I was in a motorcycle accident but wasn’t wearing a helmet. Can I still get compensation?

Question:

I was in a motorcycle accident but wasn’t wearing a helmet. Can I still get compensation?

Answer:

If you get into an accident while riding on a motorcycle -- whether as an operator or as a passenger -- the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet could affect any insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit you decide to file against another driver who you think caused the crash. But in no way should you assume that if you weren’t wearing a helmet and you suffered some kind of head injury, your motorcycle accident claim is doomed.

The specific legal effect of your failure to wear a helmet will depend on the laws in your state, specifically:

1) Is there a motorcycle helmet law on the books in your state, and did that law apply to you at the time of the accident, and

2) What do your state’s laws have to say on shared fault in personal injury cases?

If you were in violation of your state’s helmet law and you suffered head injuries, you may face a more difficult road if you’re trying to get compensation from another driver. That’s especially true in states that follow a strict contributory negligence rule when the plaintiff in an injury lawsuit bears some level of legal responsibility for his or her own injuries.

In those states, any amount of shared fault negates your ability to collect any compensation from other parties. Thankfully, only a handful of states still follow contributory negligence rules. Most states follow some variation of “comparative negligence,” where the amount of compensation you can receive is reduced by an amount that is equal to your share of legal fault for the accident.

Get the details on helmet laws and shared fault rules where you live in our State Motorcycle Helmet Laws and State Car Accident Laws sections.

But even in states that have a motorcycle helmet law on the books, violation of that law isn’t always in play in an injury lawsuit. That’s because in certain states, specific language in the applicable motorcycle helmet statute makes clear that the fact that a rider or passenger wasn’t wearing a helmet can’t be brought in as evidence of that person’s negligence in a civil case (such as a personal injury lawsuit).

Learn more about How Helmet Laws and Helmet Use Affect a Motorcycle Accident Case.

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