Although motorcycle helmets are not indestructible, there is no disputing that helmets decrease the chances of suffering a serious traumatic head or brain injury during a bicycle accident. Similarly, motorcycle accidents tend to cause serious injuries because riders do not have any outer shell or covering to protect them when they are involved in an accident, except for their motorcycle helmets.
Motorcycle helmet laws vary across jurisdictions. Under the laws of most states in the U.S, individuals can ride a motorcycle as long as they are at least 21 years of age. However, only 19 states in the country, along with the District of Columbia, have passed universal motorcycle helmet laws. These universal laws require that all motorcycle riders in the jurisdiction wear a helmet when they are operating their motorcycles. Also, in most of these states, motorcycle operators and passengers must wear helmets that have been approved by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), and these helmets can range in quality and monetary cost.
Although motorcycle helmets help prevent injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident, they cannot prevent injuries to other parts of the accident victim’s body. Moreover, if you or someone you love sustained injuries in a motorcycle accident that another person caused, you should retain an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in your jurisdiction to investigate the cause of your accident and, if necessary, file a claim or lawsuit against the responsible party to seek monetary compensation and damages for the injuries that you suffered.
How Motorcycle Helmet Laws Vary From State to State
As previously stated, laws and regulations regarding motorcycle helmets and who must wear them vary from state to state. Three states (Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa) do not require motorcycle operators to wear helmets when they are on a motorcycle.
Along with the District of Columbia, certain states in the U.S have universal helmet laws that require motorcycle operators to wear helmets at all times, regardless of the motorcycle rider’s age. These states include Alabama, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Other states throughout the country require that motorcycle operators wear helmets based upon their ages:
- Alaska – 17 years of age and younger
- Arizona – 17 years of age and younger
- Arkansas – 20 years of age and younger
- Colorado – 17 years of age and younger (applies to passengers as well)
- Connecticut – 17 years of age and younger
- Delaware – 18 years of age and younger
- Florida – 20 years of age and younger
- Hawaii – 17 years of age and younger
- Idaho – 17 years of age and younger
- Indiana – 17 years of age and younger
- Kansas – 17 years of age and younger
- Kentucky – 20 years of age and younger
- Maine – 17 years of age and younger
- Michigan – 20 years of age and younger
- Minnesota – 17 years of age and younger
- Montana – 17 years of age and younger
- New Mexico – 17 years of age and younger
- North Dakota – 17 years of age and younger
- Ohio – 17 years of age and younger
- Oklahoma – 17 years of age and younger
- Pennsylvania – 20 years of age and younger
- Rhode Island – 20 years of age and younger
- South Carolina – 20 years of age and younger
- South Dakota – 17 years of age and younger
- Texas – 20 years of age and younger
- Utah – 17 years of age and younger
- Wisconsin – 17 years of age and younger
- Wyoming – 17 years of age and younger
No matter where you live, it is important to know your helmet laws if you plan to ride a motorcycle. Even if the law in your state does not require helmets, you should still consider wearing a helmet for your own safety.
Qualities of a Good Motorcycle Helmet
For motorcycle helmets to be effective in preventing injuries, it is important that they be well-constructed and made from quality materials.
Certain qualities are often associated with good, well-made, and safe motorcycle helmets:
- Approved by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) – One sign of a quality-made helmet is its approval by DOT. A sticker or similar marking on the motorcycle helmet usually notes the DOT approval. DOT-approved helmets are available in both the full-face and half-face varieties. However, full-face helmets are generally regarded as safer and offer the operator or passenger more protection in the event of an accident. Most states that require motorcycle operators to wear helmets also require that the helmet has DOT approval.
- Affords eye protection to the wearer – Motorcycle helmets should also cover and protect the wearer’s eyes. If a motorcycle operator or passenger falls from the bike onto the road in an accident, the rider could suffer severe eye damage if the motorcycle helmet does not properly protect their eyes.
- Fits snuggly around the wearer’s head – Another sign of a good-quality motorcycle helmet is that it fits snuggly around the wearer’s head (although not to the point that it’s restricting).
In addition to purchasing a good quality motorcycle helmet, the Department of Transportation recommends against purchasing a used helmet. When buying a used helmet, it can be difficult to determine the number of times that the helmet was worn in the past and the amount of wear and tear the helmet endured. A prior motorcycle accident may have even involved the helmet. Even though a new helmet will likely cost more, it is better to have the certainty of safety than suffer a serious head injury in a motorcycle accident due to damaged or weakened headgear.
Why Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet Matters
Wearing a motorcycle helmet while operating or riding on a motorcycle is extremely important, even if you reside in a jurisdiction that does not require helmets. When a large car or truck collides with a motorcycle, it is usually the motorcycle rider who sustains the most serious damage in the accident. The force of the impact may cause the motorcycle rider to fall to the ground and suffer severe injuries, including a traumatic head injury.
A helmet can work to lessen the blow should the motorcycle rider strike their head on the ground. Even if the rider suffers a head injury, the injury may be much less serious if a helmet is worn. While helmets cannot prevent head trauma 100 percent of the time, any injury mitigation is better than none when you crash.
Even when motorcycle riders take all of the necessary precautions, motorcycle accidents can still occur, and serious injuries can result. When that happens, you should speak to a knowledgeable motorcycle accident attorney in your jurisdiction about the legal steps you can take to pursue monetary compensation against the at-fault person or entity.
Typical Causes of Motorcycle Accidents and Collisions Throughout the Country
Motorcycle accidents and collisions involving motorcycles take place for a variety of reasons. However, one of the most common causes is the carelessness and negligence of other drivers, such as speeding. The severity of a motorcyclist’s injuries typically increases if the motor vehicle driver is operating their vehicle at a high rate of speed when they collide with the motorcycle.
The operators of cars, trucks, and other vehicles owe a high duty of care to everyone else on the road, including motorcycle operators and their passengers. Specifically, these drivers owe a duty of care to follow all of the rules of the road, obey traffic signs and traffic control devices, and watch out for other vehicles (including yielding the right-of-way to those vehicles when appropriate).
Motor vehicle drivers also have a duty to refrain from engaging in distracted driving, including using cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices while operating their vehicles on roadways throughout the country.
Finally, motor vehicle operators have a duty to engage in safe driving and not operate their vehicles while they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Operating a vehicle while under the influence increases the chances of an accident or collision with a smaller vehicle, such as a motorcycle.
When motor vehicle drivers engage in unsafe driving, they significantly increase their chances of colliding with another motor vehicle, such as a motorcycle. If the motorcycle accident victim can prove that their accident occurred because of another driver’s negligent or careless motor vehicle operation, unsafe driving, or driving while intoxicated, the motorcycle accident victim could pursue a claim for monetary damages and other compensation against the at-fault individual.
In some cases, motorcycle accidents do not happen because of negligent driving. Rather, they occur because of defective motorcycle parts, such as steering mechanisms, braking systems, and defective road conditions. When a motorcycle accident victim can demonstrate that an accident occurs because of a defective part, they can pursue a claim or lawsuit against the parts manufacturer, distributor, or another entity in the chain of product distribution.
Some motorcycle accidents happen due to dangerous and defective roadway conditions. These defective conditions could include large potholes or cracks in the roadway. When a motorcycle travels over one of these defective conditions, the rider could lose their balance and fall to the ground. Municipalities (including cities and counties), as well as construction companies, frequently have a duty to maintain specific areas of the roadway.
If the responsible party knows of an unsafe road condition but takes no action to correct it, then a serious accident involving a motorcycle or bicycle could occur. When that happens, the accident victim can file a legal claim or lawsuit against the responsible party for injuries and damages they suffered in the accident.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident that occurred under one of these circumstances, seek legal help as soon as possible. The statutes of limitations that apply in various jurisdictions place deadlines on filing lawsuits in motorcycle accident cases. Therefore, the sooner that you have an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in your jurisdiction on board, the better off you will be. A knowledgeable lawyer will take the necessary legal action on your behalf and pursue the compensation and damages that you deserve for the injuries you suffered in the accident.
Call a Knowledgeable Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Your Area Today
The risks of riding a motorcycle are the serious injuries and significant medical treatment that comes with even minor accidents. If you or a person you love sustained an injury in a motorcycle accident that occurred because of another person’s negligence, take legal action right away. While you are treating for and recovering from your injuries (which may include soft tissue injuries, fractures, or broken bones), your lawyer can begin investigating the case, gathering your medical records and bills, and preparing a claim against the responsible parties.
Once you complete all of your medical treatment, your attorney can then submit a demand package to the at-fault party’s insurance company. If your medical treatment will be ongoing, your lawyer can seek compensation for the estimated costs of your future treatment, as well.
If the insurance company refuses to offer you the monetary compensation you deserve for your injuries, you have the option of filing a lawsuit in the court system against the responsible party. The litigation process is a complicated one, so you want to have an attorney on your side who has the right experience standing up for injury victims in court.
Just because you file a lawsuit, however, does not necessarily mean that your case will proceed all the way to trial. As the accident victim, you ultimately have the power to decide whether to settle your injury case or take it to trial. Your motorcycle accident lawyer can assist you throughout the litigation process and help you make the best decisions when pursuing the monetary compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
For more questions about motorcycle laws in your area, contacting an experienced motorcycle legal professional can help walk you through the specific laws that apply to you.