Motorcycle Accident Injuries: Can I Still Recover Damages If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?
The state of Georgia requires that all motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet while riding, regardless of age, in accordance with the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is Section 40-6-315. Because riding without a helmet violates this law, it is less likely that a motorcyclist can receive financial compensation for their losses in a personal injury claim. The injury lawyers at atlantapiattorney.com/motorcycle-accidents/ say that the outcome of your case could depend on the circumstances surrounding your accident and suggest seeking the advice of a personal injury attorney in Atlanta.
The law in Georgia specifies that operators of motorcycles and their passengers must wear a helmet. Additionally, the helmet must meet the requirements set forth by Georgia’s Commissioner of Public Safety, which generally states that the helmet must be approved by the Department of Transportation. All riders should familiarize themselves with the regulations for approved helmets.
Although it’s harder to recover damages if you weren’t wearing a helmet during your crash, your attorney can argue for exceptions. Certainly, by hiring a personal injury attorney, you have a higher chance of recovering damages. This is because Georgia is a “fault state,” which means it’s not an “all or nothing” situation. Anyone who was injured in an accident may file a claim to receive damages.
If you were injured and had been wearing a helmet, then you would have recovered the full amount of your losses, but since you weren’t, you can still recoup some of your financial losses stemming from your:
- Medical expenses (emergency room, follow-up doctors visits, prescription medications)
- Lost wages
- Future lost earnings
- Damage to your motorcycle
- Pain and suffering
The situations in which you could still receive some compensation, even if not full compensation, would be when the other driver was also negligent while behind the wheel. The other driver could still be responsible for your injuries if they were intoxicated, fatigued, speeding, texting, or violating traffic laws in any other way.
Fault is determined by the insurance company, which will argue that it was careless and negligent of you not to wear a helmet. They may deny your claim on the argument that your injuries would have been less severe had you been wearing protective clothing. However, if the other driver was responsible for your injuries due to their negligence, an attorney can argue that not wearing a helmet isn’t what caused the accident, and will fight for you to get the best settlement possible.
A helmet doesn’t just protect against head injury. They’re also intended to protect riders from windblasts, insects, stones, rain, and cold. The Department of Driver Services recommends not just wearing a helmet but protecting your whole body while riding. This includes wearing:
- Gloves rather than riding with bare hands, which can become locked in a curled position when it’s cold
- A sturdy jacket rather than bare limbs to protect against sunburn, hypothermia, dehydration, and abrasions
- Sturdy pants rather than shorts, for the same reasons above
- Boots rather than flip flops, to protect your feet and ankles
- A face shield to protect against any flying objects
The CDC reports that the United States could save more than $1 billion in economic costs every year if all motorcyclists wore helmets. Among the types of motorcycle injuries include:
- Road rash
- Traumatic brain injuries (concussion, coma)
- Facial cuts and disfigurement
- Fractures of the pelvis, shoulders, arms, wrist, and ribs
- Spine and back injuries
- Broken limbs
- Cuts and lacerations
- Internal organ damage
Cars provide a protective barrier that takes the force of an accident, but motorcycles don’t. Hence, motorcycle injuries tend to be more severe. Often motorcyclists will need amputations, multiple surgeries, and years of physical therapy after their accident.
This is a controversial topic in motorcycle circles, and there’s certainly a time and place to have this debate. However you feel about this topic, when you get your driver’s license, you sign agreeing to all applicable laws. This includes agreeing to owe a duty of care to others.
A duty of care is a legal term that is imposed on driver’s license holders that requires them to adhere to traffic laws. Drivers owe a duty of care to each other to drive soberly, within the speed limit, and with focus. You are required to use reasonable care when operating your motorcycle, and that includes wearing protective gear and abiding by the traffic code, regardless of your personal philosophy.
Working with an experienced personal injury attorney is the best choice when dealing with a claim for an accident that occurred when you weren’t following the law. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation, so there’s no risk in speaking to a legal expert and having a professional case evaluation.
Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible losses. Unlike your medical expenses and other financial losses, non-economic damages such as pain and suffering are much harder to quantify. However, the law allows for you to recover damages for:
- Emotional distress
- Lost sexual function
- Lost companionship
- Permanent disfigurement
- Loss of the use of an organ
- Lost enjoyment of life
Again, if you were not wearing a helmet, these damages would be harder to recover, just like economic damages. Your best hope is to contact a personal injury attorney who has experience in fighting the insurance companies when they do not want to pay economic or noneconomic damages on the basis that you were violating the law at the time of the accident. An attorney who has been successful in these types of cases in the past can tell you what your case is worth, what to expect and what your rights are.