Yes, you can still seek compensation if you were injured while you weren’t wearing a motorcycle helmet. However, proving that you aren’t partially at fault for your injuries may be very difficult. The state of Virginia mandates helmet use because a helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment available to motorcycle riders. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, helmets are about 29 percent effective in avoiding motorcycle fatalities and approximately 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. Failure to wear a helmet means that a motorcycle rider is 40 percent more likely to sustain a lethal head injury.
Virginia Motorcycle Helmet Laws
According to Virginia Code 46.2-910, motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear a helmet whenever the bike is in motion. The helmet must meet or exceed the specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or the Federal Department of Transportation. Virginia also mandates that motorcycle operators wear a face shield, safety glasses, or goggles, or they must ride a bike equipped with safety glass or a windshield.
Mitigation of Damages
Some defense attorneys may attempt to argue that failure to wear a helmet is a form of contributory negligence. Virginia’s contributory negligence rules bar plaintiffs from recovery when their own behavior contributed to the accident. This means, if you are found partially responsible for your motorcycle accident, you may be denied compensation for your injuries. However, Virginia’s motorcycle helmet statute clearly states that simply failing to wear a helmet does not constitute proof of negligence.
Every vehicle operator in Virginia has a legal duty to mitigate damages. Not wearing a motorcycle helmet may be seen as a failure to mitigate damages, since a helmet can significantly decrease the severity of head injuries. If a plaintiff failed to wear a helmet and suffered head injuries in a motorcycle accident, the defense may successfully argue that the lack of a helmet led to those injuries. This could result in damages being reduced or even eliminated entirely.
Recovery for Injuries
While it is true that failure to wear a helmet can impact your ability to recover damages, this is only the case in those instances where a helmet would have significantly reduced the probability of injury. A severe impact can overcome the protection offered by any helmet, resulting in severe head injuries. If it can be proven that you would have sustained head injuries while wearing a helmet, you may still be entitled to compensation.
Furthermore, if you did not sustain head or neck injuries, failure to wear a helmet is legally irrelevant. This is true even though Virginia law requires you to wear one. You will still be entitled to compensation for any other injuries you’ve sustained, including:
- Biker’s arm. Biker’s arm occurs when a motorcycle rider is thrown in an accident, and his arm gets the force of the impact as he braces against the fall.
- Leg injuries. Leg, knee, and foot cuts and fractures are common in a motorcycle accident.
- Internal injuries. When the body is hit with enough force, internal organs may be damaged, which may also result in dangerous internal bleeding.
- Road rash. Serious abrasions can occur when a rider is thrown from his motorcycle and slides across the pavement.
- Broken bones. Hitting the ground hard or at the wrong angle can easily cause bones to break, and broken bones are very common in motorcycle accidents.
- Muscle damage. Muscles may be injured anywhere on the body.
- Spinal cord injuries. If the rider lands on his back, or if an object pierces his spinal cord, he may suffer serious spinal cord injuries.
You Need an Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, it’s important that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney. When you’ve been injured while not wearing a helmet, you especially need a lawyer’s expertise and guidance in the pursuit of your claim. To learn more, contact the vehicle accident attorneys of Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLC by using the form on this page.