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Motorcycle Accidents and Comparative Negligence

 If I'm Not Wearing a Helmet in a Motorcycle Crash, Is It Comparative Negligence?

If you've been injured in a motorcycle crash, you're likely wondering whether you should bring a personal injury suit against the other person involved, what the process will be like, and what the outcome might be.

If you sustained motorcycle crash injuries and decide to take your case to court, your lawyer will present the case and the arguments, at which point the judge and/or the jury will decide who is responsible for causing the damage and award compensation accordingly.

Often, a judge or jury apportions fault to just one person involved in the accident. However, sometimes a jury finds that both parties in the accident were negligent. This outcome is known as comparative negligence.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

In such circumstances, you may be questioning whether comparative negligence could apply in cases involving motorcycle accident injuries.

In comparative negligence cases, the jury apportions fault in percentages that correspond to how much each party contributed to the accident. An example of comparative negligence might be when your motorcycle's brake light, headlamp, or taillight was out, and the other driver couldn't see you clearly enough, resulting in a nighttime motorcycle crash. It also could mean you were riding your motorcycle without wearing proper safety equipment, such as a helmet.

What Might Be Considered Negligence While on a Motorcycle?

Most states have passed laws spelling out when a motorcyclist is required to wear a helmet since it is a well-known fact that wearing a helmet can save a motorcyclist's life in an accident. Research shows that if you ride a motorcycle without a helmet, you are three times more likely to suffer an injury to your brain or even die after sustaining a head injury in a collision.

However, motorcycle accidents affect both those who don't wear helmets and those who do. Even if you are struck by another driver while not wearing a helmet while on your motorcycle, you still may be able to file a lawsuit against the other driver and collect damages. This is due to the rule of comparative negligence.

In a scenario like this, where both you, the plaintiff, and the defendant are found to be negligent, the jury assigns fault as a percentage. The jurors might find, for example, that you were 20% at fault and the defendant was 80% at fault. Each party in the accident would pay the appropriate share of the other party's damages. In this example, if you were the plaintiff, the defendant would be required to pay for 80% of the motorcycle accident injuries you sustained.

In a "pure" comparative negligence situation, the other party can only recover an amount that corresponds to whatever percentage of fault is determined to be yours. In other words, if it's determined you are 80% to blame for a motorcycle crash, you can still recover 20% worth of the damages.

Previous Concepts Related to Negligence

In some states, there previously existed the principle of contributory negligence, which stated that if someone were even partially at fault — even a small amount — they would not be entitled to compensation from the other party. But this was found to not be equitable to both parties involved, so the principle of comparative negligence was developed with the intention of being fairer in the event that both parties are at least somewhat at fault. Contributory negligence is still in effect in some states, while others use some form of comparative negligence.

Of course, it is always highly recommended to wear a helmet when on a motorcycle. Not doing so will prevent you from seeking compensation in a personal injury lawsuit related to your motorcycle crash injuries.

However, if you're seeking to file such a suit after such an accident, make sure to obtain professional guidance from an experienced, qualified personal injury lawyer. With the correct legal guidance, no matter the circumstances of the crash, you have a better chance of recouping the costs you're owed from the other driver.

Curious to learn more about your options after sustaining motorcycle accident injuries? Contact a professional at Steelhorse Law today.

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