Motorcycle accidents often result in severe injuries for operators and passengers. However, studies have shown that motorcyclists who wear a helmet are much more likely to sustain less severe head and brain injuries if a crash occurs. Unlike other states that only require that motorcyclists wear helmets if they are under a certain age, Georgia requires all motorcycle riders to wear a DOT-approved helmet. So, what happens if a motorcyclist is injured in an accident and they were not wearing a helmet? Can this affect their motorcycle accident claim?
Motorcycle helmet laws in Georgia
Georgia passed its first motorcycle helmet law back in 1969. Since that time, the law has not changed much. When we turn to GA Law 40-6-315, we can see that this state requires all motorcyclists, including operators and their passengers, to wear a helmet when operating or riding on the motorcycle.
There are some exceptions to the universal motorcycle helmet law. First, this does not apply to any rider inside of an enclosed cab or a motorized cart. This law also does not apply to any three-wheeled motorcycle used for agricultural purposes.
All motorcyclists must wear a helmet that meets federal Department of Transportation helmet standards that are explained in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218. These standards discuss requirements for a helmet’s energy absorption, penetration resistance, and overall effectiveness. There are also requirements about the helmet having proper labeling that indicates DOT compliance.
Can I Still Recover Compensation?
In Georgia, the non-use of a motorcycle helmet could affect an injury settlement if a collision occurs. For example, let us suppose that a motorcyclist who is not wearing a helmet is rear-ended by another driver on the roadway. Suppose the motorcyclist sustains a traumatic brain injury as a result of the collision.
In most cases, rear-end drivers will be held liable if their negligence caused the collision. However, in this case, it could be argued that the motorcyclist is negligent per se (negligence cause by violating a law) because they violated the law by not wearing a helmet. The at-fault driver and the insurance carrier could argue that the motorcyclist is completely or partially to blame for the brain injury because, had they been wearing a helmet, the injury would not have occurred in the first place.
Now, what is very likely to happen here is that both parties will share some of the blame for the injuries. Georgia operates under a modified comparative negligence system. This means that accident victims can still recover compensation for their injuries if they are less than 50% at fault for the incident. However, the total amount of compensation they receive will be reduced based on their percentage of fault.
In our scenario above, it could be the case that a personal injury jury finds that the motorcyclist was 25% to blame for their injuries because they were not wearing a helmet, but the driver was 75% responsible for the crash. If the motorcyclist is awarded $100,000 in damages, they would receive $75,000 to account for their 25% of the fault.
Any motorcyclist involved in a crash caused by the negligence of another driver needs to speak to a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as they can. An attorney can fully investigate these cases and help properly assign a liability so the motorcyclist can recover as much compensation as possible.