California Motorcycle Helmet Laws
San Francisco | San Jose | Oakland | San Rafael CA
A helmet is by far the most important and most effective piece of protective equipment a motorcycle driver or passenger can wear. Helmets save lives by reducing the extent of head injuries in the event of a traffic accident. A helmetless motorcyclist involved in an accident is three times as likely to suffer a brain injury as a motorcyclist wearing a helmet.
When a motorcycle is struck or falls during operation, the rider’s head often hits the pavement, and a high percentage of motorcyclists involved in accidents each year die because of head injuries. Because of this danger, motorcycle operators and passengers in many states are required by statute to wear helmets.
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss all of your legal options.
Mandatory Helmet Laws
Despite its unpopularity among some motorcyclists, a number of states have enacted statutes requiring the use of protective equipment when riding a motorcycle. Some of these laws require that a motorcycle rider and/or his or her passenger wear equipment such as goggles or face shields, but most common (and most controversial) are those laws that require wearing a helmet.
Mandatory helmet laws for motorcycle operators and their passengers have, for the most part, proven to be an effective strategy in both increasing helmet use and reducing head injuries and fatalities in motorcycle accidents nationwide. But, while having an unmistakably positive effect on the overall safety of motorcycle riding, helmet laws have been met by resistance in the motorcycling community.
The most vocal opposition to helmet laws has come by way of challenges to the legality of the laws themselves. Although in some cases, specific language in helmet statutes has been successfully attacked on constitutional grounds, the principle of requiring motorcyclists and their passengers to wear safety helmets has consistently been upheld as constitutional.
Failure to Wear a Helmet and the Effect on Your Case
In a personal injury action brought by an injured motorcyclist, the opposing motorist may raise an issue with regard to the motorcyclist’s own negligence. A party attempting to prove negligence on the part of a motorcyclist is bound by the same general elements of proof required to show negligence in any other case. First, the opposing party must show that the motorcyclist was under a duty of some kind to operate his/her motorcycle in a responsible manner. Second, the opposing party must show that the motorcyclist breached this duty in some way, resulting in or contributing to his injury. Finally, the opposing party must show that the motorcyclist’s breach of duty was at least one of the proximate causes of the accident. If all of these elements can be shown, a motorcyclist’s recovery might be barred, or reduced, as a result of his/her contributory negligence in causing the accident.
In defining what constitutes contributory negligence, there is an important distinction between negligence contributing to the accident and negligence contributing to the injuries sustained. An act or omission that merely increases or adds to the extent of the injuries suffered by the motorcyclist is not such contributory negligence as will defeat a recovery.
In a number of states that have enacted mandatory helmet statutes, the laws either: (1) provide only for criminal penalties, or (2) do not state what effect a violation has on the determination of whether a motorcyclist was negligent. Thus, in these jurisdictions, and in those that do not have helmet laws, the effect of a motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet on the determination of his negligence is unsettled.
Jurisdictions That Do Not Require Helmet Laws
Not all jurisdictions have laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, and some courts within such jurisdictions have found the fact that an injured rider was not wearing a helmet to be completely inadmissible in a personal injury suit. Thus, it is important to discuss the facts of your case with an experienced personal injury attorney, who will know the relevant helmet and evidentiary laws that would apply in your case.
Recent Examples of How We Have Helped Our Motorcycle Accident Clients
Our 36-year-old client was lawfully driving his motorcycle on I-80 near Hayward when a commuter van suddenly and without warning changed lanes into him, striking his motorcycle and foot. The defendant claimed that our client was speeding because he looked in his rear-view mirror and never saw our client. Our motorcycle expert reconstructed the accident and helped us prove our client wasn’t speeding. Our client suffered a severe foot fracture, requiring surgery and a career change.
Our 30-year-old client from Vallejo was driving his motorcycle slightly above the speed limit when a slow-moving backhoe in front of him moved partially into the shoulder and then started turning left in front of our client, causing him to lay down his motorcycle, fracture his back and injure his spinal cord, which required spinal fusions at two vertebral levels. The adverse party predictably argued that our client was going at an excessive speed, but our expert motorcycle accident reconstructionist proved otherwise.
If you have any questions about the information provided above or if you have lost a loved one or were injured in a motorcycle accident, please schedule a free consultation by calling us toll free at 1-866-288-6010 or, if you prefer, filling out our intake form and having us contact you.
Contingency Fees Negotiated On Every Case.
At Weber and Nierenberg we understand your anxiety about getting all of your medical bills paid, loss of earnings reimbursed, compensation for pain, suffering or the loss of a loved one and the costs of high quality legal representation. We provide an initial evaluation of your claim at no charge to you. If you decide to retain us we will negotiate a contingency fee with you that you are comfortable with so that you will not pay any attorney fees or costs unless we get you compensation for your losses.