Most states have laws that make it mandatory for motorcyclists to wear helmets for their own protection. Much like seat belt laws that are meant to protect occupants of cars and trucks, motorcycle helmet laws are seen as a public safety issue. Implementation of such safety measures may bring up concerns about what happens when an accident does occur. Can a motorcyclist who failed to wear a helmet still file a claim for injuries after a motorcycle accident?
Helmet use is important since riding on a motorcycle is significantly more dangerous than riding in a car. In fact, studies from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that the likelihood of being injured in a motorcycle accident is about five times higher compared to those in cars. The odds of being killed in an accident are 28 times higher for those riding on motorcycles over those riding in cars.
This discrepancy is due to the lack of protection afforded by motorcycles. Where cars and trucks have seat belts and structures that enclose and protect passengers, motorcycles do not offer any such defense. In a crash, a motorcyclist has no frame or doors to protect them from the impact. Motorcyclists can easily be thrown from the bike as well.
Nearly every state has laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. Insurance claims and personal injury claims are handled differently in each state. Some states do not allow information on the motorcyclist’s use of a helmet to affect the case at all. In these cases, other factors, such as speeding, distracted driving, and intoxication on the part of the at-fault driver, are seen as pertinent to the case because these actions are unlawful and dangerous to others. The lack of a motorcyclist’s helmet can be seen as a personal choice; it does not endanger anyone but the motorcyclist.
In other states, the motorcyclist’s decision to forgo the protection of a helmet may be a permissible argument for the motorcyclist to bear some of the blame for their own injuries. In these cases, the monetary damages available for the injured victim will be reduced in accordance with the amount of fault they bear for the outcome of their choice to not wear a helmet.
What is Comparative Negligence?
In states that apply comparative negligence, the injured victim can recover damages for their injuries as long as they are less than 50 percent liable for their injuries. If they are more than 50 percent responsible for the accident, they cannot collect damages from the other party. However, the injured victim may only collect damages that take into account the percentage of fault they bear for their own injuries. For example, if a motorcyclist sustained $100,000 in injuries and was found 20 percent at fault for these injuries, they would only be able to collect $80,000 on their claim.
How Do Motorcycle Helmet Laws Work in New Jersey?
Motorcyclists in New Jersey are required to wear a helmet that is approved by the Department of Transportation. Officials also suggest protective clothing, such as a thick jacket, sturdy pants, boots, and gloves. Eye protection, such as glasses, goggles, or a face shield, is also recommended.
Besides the physical safety of wearing a helmet for accident protection, the legal system in New Jersey offers another way for a helmet to protect a motorcyclist’s interests. This has to do with how their rights to damages are affected if they are found to bear some blame for their own injuries.
New Jersey law supports the legal theory of comparative negligence in accident cases. This means that the motorcyclist who becomes hurt in an accident while not wearing a helmet could be unable to fully recover the entire financial burden for their injuries if it is determined that the decision to go without a helmet contributed to their injuries.
What if the Injuries Sustained in the Accident Were Not Head Injuries?
If the accident resulted in injuries that would not have been prevented by a helmet, then it may not have impact on a claim. For example, if the accident resulted in a lost limb but no head injuries, it is clear that the choice not to wear a helmet did not contribute to the motorcyclist’s injury.
If someone is injured in a motorcycle accident, they might be able to collect damages, depending on the circumstances of the case. Even if the person was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, they may still be able to collect compensation from the at-fault party. For help with a motorcycle accident case, it is imperative to seek legal advice and representation.
Highland Park Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Represent Motorcyclists Injured by Negligent Drivers
The Highland Park motorcycle accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr can help prove your case against the at-fault driver. Motorcycle accidents often cause serious injuries, and it is important to evaluate whether or not you are eligible for compensation after the collision. For more information and a free consultation about your case, call us at 732-249-4600 or contact us online today. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.