Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
Helmet and lane splitting laws are governed at the state level. For motorcyclists riding across the country, this poses a dilemma in that laws change every time they cross a state border. As of 2006, only Colorado, Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire have no helmet laws. Twenty states require that all riders wear helmets certified by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The remaining states have helmet laws depending on the age or experience of the rider and on whether the rider is covered with medical insurance.
If you were not wearing a helmet and were involved in a motorcycle accident in a state with a mandatory helmet law, you may still be able to recover damages for your injuries if someone else caused the accident. Depending on the state in which the accident occurred, the amount of damages you recover may be mitigated by how much your failure to wear a helmet contributed to your injuries. This may differ from “comparative negligence”, which allocates fault among drivers based on the degree of carelessness that contributed to the accident, not to the injuries you suffered. Comparative negligence, however, may also be applied in assessing damages.
In other words, the lack of a helmet is not likely relevant in assessing damages if your injuries were other than to the head. But considering that the vast majority of injuries in motorcycle accidents are serious or fatal, many involving injuries to the head, it behooves motorcycle riders to wear helmets for liability as well as safety reasons. It was estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that helmets saved approximately 1158 lives in 2003 and that another 640 lives could have saved had helmets been worn.
Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rider travels between car lanes on congested roads and it is only legal in California if done in a “safe and prudent manner”. Lane sharing, however, or when two motorcycles occupy the same lane, is legal in most states.
If you were involved in an accident while lane splitting, the assessment of responsibility for your injuries will depend on many factors, not least of which will be a judgment call on the part of the police. Other factors may include:
- Did the driver of the other vehicle signal his or her intention to switch lanes?
- Was the driver of the other vehicle driving recklessly?
- What was your speed relative to the rest of the traffic?
- Did you commit other violations that contributed to your injury?
If you were going faster than the rest of the traffic, you may not have been visible to the other driver in his or her rearview mirror before the other driver made his or her move. For both safety and liability reasons, placing yourself in another vehicle’s blind spot is usually a potential problem. In most cases, however, the law tends to favor the party that was struck.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident anywhere in the United States, you should retain an experienced motorcycle accident claims attorney to help you get the most from your claim.