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Can I sue the other driver for my head injury if I wasn’t wearing a motorcycle helmet?

After a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be wondering if you can get compensation for head injuries, although you weren’t wearing a helmet. There are several considerations here that apply.

Comparative Negligence

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an overwhelming body of evidence shows that wearing a motorcycle helmet greatly reduces injury in an accident. This leaves an injured motorist legally vulnerable, even when he or she did not cause the accident. Failure to wear a helmet may be enough to declare comparative negligence. This means that even though it was another driver’s fault, the injured motorcyclist is also responsible. Specifically, the motorcycle rider cannot claim head or neck injuries.

As opposed to trying to convince a criminal court that you aren’t at fault, you are working with an insurance adjuster where the burden of proof is different. You and your doctor will have to certify that the lack of a helmet did not lead to your injuries. This is difficult to do in the face of overwhelming evidence that helmets significantly reduce head injuries.

State Laws

Only three U.S. States — New Hampshire, Illinois and Iowa – do not require a motorcycle helmet for the driver and any passenger. All other states have some law on the books. Many of these laws are universally applied to people of all ages. Just as many are applied to drivers under a certain age (21, 19, or 18, depending on the state). Even if your state’s motorcycle helmet law is lenient or non-existent, it will not stop insurance adjusters from insisting that a helmet should have been worn. The universal acceptance of the need for helmets, not the laws themselves, generally supersedes the injured person’s right to compensation.

No-Fault States

In 12 states there are no-fault laws that leave an injured person with little remedy even if the other vehicle caused the accident. In these cases, it is particularly difficult for motorcyclists who are injured without a helmet. These states may allow the motorcyclist to petition their own insurance company for compensation but not to seek damages from the other driver’s insurance company.


In many states, you can get help from the other party’s insurance if fault is determined. This is especially true with drunk driving and negligence cases. While comparative negligence may reduce your compensation, it doesn’t have to eliminate it entirely. In a case like this, it is imperative to have good representation to prevent insurance adjusters from dismissing your entire claim. There may be gray areas in the law which can be used for you by your attorney or against you by an insurance adjuster. The key is to know your rights and get the help you need for a favorable outcome. A motorcycle accident lawyer Salt Lake City UT citizens recommend can help determine if this is a route you should pursue.

In these cases, many injured parties seek a personal injury attorney. An experienced lawyer understands the complexity of insurance laws as well as traffic laws and safety regulations. There may be help if the right arguments are made at the right time. Swift intervention before the process is too far along can help secure the compensated medical care that you need.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Rasmussen & Miner for their insight into motorcycle accidents.