After a motorcycle accident, you will likely be in a lot of pain. While this is a challenging time, you also have to deal with the financial side of the situation. Many motorcycle accident victims cannot return to work due to their injuries, which means they have no income source while recovering.
At this point, you will likely look into filing a motorcycle accident claim. However, if you were not wearing your helmet when the accident occurred, you may wonder – “Can I even recover compensation?”
Understanding Compensation Options in Motorcycle Accidents Without Helmet Use
We understand how challenging this situation can be at Nelson Personal Injury, LLC. We are here to answer your questions and help you understand what legal rights and options you have.
Minnesota’s Motorcycle Helmet Law
The first step in answering this question is to know Minnesota’s helmet law. Minnesota Statute §169.974 mandates that motorcycle operators under 18 years old and their passengers, regardless of age, must wear protective headgear that complies with federal safety standards. However, those above 18 years old have the choice not to wear a helmet.
Now, let’s address the million-dollar question: if you’re in an accident and weren’t wearing a helmet, how does it impact your claim?
Compensation and Comparative Negligence
It complicates the situation if you were not wearing a helmet and were involved in a motorcycle accident. However, the short answer is that yes, even if you were not wearing a helmet, if the accident is someone else’s fault, you are still able to recover compensation for your motorcycle accident.
What is Comparative Negligence?
Comparative negligence, also known as shared fault, is a principle where the fault in an accident doesn’t rest squarely on one party’s shoulders. Both parties involved might share the blame to varying degrees.
For instance, say you’re involved in a motorcycle accident where the other driver ran a red light, but you were speeding. In this situation, while the other driver bears the brunt of the blame, your speeding could also be considered a contributing factor to the accident’s occurrence or severity.
How Does This Impact Compensation?
Under Minnesota’s modified comparative negligence system, if you’re found to be at fault to some degree, your compensation might be reduced proportionally. Let’s assume the court determines that your compensation for injuries amounts to $100,000. But they also decided you were 20% at fault for the incident. In such a scenario, you would receive $80,000 – a reduction of 20%.
The Helmet Factor
While riders over 18 years old aren’t legally required to wear helmets in Minnesota, your decision to ride without one could possibly come into play during compensation negotiations. If it’s determined that not wearing a helmet contributed to the severity of your injuries, an insurance company may argue that the principle of comparative negligence applies. However, Minnesota law prohibits the admissibility into evidence of proof of the use or non-use of helmets by motorcycle operators or passengers who are involved in motorcycle accident claims.
Challenges and Proving Negligence
One of the significant challenges in motorcycle accident cases is proving the degree of fault on the involved parties. Here, evidence becomes crucial. Traffic camera footage, eyewitness testimonies, and expert opinions can play pivotal roles in clearly portraying the incident.
The opposing party often aims to pin a higher degree of blame on you to reduce their liability. As such, it’s imperative to gather strong evidence to support your claim and refute exaggerated allegations of negligence.
How Helmet Use Comes Into Play
Not wearing a helmet might not directly violate the law for riders over 18 years old, and may not be admissible in court, but it is still best practice to wear a helmet when it comes to motorcycle safety. Moreover, even if use or non-use of a helmet is inadmissible, juries may still wonder whether the person was wearing a helmet, and take it upon themselves to lower the damages if the person was not and they sustained an injury that the helmet could have lessened or prevented, such as a brain injury.
Crafting a Strong Case with a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Engaging a motorcycle accident lawyer, particularly one experienced with Minnesota’s laws and nuances, is crucial. Here’s why:
- Expertise: Your lawyer can create a strategy to determine how to address the non-use of a helmet with the insurance company and the jury. For instance, if you suffered a broken leg, a helmet wouldn’t have prevented that injury. Your attorney can argue that helmet use is irrelevant in such scenarios.
- Negotiation: Skilled lawyers are adept at negotiating settlements. They can emphasize other aspects of the case, minimizing the helmet’s role.
- Deep Dive: Sometimes, the devil is in the details. A competent motorcycle accident lawyer might dig up evidence that proves the other party’s negligence, irrespective of your helmet use.
A Matter of Choice and Responsibility
While the law gives riders over 18 years old a choice, prioritizing safety first is always a good practice. Helmets can be lifesaving and can significantly reduce the severity of head injuries.
While not wearing a helmet can introduce complexities into your case, it doesn’t make it impossible to recover compensation for injuries. With the right approach and the expertise of a motorcycle accident lawyer, you can navigate these waters and ensure that justice is served.
If you need help with your injury claim, contact our office for a free consultation.