In 2006, the risk of death in motorcycle accidents was 35 times greater than that of car accidents. By 2016, the risk of death in motorcycle accidents had declined to 28 times that of car accidents – a 20% reduction. Much of this decline is attributed to the adoption of helmet laws across the U.S. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia mandate that a helmet must be worn at all times by riders.
Due to the unprotected nature of motorcycle riders, motorcycle accidents will always be more damaging than car accidents. What would be a minor fender-bender in a car can result in a motorcycle rider being launched across the street and suffering traumatic injury including broken bones, lacerations, head trauma, and spinal cord damage. While broken bones and lacerations are costly and painful, they do not often result in long-term medical expenses. Conversely, head trauma and spinal cord injury often result in significant medical expenses spread out over the duration of the rider’s life.
If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to bring a personal injury action against the party at fault for your accident. Additionally, you may be able to file a claim with that party’s insurance company. The decision to file a personal injury lawsuit or file a claim with insurance should be the result of concise and deliberate conversations with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Unfortunately, if you were in violation of motorcycle helmet laws at the time of the accident, your recovery may be limited. Many states employ comparative and contributory negligence laws that limit the amount that an injured individual may recover. Comparative negligence reduces the amount that you recover by the percentage that the jury finds you at fault for your injuries. Thus, if the jury finds you 20% responsible, your damages award will be reduced by 20%.
Contributory negligence is a much harsher limitation. Under contributory negligence laws, any individual found to be partially responsible for his or her injuries will be completely barred from recovery. Thus, if the jury finds that you were 5% responsible for your injuries, you will be completely barred from recovering any damages.
Violating helmet laws is paramount in comparative and contributory negligence determinations. If you receive a citation for violating helmet laws at the time of the accident and are found guilty of doing so, the court in your personal injury lawsuit will be bound to find that you were not wearing a helmet and doing so was an act of negligence. If you are bringing an action for recovery of damages relating to injuries that could have been mitigated by the use of a motorcycle helmet, then your damages award will be reduced or completely barred based on your violation of helmet laws.