How Helmet Laws Affect Motorcycle Accident Claims

How Helmet Laws Affect Motorcycle Accident Claims
Calendar icon March 14, 2024

When it comes to operating a motorcycle, safety is an important factor to consider. While the open air can be freeing, motorcyclists are at risk for serious injuries if an accident were to occur, more so than those driving in motor vehicles. 

Helmets have been the epicenter of motorcycling safety discussions, and mandating their use has led to a complex web of helmet laws varying by state. Understanding how these regulations influence motorcycle accident claims is essential for riders who hit the road, regardless of what state they’re in.

The Importance of Helmet Use

Besides the legality of helmet use for motorcyclists, it’s important to acknowledge that helmets play a significant role in protecting riders from potentially fatal head injuries in the event of an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmets reduce the risk of death in the event of a motorcycle crash by 29%,  and are about 67% effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries.

Apart from the added safety that helmets offer to motorcyclists, helmets also offer additional benefits to riders, including:

  • Reducing noise levels
  • Protection from debris and adverse weather conditions
  • Built-in visors offer better visibility on sunny days
  • Increased visibility to others on the road

A well-fitted helmet can offer a motorcyclist with not only added protection, but with increased confidence while on the road.

Helmet Laws Across the United States

In the United States, motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state. Some states, like New York, California, Florida, and Texas, have universal helmet laws which require all riders to wear a helmet. Other states, like Connecticut and Ohio, have partial laws that mandate helmets for certain groups, often based on age. And, there are some states, including Illinois and Iowa, with no helmet laws at all. This patchwork of regulations can greatly impact both the rider’s safety and the legal aftermath of a motorcycle accident.

Helmet Laws in New York State

New York was the first state in the nation to adopt the universal motorcycle helmet law in 1967. Under New York State Law, motorcycle helmets are required for operators and passengers of a motorcycle, regardless of age. 

In New York, all helmets must have the minimum requirements:

  • A Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) symbol, symbolizing that the helmet has been approved by the NYSDOT for sale
  • A continuous protective curved surface
  • No rigid projections inside the helmet’s shell and no projections from the helmet that protrude more than .2 inch from the outer helmet
  • Peripheral vision clearance for the rider

If you are a motorcyclist in New York who is not sure of whether or not yours is DOT approved, check the back of your helmet for the DOT sticker on the back of your helmet. Remember, non-DOT helmets and novelty helmets are illegal in New York State. 

Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Personal Injury Claims

If you’re involved in a motorcycle crash, the state’s governing helmet laws can significantly affect your personal injury claim. In states with universal helmet laws, like New York, not wearing a helmet might indicate a violation of the law, which could factor into the insurance company’s assessment of fault and potentially reduce your compensation under the concept of comparative negligence.

On the other hand, in states with partial or no helmet laws, the legal implications are less straightforward. Failure to wear a helmet in these states may not be seen as negligence per se. However, an insurer might argue that injuries could have been less severe with helmet use, thus attempting to decrease the liability of their insured and reduce your compensation.

Comparative Fault in Helmet Law States

In states with comparative fault rules, the amount of compensation you can receive in an accident claim can be reduced by a percentage equal to your share of fault. For example, if you’re found to be 20% at fault for riding without a helmet in a state with a helmet law, your compensation could be reduced by that same 20%. Therefore, it is vital for riders to comprehend the specifics of their state’s helmet laws and how it might affect their legal rights should an accident occur.

Helmet Use as Evidence in Personal Injury Claims

How helmet laws affect a motorcycle accident claim can be especially telling when dealing with insurance companies. Insurers may try to limit their payouts, arguing that non-compliance with helmet laws amounts to negligence. 

In helmet law states, failing to wear a helmet could be used as evidence by the insurance company to suggest recklessness or irresponsibility, which could not only potentially affect the amount of damages you’re able to recover, but can also impact a jury’s or judge’s perception if your case goes to trial. 

It’s important to be prepared for such tactics and understand how to articulate that helmet non-use should not unjustly diminish a valid claim for damages.

Why Hire A Motorcycle Accident Attorney

After a motorcycle accident, you may not know how to proceed in order to recover the maximum compensation for the injuries you’ve sustained. A knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney can help navigate the claims process, as well as the intricacies of helmet laws and their implications on your claim. When you retain a motorcycle injury attorney to handle your claim, they will handle the following:

  • Collect all pertinent evidence and conduct an investigation to prove you were not at fault for your injuries
  • Consult with medical professionals, accident reconstructionists, and other professionals to prove the severity of your injuries.
  • Work for you to counter any blame-shifting tactics insurers may use related to helmet use.
  • Represent your interests assertively in settlement negotiations or in the courtroom, if necessary.

Having an advocate on your side could mean the difference between a settlement that covers your bills and long-term needs versus one that falls short in the wake of a traumatic event.

Contact Cellino Law

If you or someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle accident, understanding the influence that helmet laws have on your claim is important to remember when seeking compensation. At Cellino Law, our team of attorneys have decades of experience dealing with the complexities surrounding motorcycle accidents and helmet law implications. Rest assured, our legal team will work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive the full compensation you deserve.

At Cellino Law, we are committed to providing our clients with high-quality representation, informed by years of experience in personal injury law. We understand the unique challenges motorcyclists face, and with our comprehensive knowledge of state-specific helmet laws and extensive litigation experience, we strive to secure the best possible outcomes for our clients.

Contact Cellino Law today at 888-888-8888 to discuss your motorcycle accident claim. Our team is ready to provide you with the support and guidance you need during this challenging time.

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Content checked by the personal injury attorney Ross Cellino. As a family man and a trial attorney, I pride myself on winning cases and serving the community. With over 35 years of experience, I understand the function of a jury, how juries arrive at conclusions, and the role that the jury plays in administering justice. I know how to win cases. You can find us in Manhattan, Buffalo, Melville, Rochester, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and other locations throughout New York.

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