Motorcycle helmets are actually fairly controversial items. Some people believe that they are essential to prevent unnecessary injuries and deaths. Other people are just as firm in the belief that helmets are actually dangerous. From a legal standpoint, if you're involved in a motorcycle accident, does it matter if you're wearing one? It might. This is what you should know before you get on the road.
Helmets Aren't Guarantees
Motorcycle accidents aren't like passenger car accidents - there's no seat belt holding you down, and no windshield between you and the road. You may or may not have a helmet on as a means of protection against the pavement. Even if you are wearing one, there's no guarantee that it won't crack on impact if you hit the road hard enough.
However, helmets are supposed to be designed to withstand significant force. If they don't, and you suffer an injury as a result of an impact that the helmet should have withstood, there's always a question as to whether or not the manufacturer performed adequate safety testing on the equipment before selling it. The materials used in its construction are also suspect - which means that you may have the ability to recover damages against the helmet's manufacturer.
Helmets Can Also Be Dangerous
A poorly designed helmet can actually cause an injury. If the helmet is badly designed, it can crack in ways that actually press inward on the skull, causing brain damage. It can also crack down on the back of a rider's neck, causing paralysis.
Some helmets also have design flaws that cause drivers to lose part of their peripheral vision or develop "blind spots" while wearing the helmets. That can end up causing an otherwise avoidable accident.
Anytime you suspect that the helmet you were wearing actually contributed to the severity of your injuries, you should consult a lawyer like Armstrong & Surin to see if you have a case against the manufacturer. Motorcycle accident attorneys specialize in these types of claims and know how to investigate for manufacturer liability.
The Helmet Laws In Your State Are Important
Some states require helmets for motorcyclists. Many only require helmets if you are under a certain age. Only two states (Illinois and Iowa) are totally unrestricted.
You have to know the helmet laws of the state (or states) that you're driving in and obey them! Otherwise, if you're involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, your ability to recover for your injuries could be seriously compromised.
In some states, your failure to wear a helmet when required would be seen as contributory negligence, and you would be prevented from recovering any damages (even if the passenger vehicle is clearly at fault).
In other states, the court would compare your fault for your injuries (for not wearing the helmet) and the car driver's fault (for causing the accident) and assign a percentage of fault to each of you. Depending on how much your assigned percentage of fault is, you could again find yourself unable to recover at all. At the very least, any damages you would be awarded would end up reduced by the percentage of fault that you bear.
For these reasons, helmets can be important parts of any motorcycle injury lawsuit, whether you wear one or not. Because each situation is unique, discuss the situation with an attorney as soon as practical. It's the best way to protect your interests if the helmet's materials or design contributed to your injuries and the only way to determine if not having a helmet will keep you from suing another driver!
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