Motorcycle Law 101: Three Ways You Can Weaken Your Case Before An Accident Even Happens

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Many factors go into determining fault in any motor vehicle accident, but motorcycle drivers have to deal with even more complex cases. Not only does the stereotype of the daredevil motorcyclist hurt you in court, but things as simple as wearing the wrong helmet can also limit your ability to recover damages after an accident. If you want to avoid being hurt and unable to pay your medical bills, here are three behaviors to avoid when driving your motorcycle.

Failing To Wear A Helmet

Helmet laws in many states punish motorcycle drivers with tickets and fines if they fail to wear a helmet. However, even in states with no helmet laws, failure to protect your head can have a strong impact on your case, and may even stop you from recovering damages.

In states where helmet laws are enforced, failing to wear a helmet in hazardous conditions, like during rain, snow, or fog, can constitute negligence on your part. Even if you aren't the one at fault in the accident, the court may rule that your lack of a helmet in such conditions impaired your ability to protect yourself from harm, which means you may be ruled sufficiently negligent to share blame in the accident and therefore receive no restitution from the other driver.

Meanwhile failing to wear a helmet can also hamper your ability to recover damages in all states with comparative negligence laws, whether or not they enforce wearing a helmet. Put simply, the defendant can argue that any injury you sustain to your head may have been prevented by wearing a helmet, so you share the fault for such an injury. This can reduce the amount you recover to pay for your medical bills depending on how at fault the judge believes you to be.

On the plus side, this doesn't affect injuries sustained to other parts of your body. If you break an arm, for example, whether you wore a helmet or not will be considered immaterial to your ability to collect damages.

Failing To Wear The Right Helmet

Novelty helmets are often sold for decorative use, but to the untrained eye these helmets may appear to be just like any other protective headgear. Unfortunately, wearing the wrong helmet may result in being held partially negligent for any head injuries sustained in an accident.

The Department of Transportation has some handy guidelines for how to tell a safe helmet from a decorative one. Most notably, safe helmets will have stickers inside marking them DOT-approved. The best helmets will also have stickers showing their ability to meet private safety guidelines as well, such as "Snell" or "ANSI" stickers. Make sure any helmet you wear when operating your motorcycle is DOT-approved at a minimum, but having these additional accolades on your helmet certainly could help you in an accident case.

Not Driving Carefully In Hazardous Conditions

Even if another driver hits you, you may be ruled partially at fault if the judge can be convinced that you weren't careful enough while driving in inclement weather. The low visibility of motorcycles is often held against them in accident cases, so you have to drive extra carefully to protect yourself from this argument.

If the weather is rainy, foggy, or snowy, or if you're in an area where visibility is reduced for some other reason, always practice defensive driving. Go below the speed limit, keep your lights on, and maintain extra distance from any cars as much as possible. Avoid passing cars or driving in the middle of the road, even if your state permits this. Not only will this help keep you out of an accident in the first place, but it will ensure the other party has no one to blame but themselves if you are struck.

Motorcycle accidents are already more severe than car accidents due to the vulnerability of the driver. For the sake of your case and your own safety, make sure you're extra-cautious on the road. It could one day save you money, but more importantly, it could one day save your life, too. If you're in a motorcycle accident, you may want to contact an attorney from a firm like Hinkle Law Offices.