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If I’m Not Wearing a Helmet, Can I Still Sue for Damages?

December 29, 2016 | Category: Motorcycle Accidents | Share

Florida law does not require motorcyclists over the age of 21 to wear a helmet, though it does require that helmetless riders purchase at least $10k in health insurance coverage to account for the heightened risk they subject themselves to as a result.

Helmetless riding is not rare – though it is less common – which likely comes as no surprise to experienced motorcyclists.  According to a survey conducted by AAA in Florida, only 86% of motorcyclists wear a helmet while riding, and only 81% wear a face shield or protective glasses.

Despite the fact that Florida law does not prohibit helmetless riding, the obvious safety benefits of wearing a helmet (and the fact that it is significantly more common for Florida motorcyclists wear a helmet than to go helmetless) may contribute to a negative perception of you as a dangerous or reckless rider at trial, which can hurt your credibility and affect your potential damage recovery.

The Legal Problem in Going Helmetless

To be clear: you are not prohibited from bringing a lawsuit to recover damages for your injuries simply because you were riding helmetless when you were injured.  Assuming that your lawsuit has a legitimate basis in reality, you are entitled to sue.

Of course, being able to sue does not necessarily mean that your lawsuit will be free of complications, difficulties or limitations.  In fact, helmetless riding is likely to significantly affect considerations of fault as you move forward with litigating your motorcycle accident case.

Florida implements a system known as pure comparative fault – otherwise known as pure comparative negligence – for determining each party’s contribution to the accident and their liability for the injuries suffered.  With the system of comparative fault, each party (including the plaintiff) may be found liable in part for the injuries caused.

Suppose that you are rear-ended by a car while out riding, and you fall off your bike, resulting in serious head injuries.  If you were wearing a helmet, then the defendant is likely to be considered mostly at fault for the accident.  Further investigation may reveal that you are partially at fault for the injuries (perhaps you fell in part because you did not properly stabilize when you could have), but if you wore a helmet, the apportionment of fault in these circumstances is likely to favor you.

On the other hand, if you did not wear a helmet, then a much greater percentage of fault may be attributed to you, reducing your potential damages recovery accordingly.   The defendant is likely to argue that your head injury would not have occurred (or would have been less serious) had you worn a helmet.

Of course, not all injuries are head injuries, and as such, helmetless riding will have a minimal direct effect on fault apportionment in motorcycle accident cases where no head injury exists.   

If you or a loved one have been injured in a helmetless motorcycle accident, contact Randall Spivey to connect with a skilled Port Charlotte personal injury lawyer at the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.  We will provide a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights.

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