Mar 22, 2024 Michael M. Day Law Firm

If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet, Can I Still Recover Damages for a Motorcycle Accident?

Georgia law requires anyone driving or riding on a motorcycle to wear the appropriate protective headgear—aka a helmet. However, some drivers find that helmets impair their peripheral vision and hearing, and they feel more comfortable and confident riding without one.

If you’re injured in a motorcycle accident and you’re not wearing a helmet, your accident case becomes much more complicated. It is important to begin working with an experienced attorney as quickly as possible to preserve your ability to receive compensation. Here are some of the issues that affect your ability to recover damages after a motorcycle accident that occurred when you were not wearing a helmet.

Georgia’s Helmet Law

The laws of Georgia not only require riders to wear a helmet, they also specify that the helmet must meet certain public safety standards. The standards are quite detailed in their technical requirements.

Although the statutory requirement is part of the motor vehicle code rather than the criminal code, if you are caught riding without a helmet, you can be found guilty of a criminal offense punishable by fines and even jail time. However, courts rarely impose such severe penalties, and any legal action addressing your violation of the helmet law would be separate from a legal action in which you sue someone for causing an accident. While there may be a connection between your violation of the helmet law and your ability to win a civil claim for damages, the connection is not a direct one. Your attorney can make arguments to persuade the court why failure to wear a helmet should not prevent you from receiving damages from the person responsible for causing the accident.

Consider the Type of Injuries

The type of injuries you suffered in the accident could determine whether the lack of a helmet affects your ability to recover compensation. If you did not suffer any significant head or neck injuries, your attorney can present evidence to demonstrate that a helmet would have made no difference in the outcome of the accident. For instance, if you hurt your back or your leg, a helmet might have been irrelevant. However, it is important to realize that the driver responsible for causing the accident and their insurance company are likely to try to use the helmet violation as a defense to defeat your claim. Your attorney needs to be prepared with expert testimony or other evidence to show that the lack of a helmet had no impact on the cause of the accident or your injuries.

When Your Actions Contribute to Your Injuries

In any accident claim, the person who is accused of causing the accident—and their insurance company—will usually try to argue that the injured person did something that either contributed to the cause of the accident or made their injuries more severe. In the real world, it is usually a combination of factors that causes an accident. So whether it was a driver’s actions that were responsible for the accident or someone created a hazard in the road that caused the motorcycle accident, in either case, the person you are trying to hold responsible will claim that you would not have been injured if you had been wearing a helmet as required by law.

It will be vital to prepare and submit evidence to show why you still would have suffered significant injuries even if you had been wearing a helmet. The court will weigh all the evidence carefully and assign a percentage of fault to different individuals involved in the case. If your actions—including the failure to wear a helmet—are found to be at least 50% responsible for causing your injuries, then you will not be allowed to recover under Georgia’s comparative fault rule.

Percentage of Fault and the Effect on Recovery

Every bit of evidence is critically important because your ability to recover and the amount you can recover will be based on your percentage of fault as determined by the court. Even if you are less than 50% at fault, the amount you can receive in compensation will be reduced by your degree of fault. Here are some examples of how this works:

  • If the court finds that your lack of a helmet contributed to your injuries by 20%, your damage award would be reduced by 20%. If your damages amounted to $100,000, then $20,000 would be deducted, and your award would be $80,000.
  • If the court finds that your lack of a helmet contributed to your injuries by 40%, your damage award would be reduced by 40%. If your damages amounted to $100,000, then $40,000 would be deducted, and your award would be $60,000.
  • If the court finds that your lack of a helmet contributed to your injuries by 60%, that is over the 50% limit, so you would be prevented from recovering any damages.

Start Collecting Evidence as Soon as Possible

With the ability to recover after an accident determined by your degree of fault, you stand a better chance of obtaining maximum compensation if you start gathering evidence right away while it is fresh. Your attorney can assist in the process, which is one reason it is a good idea to consult a lawyer right after an accident. The longer you wait to start taking photos of the accident, looking for witnesses, and seeking video footage of the events before or during the accident, the more likely it will be that videos have been erased, witnesses don’t remember details, and the skid marks and other evidence have been washed away.

Michael M. Day Helps Motorcycle Accident Victims Recover

The right legal advice, assistance, and advocacy can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Michael M. Day understands how to demonstrate liability in a way that enables accident victims to recover maximum compensation after motorcycle accidents and other personal injury claims that can cause devastating injuries. To find out what your case may be worth and start building a strong claim, contact us today for a free case evaluation.