If you're a motorcycle enthusiast who prefers not to wear a helmet while riding, you may be excited to learn that the Missouri House of Representatives has recently passed a bill intended to repeal the state's helmet law. If signed into law, this bill will allow Missouri riders who are over age 21 to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. However, this repeal may not be good news if you're injured while riding and attempt to file a lawsuit against the driver who struck you. Read on to learn more about the potential defensive arguments that may be raised if you're injured while not wearing a helmet.
What effect could not wearing a helmet have on your lawsuit against a driver who has injured you?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that anywhere between 37 and 41 percent of motorcycle fatalities involving riders not wearing helmets would have been prevented had a helmet been worn. This principle translates to non-fatal motorcycle injuries, as well -- in the majority of cases involving a motorcyclist's head or neck injury, such injuries could have been prevented or minimized had the driver worn a helmet.
Even if wearing a motorcycle helmet is not prescribed by state law, if you are injured and file a lawsuit against the person responsible, you may find yourself facing allegations that you yourself were partially responsible for your injuries due to your lack of head protection.
This principle of comparative negligence attempts to assign a portion of fault to the victim. For example, if you fail to use your turn signal and suddenly veer into an adjacent lane where you are struck by a vehicle, the trial court may determine that you were more than 50 percent responsible for the collision that led to your injury, and are therefore not entitled to collect from the defendant.
Even if you share no fault in the accident itself, if the defendant can claim that any injuries you've suffered would have been significantly lessened or eliminated by the use of a helmet, the court could find that the defendant is not financially responsible for all the medical costs you've incurred.
What should you do to protect your rights while riding?
While motorcyclists should always make a concerted effort to obey and adhere to the laws of the road, it's important to keep the principle of comparative negligence in mind as well.
Since you're much more likely to be injured in a crash than a driver who is encased inside an aluminum and steel vehicle, it's likely that your medical bills will be more significant -- and showing that you've taken all efforts to ensure your own safety (such as wearing a helmet even when not mandated by state law) will help avoid these allegations.
For more information, contact Speers Reuland & Cibulskis, P.C. or a similar firm.