Will Not Wearing a Helmet Affect My Motorcycle Accident Injury Claim?

Lever & Ecker, PLLC August 23, 2022 Personal injury

While motorcycles are as popular as ever—with over 750,000 licensed motorcyclists in New York—the safety concerns surrounding their use have never been higher. By design, motorcycles are less stable and offer riders and passengers minimal to no protection, making crashes far more likely to be catastrophic. That is why motorcycle riders and passengers are 29 times more likely to perish in a crash than motor vehicle occupants. 

Wearing a helmet is the most basic strategy for ensuring safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control, helmets are 37% and 41% effective in saving riders and passengers, respectively, and 69% effective in decreasing the risk for head injuries. 

Motorcycle Helmet Laws in New York

Due to the severity of motorcycle accidents, most states and the District of Columbia all have motorcycle helmet laws, whose purpose is to increase safety for motorcycle riders. While most of these states require only specific riders and passengers to wear helmets while riding, New York is different.

New York was the first state to adopt universal motorcycle helmet laws, enacting the first such law on January 1, 1967. New York’s motorcycle laws, which have evolved over the years, make it mandatory for all motorcyclists and passengers, regardless of their age, to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. The exception to this law applies to riders operating class C motorcycles (those with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour).

Therefore, if you are in New York and use your motorcycle on the roadways, you and your passenger must wear a DOT-compliant helmet

Why You Should Wear a Motorcyclist Helmet

There is no telling when an accident can occur. You might be tempted to leave your helmet behind because it is a sunny day outside or is only riding down a block or two. However, that is all it takes to get into an accident, receive a ticket, or get arrested.

You should always wear a helmet when riding because it helps:

  • Save your life and the life of your passenger.
  • Avoid legal liability. If you are arrested in New York while riding a motorbike without wearing a helmet, you may face a 30 days jail term, a $100 fine, or both.
  • Avoid severe injuries such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI), spinal injuries, facial fractures, eye, and ear damage, scarring and disfigurement, and dental injuries.
  • Boost your control of the motorbike as you will focus more on the road ahead of you without any distractions, hence increasing control.
  • Increase your chances of compensation in the event you get into an accident that is not your fault.
  • Protect you from the elements.

Some motorcyclists argue that wearing a helmet limits their vision and hearing, is uncomfortable or makes it more likely they will break their neck in an accident. According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), however, helmets do work, and science has proven their effectiveness, disproving the various myths. 

How Does the Lack of a Helmet Affect Your Claim?

In states with universal helmet laws, such as New York, you and your passenger must wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle. Failure to wear your helmet is a traffic law violation, affecting your motorcycle accident injury claim. 

Like all other accidents, the outcome of a motorcycle accident claim also depends on proving negligence. If you are involved in an accident that was the other driver’s fault and suffered head injuries, but you were not wearing your helmet, the insurance company and lawyer for the other driver could argue that you bear the blame for your injuries, for failing to wear a helmet. They could further try to argue that you violated the law in failing to wear your helmet and that such violation bars your claim entirely. They could also argue that you bear some responsibility for the accident and your injuries, thus limiting the amount of your recovery based upon the percentage of fault a jury later determines you bear for the accident.

New York’s Serious Injury Threshold

Unlike any other motor vehicle accident in New York, in order to be able to assert a viable claim in court for your injuries and other damages, you must establish that suffered “serious injuries” as defined under  New York’s insurance law. The following qualify as serious injuries in New York:

  • Death
  • Dismemberment
  • Significant disfigurement
  • Loss of a fetus
  • Fracture
  • Permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function, or system
  • Permanent consequential limitation of a body organ or member
  • A significant limitation of the use of a body function or system, or
  • A “medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature prevents the injured victim from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than 90 days during the 180 days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment”

If your injuries qualify as serious, you may recover the following damages from the other driver’s insurer:

  • Pain and suffering, both since the accident and into the future
  • Emotional damages
  • Lost income/wages, both since the accident and into the future
  • Medical expenses
  • Punitive damages, in some cases

If you sustained severe injuries in a motorcycle accident without a helmet, you might still be entitled to compensation for your injuries. To eliminate any concern, speak with an experienced motorcycle injury attorney at Lever & Ecker, PLLC.

Consult a Knowledgeable Motorcycle Accident Attorney

If you get into a motorcycle accident, not wearing a helmet can affect your claim. With the insurers and defense attorneys blaming you for violating the law, you need an attorney in your corner. An experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney from Lever & Ecker, PLLC, will collect relevant evidence and use the proper means to represent you.

With over six decades of combined legal experience, our award-winning attorneys are your best bet at seeking compensation. If you or your loved one has been in a motorcycle accident without wearing a helmet, we want to be your support as you go through these difficult times. Call either (914) 288-9191 or (718) 933-3632 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation today. 

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