For your own safety, always wear a helmet whenever you ride your bike. Going without a helmet is tempting fate. All it takes is one fall or accident for you to suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries.
However, it’s not just for safety reasons that you should be sure to wear a helmet every time you go for a ride. If you do suffer injuries in an accident and decide to seek monetary compensation through a personal injury claim, there’s a chance the outcome of your case could come down to whether you had a helmet on at the time of the crash.
Helmets are necessary to maximize safety
Research indicates that even the most careful bicyclists are likely to crash approximately once every 4,500 miles, on average. The likelihood of an accident rises sharply in urban areas, where riders encounter far more vehicles and hazards on the roads.
In New York City, 97 percent of all cycling deaths and 87 percent of serious injuries to bicyclists occurred to people who were not wearing helmets. On the whole, head injuries account for about 75 percent of the approximately 700 bicycle deaths that happen nationally every year. And, research from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute shows that helmets can either reduce the severity of these injuries or prevent them entirely in about two-thirds of cases.
Helmet use and comparative negligence
Because of the wealth of evidence that helmets reduce injuries and deaths in bicycling accidents, an insurance claims adjuster or judge may look favorably upon those who wear helmets. Conversely, they may see a refusal to wear a helmet as an indication that an individual did not take steps to protect his or her own safety.
If you do not settle your claim and it goes to trial, violations of helmet laws or comparative negligence issues may be used against you. This can be true even if your crash and resulting injuries happen in an area that does not have helmet laws.
If a judge or jury is allowed to consider your lack of a helmet as evidence of comparative negligence, it could result in a verdict that leads to one of the following:
- Reduces your negligence to an amount less than what an adjuster said it was
- Reduces your negligence to the same amount an adjuster said it was
- Increases your negligence to a greater amount than what the adjuster said it was
- Entirely ignores comparative negligence issues altogether
- Finds you were totally responsible for the accident, resulting in no compensation
There is no federal law regarding the use bicycle helmets, so you must be familiar with your local laws and ordinances. States may enact helmet laws, but in many cases, local jurisdictions such as cities and counties have rules of their own that could affect your claim.
For further information and guidance on your options after a serious bicycle accident, meet with a skilled New York personal injury attorney at The Law Offices of Evan W. Kohn.