California Motorcycle Helmet Laws

San Francisco Bay Area Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

Under California Vehicle Code, Division 12, Chapter 5, Article 7, Section 27803, motorcycle drivers and their passengers are required to wear helmets. According to California state law,

“(a) A driver and any passenger shall wear a safety helmet meeting requirements established pursuant to Section 27802 when riding on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle. (b) It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet as required by subdivision (a). (c) It is unlawful to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycles, or motorized bicycle if the driver or any passenger is not wearing a safety helmet as required by subdivision (a).”

While the law if fairly straightforward in what it requires, bikers may initially think wearing some kind of helmet complies with the law. However, Section 27803 goes on to specify what kind of helmet complies with the law:

“(e) For the purposes of this section, ‘wear a safety helmet’ or ‘wearing a safety helmet’ means having a safety helmet meeting the requirements of Section 27802 on the person’s head that is fastened with the helmet straps and that is of a size that fits the wearing person’s head securely without excessive lateral or vertical movement.”

The Consequences for not Complying with California’s Helmet Law

While the fine and penalties listed under Section 40303.5 (a $10 fine and promise to correct the violation) may seem inconsequential, if a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer cites a biker for a violation of CVC 27803 (a violation that constitutes “an immediate safety hazard”), the fine increases to $250. Some motorcycle riders may still think this is inconsequential. So, is there no real “teeth” to California’s helmet law?

Violating California’s Helmet Law and Motorcycle Accidents

The real issues bikers – and car drivers involved in an accident with them – need to consider is what a violation of the helmet law means in motorcycle accident cases. Since motorcycle riders riding without a helmet or a helmet that does not meet the requirements of the law are more susceptible to brain injuries, severe concussions, skull fractures, and brain damage in an accident, what are the consequences for not complying with the helmet law?

Pure Comparative Negligence and Motorcycle Accidents

While failure to comply with California’s helmet law will not by itself bar an injured biker from recovering damages from injuries sustained in an accident, it may play a role in how the judge or jury apportions an award in a case. Since California is a pure comparative negligence state, a judge or jury can apportion a personal injury award based on the degree of fault assigned to a party. Here, the amount an injured person can receive is a function of the percentage of fault assigned to them.

For example, if you suffered $100,000 in losses but are founded to be 80% at fault, you can only recover $20,000. Now, if you’re a motorcycle rider and sustain serious head trauma as a result of not wearing a helmet, you may find your losses far exceed what you’re eligible to recover if you were partially at fault in a motorcycle accident. Likewise, if you were the driver of a car that hit a motorcycle, your insurer will be interested in determining who was at fault – particularly if the biker wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Contact San Francisco Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg

Not wearing a helmet could play a factor in assigning negligence to you, especially if your vision was diminished due to rain, bugs, or something else that wouldn’t affected you had you been wearing a helmet. To learn more about California’s helmet laws and how we can help you if you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, contact San Francisco motorcycle accident attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg.


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