After a motorcycle accident, one of the first factors the insurance company will try to discern is whether or not you were wearing a helmet. Many riders do not realize it, but motorcycle helmet use – or lack thereof – is a critical and often contentious issue in motorcycle accident claims and suits.
Georgia has a universal motorcycle helmet law that requires all riders to wear a helmet at all times. If you were not wearing a motorcycle helmet when your accident occurred, it is almost a given that the other party or insurance company will try to use that against you to try to apportion fault/liability onto you.
How might helmet usage affect my motorcycle accident injury claim?
All motorcycle accident claims hinge on the concept on negligence, i.e., the party that is found negligent or at fault for the crash is typically the one that is held liable and is responsible for paying damages.
When determining liability, the insurance companies or the courts will look at all the factors involved in the case. They will ask questions like:
- Was anyone speeding?
- Did the driver turn without first looking for oncoming traffic?
Was the driver texting or otherwise distracted?
- Was one party intoxicated?
- Was anyone issued a citation at the scene?
They will also ask whether or not you were using a helmet. And not just any helmet, but one that meets national safety standards; vanity helmets do not count. Just like speeding is breaching your duty of care to others on the road, not wearing a helmet can likewise be evident of fault or negligence, legally speaking.
After reviewing all the facts, the insurance company will assign each party a portion of liability. If, for instance, the driver was not paying attention and crashed into you but you were not wearing a helmet, then the insurance company might say the driver is 75 percent at fault and you are 25 percent at fault for your injuries.
This can be very frustrating when you know the driver was the one who was really at fault. After all, why should you get less money when you did not cause the accident, right? As justified as your point-of-view seems, essentially the insurer will argue that you would not have suffered injuries (or you would have suffered less severe injuries) had you been wearing your helmet, and therefore you should be considered at least partly liable for your injuries.
Does helmet usage matter even if I did not have a head injury?
Of course, if you did not suffer head or neck injuries, then whether or not you were wearing a helmet should have no impact on liability. For instance, if you sustained only a serious leg or back injury, the fact that you were not wearing a helmet would not have made a difference. Helmet use is technically irrelevant in this case.
But just because the lack-of-helmet-usage defense against liability may not hold water does not mean the insurance company or the other party’s attorney will not still try to use it against you. You will need to present medical evidence that supports your case and shows that helmet usage had no bearing on your injuries.
Will my helmet use affect my final injury settlement?
Motorcycle helmet usage and assigned liability are extremely important to a motorcycle accident case because these factors affect how much money you are entitled to. If the other party can prove that the fact you were not wearing a helmet increased the severity of your injuries, the value of your claim will be greatly reduced.
Georgia follows the Modified Comparative Fault rule. This rule states that accident victims may still receive compensation for damages after an accident so long as they are less than 50 percent at fault. So even if the insurer says you were 25 percent at fault because you were not wearing a helmet, you can still qualify for a settlement.
The kicker is that the insurance company will reduce your final settlement in the exact proportion as your degree of fault. So, using the above example, if your damages totaled $100,000, you would only be entitled to $75,000. You would miss out on $25,000 simply for not having a helmet on. This is why it is vital to hire a lawyer and fight tooth and nail to negate undue liability.
What kind of evidence can I use to fight helmet usage arguments?
You will need substantial evidence to fight allegations that your lack of helmet usage affected the severity of your injuries. Two of the most important pieces of evidence are your medical records and testimony from a medical expert.
You will want to enlist in the help of a motorcycle accident attorney in Gwinnett County for help compiling and presenting evidence. Your attorney can gather all the records needed and locate a local medical expert that has experience with the legal claims process and providing legal testimonies. If the expert states that your injury severity would not have changed even if you had been wearing a helmet, it will greatly bolster you claim.
Can Brauns Law assist me with my motorcycle accident injury case?
The Brauns Law team handles all types of accident cases in Gwinnett County, including those involving motorcycle accidents and sticky issues like helmet usage. Before devoting himself to helping injured plaintiffs, personal injury attorney David Brauns used to work as an insurance defense attorney. He knows how insurance companies think and the tactics they try to use in cases such as this – and how to defend against their strategies.
David Brauns uses his background, extensive resources, and Type-A personality to help prepare, fight, and win substantial settlements for his clients.
Remember that all riders should wear a helmet at all times – both to obey the law and ensure their own safety. However, if you or your loved one suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident and you think helmet use may affect your claim, contact us today at 404-418-8244.