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Motorcycle Helmet Usage: How Not Wearing Changes Case Value

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Why You Should Wear Your Motorcycle Helmet In Orlando

As an Orlando motorcycle accident attorney, I know that Florida’s motorcycle helmet law can be confusing.  So I wanted to explain that although many bikers aren’t required to wear helmets, there are still legal reasons why you should.  If you suffered head trauma in your motorcycle accident, then the defense will have an argument that you were partly to blame for your injuries.  That doesn’t mean you can’t recover any money.  It just means that the arguments become more complicated.  Essentially non-helmet usage will require your Orlando biker attorney to develop the argument that you would have suffered the same injury with a helmet (which often involves getting doctors to testify).

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I know there are a lot of motorcycle riders who are passionate about their right not to wear a helmet.  There are also many bikers who believe that riding with a helmet is more dangerous.  Their reasons vary.  But some believe that helmets reduce motorcyclist ability to hear traffic & peripheral vision.  Plus, they believe motorcycle helmets do not improve neck injuries but can actually make them worse due to the added weight.  They also don’t want to be hot, and love the freedom of the wind in their hair.

Motorcycle Helmet Accident Value Florida

 

What Bikers & Others Have Said About The Dangers Of Not Wearing A Motorcycle Helmet

As an Orlando motorcycle accident attorney, I can tell you there are many very solid reasons for always wearing your motorcycle helmet.  But, before I get to the stats and legal reasons, I wanted to share what riders and others think.

You can find a lot of practical advice online from other motorcycle riders & their experiences with helmets.  I think a few of their comments make the point better than the stats.  One biker said:

“A helmet will only protect you from a narrow range of head injuries but do nothing to protect you from life-changing hand, foot, back or neck injuries.”

I do agree with his next statement, which was:

“Learning to ride well and defensively will achieve far more if your concern is personal safety.”

Still, even if you are driving defensively, some other negligent driver still might hit you.  And, there are many stats showing that riders who wear helmets have fewer serious injuries and fatalities during accidents.  So, as an Orlando motorcycle accident attorney, I am compelled to support the AGATT rule (All The Gear, All The Time).  One employee of an Orlando personal injury law firm was even more blunt when she said:

“Doctors and EMTs called motorcycles organ donor mobiles for a reason.  Plus, failing to wear a helmet makes a brain injury all the more likely.  Studies on traumatic brain injuries show us that even a small bump on the head can result in serious problems later on.”

Another motorcycle rider explained why he always wears his helmet, and all other gear:

“There are 2 kinds of riders. The ones that have been down and the ones that are going down. I have been down and did the superman pavement slide wearing a full face helmet. Without it I would have lost my lower mandible if not worse. Instead I lost a piece of one of my toes (because I was wearing dress shoes instead of boots).”

And yet another rider talked about his several motorcycle accidents:

“Motorcycle rider here, wouldn’t dream of going out on the bike without a helmet not only because its illegal here but also after a few falls I was damn glad to crack and ruin my helmet rather than my head!

There is a reason ER departments in hospitals call them donorcycles!”

This biker was thankful for his helmet, and gives a stern and truthful warning:

“As a rider who crashed wearing a full face helmet who had no head injuries, I can tell you that all motorcyclists eventually crash. Crashing with no helmet or a top of head “beanie” helmet leads to brain injury, massive injuries and death.”

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Do You Have To Wear A Motorcycle Helmet In Orlando?

In 2000, Florida almost completely eliminated the requirement to wear a motorcycle helmet.  Some people still must legally wear a helmet.  The law basically says that if you are 21 years old, and you have at least 10K in medical insurance, then you do not have to wear a helmet.  You also do not need a helmet on less powerful motor bikes.

Why You Should Wear A Motorcycle Helmet, Even Though They Are Not Legally Required In Orlando

Even though most riders aren’t legally required to wear one, there are many good legal and practical reasons that you still should.

Florida Motorcycle Accident Fatalities Increased After The Helmet Law Change

First, there is no denying that riding with a motorcycle helmet is safer.  After Florida eliminated the helmet requirement for most riders, the statistics for Florida motorcycle accident deaths and fatalities substantially increased.  But, so did biker registrations.  Some claimed that the increased registrations, or miles traveled, were the reason for the rising death toll from motorcycle accidents.  However, even after adjusting for the increased motorcycle registrations, there have been many more serious injuries and deaths since Florida’s law changed.  Specifically, there was a 48.6% increase in motorcycle occupant deaths the year after Florida’s helmet law changed.  Those increases were 38.2% and 21.3% when controlled for travel miles and motorcycle registrations.

In cold hard tragic numbers, in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Florida motorcycle deaths totaled 382, 452 and 457, respectively.

More Motorcycle Accident Deaths In States With Relaxed Helmet Laws (Like Florida)

The CDC reports that, between 2008 and 2010, 14,283 motorcyclists were killed in crashes.  42% of them, or 6,057, were not wearing helmets.  However, the percentage of bikers killed when not wearing their helmets increased in the states with more relaxed helmet laws.  Specifically, in the 20 states with a universal helmet law, 739 (12%) fatally injured motorcyclists were not wearing a helmet.  But, there were 4,814 motorcyclist accident deaths (64%) in the 27 states with partial helmet laws (like Florida) and 504 (79%) motorcyclist accident deaths in the three states without a helmet law.

In other words, in states with motorcycle helmet laws like Florida’s, 64% of bikers were not wearing their helmets during motorcycle death accidents.

Beyond safety, many riders may not understand some of the legal implications of not wearing a helmet.

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If You Weren’t Wearing Your Helmet, You May (Or May Not) Get Less Money From Your Orlando Motorcycle Accident Injury Claim, Even If You Didn’t Cause The Accident

Beyond the helmet law, here’s the other BIG legal concern.

Many riders might wrongfully assume that, since motorcycle helmets are not required in Florida, they will always be able to recover full compensation for their injuries after any motorcycle accident caused by another driver.  Unfortunately, that may or may not be true.

Florida has a law called “comparative negligence.”  That means that jurors can assign percentage fault to anyone involved in an accident.  Therefore, even if a car illegally turned in front of a motorcycle rider, and caused a motorcycle accident, the defense lawyers could still argue that the biker was negligent for not wearing his motorcycle helmet.  Therefore, any jury could consider that a motorcycle rider was not wearing his helmet, when deciding how much percentage blame they should have for their own injuries.  So, for example, the jury might find that the negligence of the car driver contributed 50% to your injuries, and what they believe was your negligence for not wearing your helmet contributed 50% to your injuries.  If that happened, and a jury found you had $300,000 in damages, the judge would reduce your award to $150,000, by offsetting your percentage of fault.

You Have A Better Orlando Motorcycle Accident Case If You Were Wearing Your Helmet

On a positive legal note, if you were wearing your helmet, your Florida motorcycle accident attorney may use that fact to argue that you were being a safe, responsible driver.  Wearing your helmet helps prove that you didn’t make your injuries worse.  So your lawyer can argue, with much more force, that any jury should not find your were any percent responsible for your own injuries.

How To Recover Good Compensation From An Orlando Motorcycle Accident Even If You Weren’t Wearing Your Helmet

Although wearing your helmet gives you the strongest legal case, there are several ways to get more money from your motorcycle accident case, even if you were not wearing your helmet.

For starters, my list of the top ten ways to increase the value of any car accident case applies equally to motorcycle accident cases.  So you should study that list.

Beyond those basics, a diligent attorney may often find arguments that reduce your percentage of negligence.

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First Argument: Injuries Not Related To Helmet Usage

If you fractured your femur during a motorcycle accident, there isn’t any argument that your failure to wear your helmet contributed to your injuries.  But if you injured your neck or head, such as a traumatic brain injury, the job becomes more difficult.   However, there are still creative ways to minimize your fault.

Second Argument: Helmet Wouldn’t Have Changed Outcome

In the most serious and tragic accidents, such as a fatal motorcycle accident crash, a skilled motorcycle accident attorney may be able to produce expert testimony basically saying that wearing a helmet wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

Third Argument: The Other Driver Was Worse

Another tactic that an aggressive Orlando motorcycle accident attorney can use to fight the “he wasn’t wearing his helmet” argument is to present more evidence about the other driver’s negligence.

Case Story Where Jury Award Was Reduced Based On Failure To Wear Helmet

In one Florida case, a passenger riding on a motor scooter was injured after a car turned into her lane. The passenger was not wearing her helmet, and suffered a permanent traumatic brain injury (TBI).  The car driver admitted that he was negligent.  But he argued that the injured motorcycle passenger’s damages should be reduced because of her failure to wear a helmet.

In that case, before the appeal, the jury found that the injured passenger’s damages were worth $11,802,488.80.  (This was a very unusually high verdict because of the severity of the injuries.)  However, the jury decided that she was 67% at fault for her motorcycle accident injuries (because she didn’t wear her helmet), while the other driver was only 33% at fault. Because of the jury assignment of fault percentages, the judge reduced her damages for a catastrophic brain injury to $3,827,621.30.  Put simply, that’s almost 8 million dollars lost for not wearing a motorcycle helmet.

However, that jury verdict was reversed on appeal, resulting in some judge made law that allows any injured plaintiff to tell the jury about any evidence about the at-fault driver’s negligence, even when the at-fault driver admits liability.  So, in that case, the at-fault driver didn’t have a driver’s license, had only driven a car once before the accident, didn’t remember if he was wearing glasses during the crash, and failed to take medication for depression and anger management on day of accident.  The trial judge had excluded those facts at the initial trial, because the at-fault driver admitted liability.  But one of Florida’s appellate courts decided that the jury should hear that type of evidence.  (The post-appeal settlement results weren’t reported.  But my random guess is that case would have settled somewhere right in between those two numbers after the appeal.)

But, the point is that an Orlando motorcycle accident lawyer can be diligent during discovery (a time period when both parties request & receive evidence from each other) in an attempt to find ALL of the ways that the at-fault driver might have been negligent.  If they find additional facts suggesting negligence (besides whatever happened during the accident itself), then they have a stronger argument that any jury should give less weight to the fact that the motorcycle rider wasn’t wearing his helmet.

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Your Gear Says Something About How Much You Tried To Protect Yourself

Still, in very serious head injury or fatality cases, you can bet that whether a rider was wearing a helmet, and even the type of helmet, such as novelty helmets versus full-face helmets, would be closely analyzed by attorneys on both sides of any motorcycle accident case, along with every relevant aspect of all gear worn, or not worn, by the rider.

Insurance Companies Probably Wouldn’t Want To Risk An Insanely High Jury Verdict

If another driver caused a serious injury or death motorcycle accident, let’s say by cutting off a motorcyclist who was abiding by the rules of the road, the practical reality is that most insurance defense lawyers wouldn’t want to risk going to a jury with only the “yeah but he wasn’t wearing his helmet” argument.  So injured bikers not wearing their helmets may still recover a substantial amount of money in serious motorcycle accident injury cases if they didn’t cause the accident.  They just have to be prepared to accept, during settlement negotiations, that they might get less than someone similarly injured who was also wearing their helmet (but only in head or neck injury cases).

So, bottom line, even if you weren’t wearing your helmet, if another driver caused you to crash your motorcycle, you can still potentially recover a lot of money, and those cases are absolutely worth pursuing.

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Other Motorcycle Accident Posts:

How Motorcycle Accident Cases Are Different From Other Auto Accident Cases

Whose To Blame In Motorcycle Accident Cases?

Related Posts:

Why You Shouldn’t Deal With Any Insurance Company Alone

Texting & Driving Accidents

Drunk Driving Accidents

Personal Injury Lawsuit Basics

Why Hire Tina?

 

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About the Author:

Tina Willis is a Florida & Georgia personal injury & wrongful death attorney. This includes auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, products & premises liability cases, as well as medical malpractice cases.

Ms. Willis operates a boutique law firm from Orlando, Florida, focused on maintaining a reasonable case load so that she can provide personalized service to each and every one of her clients. She spends a tremendous amount of time helping her clients understand how they can help increase the value of their cases, sometimes significantly.

After graduating second in her class from Florida State University College of Law in 1995, Ms. Willis worked as an attorney for two large Atlanta defense firms, where she practiced employment and excess insurer defense. Ms. Willis also worked as a professor of Civil Procedure & Advanced Legal Writing at Barry University in Orlando, Florida. Ms. Willis has a “superb” AVVO rating, and was selected by the National Trial Lawyers, as a “Top 100 Trial Lawyer.”

She now devotes her passion and compassion to her unwavering goal of helping her clients fully achieve the justice they deserve, in the form of maximum compensation for their injuries and losses. Before you hire another law firm, you owe it to yourself to hear what Ms. Willis has to say. Consultations and representation never cost you a penny until she wins your case.

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