08.3.21

Can I File a Motorcycle Accident Claim if I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?

If you get into a motorcycle accident while you are not wearing a helmet, this may impact your injury claim. Do not assume, however, that you automatically do not have a case if you weren’t wearing a helmet. Failure to wear a helmet often does not affect the outcome of an injury case. You may still be eligible for financial compensation. Consult with a motorcycle accident attorney in Kansas City for advice about your particular case.

What Are the Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Kansas City?

Kansas City poses a unique challenge for motorcyclists. County lines span across the state line between Kansas and Missouri. The laws – including helmet laws – in these two states are very different. A motorcyclist may have to make changes to obey the law as he or she crosses over state lines in KC.

Kansas law does not require motorcyclists over the age of 18 to wear helmets. No city or county has local statutes that enforce different rules. Missouri, on the other hand, has a universal law requiring all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear protective helmets at all times.

What Is the Helmet Defense? When Can it Be Used?

A defendant (at-fault party) trying to use the fact that the plaintiff (injured party) was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash to avoid liability for the injuries in question is what is known as the helmet defense. The helmet defense is not allowed in every state. In states that do allow this defense, it is generally only an option if the injury in question reasonably would have been prevented had the motorcyclist been wearing a helmet, such as a traumatic brain injury or missing teeth.

In other states, the helmet defense can only be used if the motorcyclist was breaking state law by not wearing one. If it was the motorcyclist’s choice to wear a helmet or not under state law, not wearing one may not be proof of negligence. Therefore, the defendant may not be able to use a lack of helmet wearing against the plaintiff. Since Missouri has a universal helmet law for motorcyclists, however, it may be possible for a defendant to use the helmet defense to place some of the blame on the injured motorcyclist.

If you weren’t wearing a helmet during your motorcycle accident in Missouri, this may be used against you during a personal injury case. However, this defense will not work to shift 100 percent of the blame for the accident to you. In Missouri, the law states that an insurance company can only use helmet nonuse to reduce a claimant’s damages by a maximum of 1 percent, and only if the insurer can prove to a jury that you were not wearing a helmet and that this was a proximate cause of your injuries. In other words, not wearing a helmet alone will not bar you from financial recovery.

Comparative Fault in Missouri

Comparative fault is a law that allows a plaintiff to recover financial compensation even if he or she was partially to blame for the accident. Missouri is a pure comparative fault state, meaning that a plaintiff can bear any degree of fault, short of 100 percent, and still recover some compensation. The courts will simply reduce the award by the plaintiff’s amount of blame. In Missouri, the helmet defense has nothing to do with comparative fault. Comparative fault deals with who or what caused the crash, not whether the motorcyclist’s injuries could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. 

The helmet defense is a complicated legal subject that may require assistance from an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in Kansas City. For more information about your particular case, contact Wendt Law Firm, P.C. for a free consultation.

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