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What Happens if You Get into an Accident on a Motorcycle but Weren’t Wearing a Helmet in New Jersey?

NJ Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

Motorcycle riders – adults and children alike – are required to wear helmets in New Jersey.  If you are caught riding without a helmet, you could end up facing a fine.  If you get into an accident without a helmet, you could even face serious injuries and a higher chance of death.    Since it is illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, can that hurt your ability to sue for injuries after a motorcycle accident?

Fortunately, many motorcycle accident victims in New Jersey are still able to sue after being involved in an accident without a helmet.  However, your lack of a helmet could be seen as a contributing factor to your injuries.  That could allow the court to reduce your compensation or even block compensation altogether.  Ultimately, the facts of your specific case are important in determining how not wearing a helmet will affect the case.

For help with your motorcycle injuries, contact NJ motorcycle accident lawyer Jerry Friedman today.  Jerry helps victims get compensation for their injuries.  For a free case consultation, call us today at 1-800-529-4464.

New Jersey Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Under N.J.S.A. § 39:3-76.7, no one can ride or operate a motorcycle without a helmet.  Helmets have to follow certain specifications.  These specs are usually in line with U.S. Department of Transportation requirements, so any DOT-certified helmet should satisfy NJ’s helmet requirements.  If your motorcycle doesn’t have a wind screen, your helmet must include a face shield.  If you don’t have either a wind screen or a face shield, you have to wear protective eye goggles along with your helmet.

Some states only require children to wear helmets and give adult riders the choice.  New Jersey does not do this, and anyone on a motorcycle must wear a helmet.  Many people argue that it’s their head that’s at risk if they don’t wear a helmet, so the government shouldn’t make them wear a helmet.  This law has even been challenged on similar grounds, but the current statute (cited above) is still in effect in NJ.

If you are caught without a helmet – whether you were involved in an accident or not – you could face a fine.  The same is true if another rider is not wearing a helmet, so riders are generally expected to keep a spare helmet available for passengers or to make sure passengers have their own helmet.

Suing for Accidents Without a Helmet in NJ

If you are involved in an accident, you may be able to sue for damages whether you had a helmet on or not.  Helmets are very good at preventing head injuries, and they overall improve your chance of survival in a serious crash.  However, they don’t do much to protect the rest of your body beyond your head and neck, and a missing helmet is unlikely to cause a crash.  This makes helmet use an interesting factor in many motorcycle accidents.

Missing Helmet as a Cause of the Accident

In general, accidents are typically caused by a combination of factors.  Car accidents and motorcycle accidents can be partially caused by both drivers in a two-vehicle collision (or all drivers in a multi-vehicle collision).  Courts can typically assign partial blame to each driver or operator, and they are responsible for that share of damages for the victim.  This assignment of blame comes under NJ’s comparative negligence rules.

Failing to wear a helmet is not likely to be an actual cause of the accident.  Problems seeing because of a lack of face shield could be a factor, as could a bump on the head from a flying piece of debris that would have just bounced off a helmet.  Otherwise, it is unlikely that your accident happened because you didn’t have a helmet on.  In this respect, it is difficult for a defendant to claim that your accident was your fault just because you weren’t wearing a helmet.

This may allow the at-fault driver to shift some of the blame to you, but it is unlikely that a court would say you are more than 50% at-fault for the accident just because you didn’t have a helmet on.  If you are more at-fault than the other driver, courts can block damages – but that is unlikely to happen with missing helmet cases if the injuries did not involve your head, face, or neck.

Missing Helmet as a Cause of Injury

In a motorcycle accident case, the court is more concerned with how the specific injuries happened than how the crash itself happened.  Just as the court can assign blame to each driver for causing the crash, they can also assign blame for causing the injuries.  If you were seriously injured in a motorcycle crash, but the injuries had nothing to do with your helmet usage, then the court is unlikely to put the blame on you.

If you suffered head injuries in the crash, it is possible that the damage could have been mitigated or avoided altogether by wearing a helmet.  In these cases, the court could say that the victim was partially at fault for their injuries.  Obviously, the accident would not have happened at all if the other driver didn’t hit you, but it’s possible the cause of injury could be closer to 50/50: 50% the other driver’s fault for causing the crash and 50% your fault for failing to protect yourself with a helmet.

Again, if the court finds that you were more at fault than the other driver, your case will be barred.  If the court merely finds you partially at fault – but less than the other driver – your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Call Our Motorcycle Injury Lawyer in NJ for Help

After a serious motorcycle accident, you need the help of an experienced Trenton motorcycle accident attorney.  Call 1-800-529-4464 to schedule a free case consultation with Jerry Friedman.

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