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Navigating the Impact of Helmet Use in Motorcycle Accident Claims

Are you a motorcycle rider? If you ride your motorcycle in California, you should be familiar with how the laws of the state may impact you.

Every year, there are thousands of motorcycle accidents in California. Many of them are fatal. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, motorcycle accident fatalities increased 3 percent, from 549 in 2020 to 565 in 2021.

The statistics are even more grim for motorcycle riders who forget their helmets on the roads. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that motorcyclist deaths from not wearing a helmet increased 9 percent, from 34 in 2020 to 37 in 2021.

Whether you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident or just want to understand the facts, we’re here to help you make sense of your rights and obligations on the road. In this post, we’ll discuss the impacts of helmet use in motorcycle accident claims.

Do you have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle in California?

Yes, you do have to wear a helmet on a motorcycle in California. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), “all riders and passengers are required per CVC §27803 to wear a U.S. DOT compliant motorcycle safety helmet when riding a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle.”

The type of helmet you wear matters, too: the DMV specifies that the helmet you wear must be certified by the manufacturer for compliance with U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.

What happens if you don’t wear a compliant motorcycle helmet in California?

If you don’t know if your helmet is compliant with California and federal law, it’s worth it to take the time to check. If you are caught riding a motorcycle without a compliant helmet in California, standard fines for the offense are around $250.

These California laws are in place because helmets have been proven to reduce the severity of head injuries in motorcycle accidents significantly. The legal requirement that riders wear helmets has a direct impact on motorcycle accident claims. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident in California, whether you were wearing a helmet may influence the extent of damages claimed and compensation you can receive in California courts.

If you don’t wear a helmet during a motorcycle accident, who is at fault?

California is a “comparative negligence” jurisdiction, which means that in the state of California, more than one person, and sometimes both parties, can be at fault in an accident. As a general rule of thumb, if a motorcycle rider is found to be 50 percent at fault for the accident, they may recover an award of up to 50 percent of what they would otherwise be owed if they weren’t at fault at all.

If you forget your helmet on your motorcycle ride, and you’re injured in an accident, it’s possible that the amount you could recover may be reduced. It’s important to note that forgetting your helmet will not automatically invalidate a personal injury claim you may have and will not totally preclude you from pursuing a personal injury case.

Your circumstances (and the facts of your accident) are unique. It’s important for you to review the specifics of your circumstances and any potential claim you may have with an experienced personal injury attorney before assuming you were at fault — fully or partially — in an accident. Your attorney can discuss your options with you and help you determine the best course of action to recover what you deserve after your injury.

How forgetting your helmet can affect your settlement amount in a motorcycle accident

As mentioned above, the absence of a helmet can affect the extent of damages you can claim in a motorcycle personal injury case. If the injuries you sustained could have been less severe with helmet use, the compensation you may be eligible for could be adjusted accordingly.

When motorcycle personal injury cases are litigated in California courts, experts are often asked to testify. These experts are certified medical professionals who provide the courts with critical evidence regarding how a helmet could have prevented or lessened head injuries in a particular circumstance. In this context, experts are often relied upon to reduce the compensation you could be eligible for.

You should remember that you may still be eligible for an amount of compensation that could be helpful in aiding in your recovery, whether you wore a helmet during your motorcycle accident or not.

What to do if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident

1. Don’t be discouraged from seeking the justice you deserve.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident in California, it’s important to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney right away. Don’t be discouraged from contacting an attorney because of the facts of your case. Even if you forgot your motorcycle helmet, this fact may not mean that you were 100 percent at fault for your injuries.

2. Act quickly to preserve your right to justice.
Remember that the timeline of when you reach out to an attorney is important. The statute of limitations in your case may bar or limit your potential for recovery if you wait too long to pursue a case after your accident.

3. Don’t cut corners; reach out to experienced counsel in the state where you were injured.
You deserve full and complete justice, which is why the attorney you choose should have experience with serious injuries and extensive knowledge of the complexities of the California legal system. An experienced attorney can help ensure you receive all of what you’re entitled to based on your unique circumstances.

4. Don’t release information to insurance companies before speaking with your own counsel.
As always, you shouldn’t speak with an insurance company about a settlement offer or provide any facts about your case before you’ve spoken with an attorney who has your best interests in mind. While insurance companies often want to pay injured individuals the least possible amount of money they can, a personal injury attorney can fight for the amount of money you deserve.