Failure to wear a motorcycle helmet could negatively affect a motorcyclist’s claim for financial damages after a serious accident in some cases, but it will not defeat his or her right to recover compensation. Meanwhile, in other cases, it will not have a negative effect.
Determining whether the lack of helmet use will be a limiting factor in a particular lawsuit is a question of the (1) characteristics of the motorcyclist, (2) the nature of the accident and (3) the types of injuries suffered by the motorcyclist.
1. The characteristics of the motorcyclist
Motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets have a higher chance of getting seriously injured in the event of a crash. To limit the risk of injury, the smartest riders wear a helmet whenever they get on their bikes, but as a matter of law, most motorcyclists in Pennsylvania are not legally required to use a helmet. Here are the characteristics of motorcyclists who don’t have to wear helmets approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation:
- At least 21 years of age
- Has two years of riding experience or has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by the Pennsylvania Department or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
For the riders who don’t have to wear a helmet, the failure to wear one probably will not negatively affect their potential personal injury claims. As for riders who don’t fit the above characteristics, the failure to wear a helmet could — depending on the injuries and the accident — cause the rider to share some of the blame and financial burden for his or her injuries.
2. The nature of the accident
The unique facts and circumstances surrounding the accident also determine the liability of the other party involved in the crash. If the motorcyclist was at fault, then it won’t matter whether the biker had donned a helmet; the other party will not be liable.
3. The types of injuries suffered by the motorcyclist
Another determining factor for motorcyclists who fail to wear helmets relates to the types of injuries the biker suffers. If it’s clear that not wearing a helmet caused the biker to suffer more severe injuries — such as to his or her head, face and brain — then a biker who is lawfully required to wear a helmet may be partly to “blame” for those injuries. On the other hand, if the biker broke a leg but didn’t suffer head-related wounds, then not wearing a helmet should not play a role in his or her claim.
When courts determine that a biker’s unlawful failure to wear a helmet contributed to his or her injuries in a crash — even if the crash was not the biker’s fault — the court will usually want the biker to share some of the burden for those damages. In these cases, civil courts will often discount the amount of compensation the biker can receive, but the at-fault motorist will remain liable.
Motorcycle accident lawsuits that involve a biker without a helmet can be complicated to navigate. If you were hurt riding a motorcycle without a helmet in Pennsylvania, make sure you understand your rights.