Can I Recover Damages After a Motorcycle Accident If I Was Not Wearing a Helmet?

According to the State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 112 motorcyclists were killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2020. Another 1,796 people were injured in motorcycle accidents the same year. If you or a loved one is involved in a motorcycle accident, you might wonder whether wearing a helmet will impact your claim. Here is what you need to know about this issue.

What is Wisconsin’s Motorcycle Helmet Law?

Wisconsin law only requires motorcyclists to wear a helmet if they are under 18 years of age or they hold a motorcycle instructional permit.

The Argument for Not Considering Helmet Use

Accident victims and their advocates logically argue that helmet use should not be considered in accident cases because the accident is caused by some other factor, not because the motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet. For example, the driver of the passenger vehicle may crash into a motorcyclist because they were:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted
  • Impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Following too closely
  • Not yielding the right-of-way

Even if the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet, this factor would not have prevented the accident from happening. In some accident cases, helmet use is irrelevant because the motorcyclist does not suffer head injuries.

Additionally, in states like Wisconsin where adult motorcyclists are not required to wear helmets, it would be unfair to penalize them for any resulting accident.

The Argument for Reducing Compensation

Motorcycle accidents often result in serious injuries and victims incur significant damages. Those who cause motorcycle accidents – and their insurers – often want to try to limit their responsibility. They may try to argue that the motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet is negligence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that motorcycle helmets are 67% effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries and reduce the risk of fatality by 29%. It is widely known that helmets can save lives. When an accident victim contributes to the accident, Wisconsin law still allows them to pursue an accident claim so long as their negligence was not greater than the negligence of the defendant. However, their damages can be reduced by their degree of negligence. For example, if an accident victim suffered $100,000 in damages but is found to be 10% at fault, their damages would be reduced by $10,000, so their recovery would be $90,000.

Wisconsin Law on Helmet Use in Personal Injury Claims

Despite the state’s contributory negligence law, Wisconsin does not allow defendants to raise the lack of helmet use as a defense in a personal injury claim. Wisconsin law states that “failure by a person who operates…a motorcycle…to use protective headgear shall not reduce recovery for injuries or damages by the person or the person’s legal representative in any civil action.”

How Can the Lack of Helmet Use Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

Despite Wisconsin’s law that directly prohibits defendants from arguing that the lack of helmet use cannot be raised as a defense to a personal injury claim, the insurance company or defendant may still try to argue you are partially responsible for the injuries you suffered. If you were injured in an accident on a motorcycle, moped, scooter, or other motorized bike, you should speak with an experienced lawyer who can protect your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.