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Can a Motorcyclist Without a Helmet Recover Damages for Injuries in an Accident?

Can a Motorcyclist Without a Helmet Recover Damages for Injuries in an Accident?

Motorcycles provide a thrilling way to experience the freedom of the open road, but they can also be highly dangerous. Due to their instability, bikes are more prone to skid and tip over in wet weather or on poor road conditions. What’s more, a rider involved in an accident has almost no protection from impact with the pavement, obstructions or other vehicles.

Motorcycle accident injuries are often severe and sometimes life-threatening. They can include broken bones, loss of limb, traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal cord injury and paralysis. Medical and rehabilitation expenses can be catastrophic. As such, it is vital to pursue all possible paths to obtaining financial compensation. 

New Jersey, like many states, has a helmet law. All motorcyclists regardless of age are required to wear a securely fitted protective helmet that complies with state Motor Vehicle Commission standards. It must be equipped with either a neck or chin strap and have reflectors on both sides. Although the helmet law is designed to protect the safety of riders, failure to follow it can have legal repercussions.

In a New Jersey accident involving a motorcycle and one or more other vehicles, the ability to recover legal damages depends on each driver’s degree of fault. This is known as the rule of comparative negligence. A motorcyclist who is more than 50 percent at fault for an accident cannot be awarded damages. If they are less than 50 percent at fault, their damages will be reduced proportionately.

Not wearing a helmet as required by law can be considered negligence per se, which bears on the proportion of fault the motorcyclist bears. Insurance companies and defense attorneys may argue that the motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet contributed to the severity of their injuries — particularly to the head, neck and spine. Even though the lack of a helmet likely did not cause the collision itself, it may have drastically increased the level of injury, and the damages award may thus be reduced. 

The allocation of fault is significant, because New Jersey’s no-fault law does not apply to motorcycles. Unlike automobile accident victims, injured motorcyclists do not have access to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages. If they can’t recover damages from another party to the accident, they must rely on other resources, such as private health insurance. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can be indispensable in obtaining adequate compensation.

Located in Succasunna, the law firm of Kevin T. Kutyla, Esq. provides effective representation for motorcyclists injured in Morris County, Sussex County, or elsewhere in New Jersey. Call 973-940-8970 or contact me online to arrange a free initial consultation.