If I Wasn’t Wearing A Helmet, Can I Still Be Compensated?

September 13, 2021

It is no secret that motorcycle helmets can prevent severe head and brain injuries in the event a collision occurs. That is why the state of West Virginia has strict motorcycle helmet laws in place. However, will the failure to wear a motorcycle helmet affect an injured motorcyclist’s ability to recover compensation after an accident?

Do You Have to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in West Virginia?

Every state has laws pertaining to helmets for motorcycles or bicycles. In some states, there is no universal motorcycle helmet law. Other states only require that those under the age of 18 have to wear motorcycle helmets. However, West Virginia state law requires that all motorcycle drivers and passengers of any age wear a helmet. The helmet must meet the US Department of Transportation’s safety criteria.

How Will Not Wearing a Helmet Affect an Injury Claim?

It is crucial for any motorcyclist to wear a helmet in West Virginia, and failing to do so could have an impact on any injury claim after an accident occurs. In states where there is no universal helmet law, not wearing a helmet will not have an impact on injury claims. However, because West Virginia requires helmet usage for all motorcyclists, any damages caused by the incident could be blamed in part on the person not wearing a helmet. This is true even if the accident was caused by the careless or negligent actions of another driver. The at-fault party and their insurance carrier could say that the motorcyclist failed to mitigate their damages because they did not wear a helmet.

Individuals who sustained an injury as a result of a motorcycle accident are often hesitant to file a claim if they were not wearing a helmet when the incident occurred. This is true even if another driver actually caused the accident. 

However, a motorcyclist who was violating the helmet law and sustained an injury in an accident may still be able to recover compensation for their losses. West Virginia operates under a “modified comparative negligence” system. This means that individuals can still recover compensation even if they are partially responsible for causing their damages. Any person who is less than 50% responsible for causing their injuries can still recover compensation from the at-fault party. However, the total amount of compensation they receive will be reduced based on their percentage of fault.

Let us suppose that a motorcyclist is rear-ended by a driver in another vehicle and sustained a head injury. In most cases, the rear-end driver would be responsible for compensating the motorcyclist, but what if the motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet? In this case, it could be argued that any brain injury the motorcyclist sustained could have been mitigated if they were wearing a helmet. However, this does not mean that the at-fault driver will not be responsible for the incident at all.

It could be the case that a personal injury jury determines that the motorcyclist was 20% responsible for causing their own injuries. If they sustained $100,000 worth of damages, they would receive $80,000 instead of the full $100,000 to account for their percentage of fault. To learn more about comparative fault and what damages may be recovered, speak with an experienced Martinsburg motorcycle accident lawyer.


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