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Do Helmet Laws Affect Fault in a Motorcycle Accident?

Las Vegas requires all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets that conform to the safety standards of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). These standards allow either a full-face or a three-quarter head covering, and must also have:

  • An inner liner one-inch thick of firm polystyrene foam
  • A chin strap with solid rivets
  • Weight not less than three pounds
  • A snug fit on the rider’s or passenger’s head
  • No defects such as cracks, frayed straps, loose padding, or other damage

Failure to wear a helmet can result in fines, points on the rider’s driver’s license, and serious head injuries if the rider or passenger is involved in an accident. Helmetless riders have acquired the grim name of “organ donors” from ambulance and emergency room personnel.

Although helmets are not enjoyable to wear, studies have shown repeatedly that they do save lives and prevent serious injuries. Wearing a helmet is also required by most insurance carriers, and could be a condition of coverage regardless of who is determined to be at fault in an accident. Before deciding not to wear a helmet, check your insurance policy and see if you are voiding your policy by refusing to wear a DOT-approved helmet.

Determining Fault in an Accident

Nevada is a comparative fault state. This means that an individual involved in an accident may still recover some compensation, even if they are partially responsible for their injuries. Their compensation will be reduced by the percentage they are held to be at fault.

However, there is a catch. Under Nevada’s comparative fault laws, the individual who is more than 51 percent responsible for an accident may not recover any compensation for losses or injuries they sustained in the accident. This complicated formula can be explained like this.

If two people are involved in an accident, A and B, and A is 30 percent responsible and B is 70 percent responsible, then A can recover for their injury and B cannot. However, if A is 30 percent responsible, B is 40 percent responsible, and 30 percent is blamed on some other cause, such as ice on the road, then both can recover. In the real world, things are very rarely this easy to decide.

How Helmets Determine Fault

Since wearing a helmet is required by law, failing to wear a helmet can be seen as a requirement, and therefore the rider would bear some fault for their injuries in an accident. How much or how little would be a determination for the court.  However, there is no denying that helmets protect against injury and may prevent the rider from suffering serious damage in even the worst of accidents.

On the other hand, failure to wear a helmet is unlikely to have been the actual cause of an accident. Assuming that the rider was otherwise doing everything correctly, then fault would be apportioned according to who was most responsible for the accident itself.

For example, if A is a motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet, but otherwise obeying all the rules of the road, and B is a drunk driver who swerved across the center divider and struck A, then B would probably be judged more at fault in the accident and the cause of A’s injuries, despite A’s failure to wear a helmet.

What Should I Do If I Am Involved in a Motorcycle Accident?

Whether or not you are wearing a helmet, the first thing to do is always to seek medical attention, even if you believe you have not been seriously injured. Even with a helmet, it is possible to get a serious concussion or another head injury, so you should be checked out by a doctor.

Obtain the insurance information from all other drivers involved in the accident, and get contact information from any witnesses and passengers as well. Try to get photos of the accident, especially of your motorcycle and the other vehicle.

Because of the difference in size between motorcycles and cars, a car can strike a motorcycle and suffer comparatively little damage. It is important to document the damage to you and your motorcycle so that the other driver cannot claim that the accident was low-speed or that their car was not damaged and so your injuries should have been minor.

You should consult an attorney as soon as possible. The Las Vegas motorcycle accident attorneys of Adam S. Kutner Accident & Injury Attorneys are knowledgeable in the helmet laws of Nevada and know how to protect your interests and rights in any type of motor vehicle accident.

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