Wearing a helmet is a good practice for any motorcyclist. Statistics show that a motorcyclist who gets in a traffic accident while not wearing a helmet is three times more likely to suffer a fatal head injury. Indeed, New Jersey law requires motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. So if a rider is injured in a traffic accident but is not wearing a DOT-approved helmet, can he or she still sue for damages? The answer is yes, but the lack of a helmet will affect the amount of compensation recoverable.
New Jersey is a comparative negligence state, which means that a motorcycle rider seeking to win damages must show that the negligence of another driver was the principal cause of the motorcycle accident and the resulting injuries. Even if those elements are proved, the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced in proportion to his or her own negligence.
Although riding the motorcycle without a helmet in violation of state law may not have caused an accident, it very likely worsened the injuries suffered. The other driver’s insurance company and defenses lawyers will likely take a hard stand against payout of the full damages proved. Many in our society view motorcycle riders as reckless even when they don’t get into accidents. Since people with that viewpoint may sit on the jury, insurance adjusters may treat a claim or suit by a helmetless rider as having a smaller settlement value. If the rider’s perceived recklessness in failing to wear a helmet is found to be more than 50 percent the cause of the extent of the injuries, recovery from the other driver may be in jeopardy.
The helmetless motorcyclist will need an experienced New Jersey motorcycle accident attorney to show that the conduct of the defendant driver was the major cause of the rider’s injuries. This requires a thorough investigation, which can include hiring accident reconstruction specialists and consulting with medical experts who can testify authoritatively about the relationship between the lack of a helmet and the type and extent of the injuries suffered.
If someone’s negligent conduct in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey causes you to be injured in a motorcycle accident, consult an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer at Seigel Law as soon as possible. Contact us online or call 201-444-4000 today for a free case evaluation.