It is fairly well-known that wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle can dramatically decrease your risk of traumatic brain injury and increase your likelihood of survival in the event of a motor vehicle accident.
However, a lesser known yet important fact about wearing a helmet while driving or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle is that failing to do so may reduce the extent of damages you are able to recover in the event that you are hit and injured by a negligent driver.
At Lowenberg, our team of highly experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorneys are extremely familiar with the implications of a plaintiff’s failure to wear a motorcycle helmet at the time of the accident. We are well-equipped to anticipate and respond to relevant arguments and guide you through the unique challenges this element presents to your case.
Does Texas law require me to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle?
Generally, yes—motorcyclists, both operators and passengers, must wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle in Texas, unless they qualify for an exemption. All motorcycle riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet and are not eligible for an exemption. Texas law does provide an exemption to the helmet requirement for motorcyclists who are over the age of 21, have a motorcycle health insurance plan, and complete a training and safety course for motorcycle operators. The rule also applies to mopeds and scooters.
While it is an offense to ride a motorcycle without a valid exemption, police officers are prohibited from stopping a motorcyclist solely to check whether they have met the requirements.
Of course, even those that qualify for an exemption under Texas law will benefit from the use of a helmet while riding a motorcycle. Statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation reveal that in 2016, more than half of motorcyclists who were killed in fatal accidents were not wearing helmets. Beyond an increase in fatality rates, being involved in an accident without a helmet puts individuals at an increased risk of life-altering spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries.
Will not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle affect my personal injury case?
Most personal injury cases involving injuries sustained from a motor vehicle accident are based on negligence. As a plaintiff in a negligence claim, you must prove the following elements by a preponderance of the evidence (a standard lower than that applied in criminal cases—beyond a reasonable doubt) that:
- The defendant driver had a duty to drive as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances;
- The defendant failed to drive as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances (they were negligent);
- The defendant’s negligence was the actual and proximate cause of your injuries; and
- You sustained damages as a result.
In personal injury cases in Texas, the law applies a modified comparative fault standard when considering the contribution of fault from all parties involved. Under the modified comparative fault standard, a plaintiff may only recover damages from another party involved in an accident if the plaintiff was 50% or less at fault for contributing to the accident. If they are 51% or more at fault, then they cannot recover any compensation for their injuries.
How an individual’s failure to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle will impact their ability to recover damages is a very fact-based inquiry. The court will apply the modified comparative negligence standard and consider what types of injuries were sustained, how the plaintiff’s failure to wear a helmet affected his or her injuries, and whether the plaintiff is determined to have caused 51% or more of the accident.
If the court determines that the motorcyclist was 51% or more at fault for contributing to the accident, that they may not recover any damages from the other party. However, even if a motorcyclist fails to wear a helmet, if they are deemed to be 50% or less at fault for the accident, their damages will be reduced by the extent of his or her negligence in contributing to the damages caused by not wearing a helmet.
To find out more information about whether you can recover damages in an injury claim, even if you were not wearing a motorcycle helmet, or if you can receive compensation in a wrongful death claim after the loss of loved one who was not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle, contact Lowenberg Law Firm at (832) 241-6000.
Our team of experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate motorcycle injury attorneys will use their expertise to assess your case and help you recover as much compensation as possible for the injuries you sustained or the loss of your loved one.