet, the court will likely determine the rider’s comparative fault, considering factors such as:

  • The severity of the head injury
  • Medical evidence showing how a helmet could have prevented the injury
  • Whether the state has universal, partial, or no helmet law
  • The rider’s age and level of experience

For instance, if the court finds that wearing a helmet could have made the victim’s head injury 50 percent less severe, their compensation might be decreased by 50 percent. This suggests that the injured person shares some blame for their injuries since he or she failed to take a simple safety measure.

Types of Head Injuries Eligible for Compensation

Head injuries can range in severity from mild concussions to life-threatening traumatic brain injuries. They often require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. 

The types of head injuries that would typically warrant a motorcycle accident claim include:

  • Concussions
  • Contusions (bruising of the brain)
  • Brain damage
  • Penetrating head injuries
  • Skull fractures

These injuries can lead to long-term cognitive, physical, and behavioral impairments. It is vital to receive compensation that can help you cover the costs of all this treatment.

Recovering Damages After a Motorcycle Accident

Even if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of a motorcycle accident, you may still be able to recover compensation for your injuries and other damages. 

Potential damages in a personal injury lawsuit can include:

  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Lost wages and diminished earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disability and disfigurement
  • Property damage

Some insurance policies may have provisions that reduce or deny coverage if the policyholder was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Your motorcycle accident attorney can review your policy and navigate any such issues with your insurance payout.

Protecting Yourself on the Road

Motorcyclists must prioritize safety while on the road. Here are some important measures to ensure protection and minimize risks while riding.

Additional safety measures

Aside from wearing a helmet, there are other safety precautions you should take as a motorcycle rider. It’s crucial that you:

  • Follow all state and local traffic laws
  • Ride defensively
  • Maintain your motorcycle in good working order

Taking these precautions can help you avoid accidents in the first place. Being careful can also strengthen your legal position if you are ever involved in an accident.

Consult a motorcycle accident lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, don’t hesitate to consult a personal injury attorney who specializes in these types of cases. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can:

  • Evaluate your situation
  • Explain your rights and options 
  • Fight for the compensation you deserve, even if you were not wearing a helmet at the time 

Get Compensation After a Motorcycle Accident

If you or a loved one has been involved in a helmetless motorcycle accident in Utah or Texas, Fielding Law is here to help. While failing to wear a helmet can impact your case, this factor doesn’t make your case hopeless.

Come talk to us to find out how we can help. At Fielding Law, our experienced personal injury attorneys specialize in motorcycle accident cases – plus, your rights and well-being are our priority.

Exploring legal avenues with us can help you secure the justice you seek. Contact us today at (877) 880-4090 for a free consultation and to start your journey to recovery.

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Text edited by Mitchell Fielding, a personal injury lawyer and partner at Fielding Law. Mitchell is known for his hard work ethic, friendly personality and dedication to the law. You can find out personal injury law offices in Taylorsville, UT and Mesquite, TX.