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| Michael P. Ehline

Can a Helmet Improve Survival in a Motorcycle Accident?

When you ride a motorcycle, you tend to enjoy the breeze and the freedom that comes with it. However, helmets tend to limit a rider’s level of enjoyment and somehow take away their freedom. Helmets can feel uncomfortable, especially in California’s scorching summer heat, and some helmets may not suit your fashion preferences. Some states have no helmet laws, and others have partial helmet laws. Avoiding severe head injuries is not always possible, even with the best headgear.

Although helmets do not meet everyone’s comfort level and style, they are not made for that purpose. Helmets help minimize the risk of fatal injuries by protecting the head, brain, and upper part of the spine. Helmets are one of the few options bikers have to protect themselves from other motorists and environmental factors.

Suppose you suffered a head injury or any other type of injury from a motorcycle accident due to another’s negligence. In that case, you must seek medical care and reach out to a personal injury attorney to understand your legal options. You will likely need to make a motorcycle accident claim for any motorcycle crash injuries.

It is never easy to locate a leading personal injury law firm supporting veterans’ oaths. Many academics who never served refuse to support the Second Amendment or are hostile towards it, ruling these lawyers out for many motorcycle accidents caused, with or without protective equipment like protective helmets.

In the Golden State, good luck finding a lawyer who helps protect the rights of injured victims with the violence of action, as a Marine would execute. We have seen the ads with lawyers bragging they have helped 3,000 or more clients with their legal troubles. Some claim to recovered billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements. Most are physically out of shape, which is not something Marines would appreciate. Marines are taught that being fat is a sign of being lazy, right? Let’s look at some other issues.

Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries

An accident can result in all types of injuries, but some injuries are unique to motorcycles. Whether it’s the motorcycle slipping in water and hitting the ground or smashing into the open door of a parked car, motorcycle riders and motorcycle passengers are vulnerable to all sorts of collisions that can lead to minor and major accidents and even wrongful death.

Here are some of the most common motorcycle accident injuries.

Head Injuries and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Most motorcyclists in the United States wear a helmet, but even wearing a helmet does not offer complete protection from motorcycle accidents. In some situations, helmeted motorcycle riders can suffer from brain injuries after an accident.

Many riders believe that if a helmet protects them from suffering a head injury, it can also protect them from brain injuries. That’s not the case. The force of an impact can twist, move, or shake the brain, damaging the brain tissue, blood vessels, and the nerves around the brain.

A helmet aims to absorb and redistribute the impact so that it doesn’t twist, move or shake the brain. However, depending on the severity of the impact, even the best helmets may fail to offer you the protection you require to prevent a brain injury. Helmets can most definitely reduce the impact of an accident, preventing the motorcyclist from receiving serious and fatal injuries.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The helmet provides some protection to the upper spinal cord just at the base of the skull. However, most of the spine remains exposed, and if an accident results in a motorcycle rider being thrown to the ground, there is a risk of spinal cord injuries.

Severe spinal injuries can result in paralysis, affecting the rider’s quality of life. It can result in loss of enjoyment, completely changing their lives for the worse. It has a physical and mental effect on the person, and spinal injuries are often costly, requiring millions of dollars to treat the injured.

Road Rash

Getting pinned under a bike, dragged, or rolled across the asphalt or dirty road can result in road rash injuries. A motorcycle accident can directly affect the rider’s exposed skin, causing serious friction burns, lacerations, and abrasions. A full-face helmet can protect a motorcyclist from suffering facial injuries, but road rash injuries can affect any part of the exposed body.

A severe road rash damages the skin and the tissue underneath it, which can cause extreme pain and discomfort since this is where most nerves are. Besides damaging the skin, if a road rash is not treated properly, it can lead to deadly infections that could be fatal.

Road rash injuries can take a few months to heal completely, but they can cause disfigurement, resulting in scars around the previously injured area.

Leg Injuries

Reports suggest that 47% of motorcyclists suffer leg injuries after a motorcycle crash. This is because when riding a motorcycle, the legs and feet are the body parts that are closest to the ground, and they’re the ones that take most of the impact since they hit the ground first during an accident.

Leg injuries such as broken bones, fractures, lacerations, and damage to the ligaments are common among motorcycle accident victims.

Thorax Injuries

Around 14% of all motorcycle injuries are to the thorax and chest area. Thorax injuries are dangerous as any broken bones in the chest region can puncture the internal organs and cause internal bleeding, infection, or other severe health complications.

Universal Helmet Law in California

In California, it is illegal for motorcyclists to ride a motorcycle without wearing a US Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet. According to Vehicle Code Section 27803, the law requires motorcyclists to wear a DOT-compliant helmet and any motorcycle passenger.

The helmet law is not restricted to motorcycles only but applies to motorized bikes. This state initiative helps reduce the number of fatal injuries or accidents on Californian roads. According to some studies, you are three times more likely to survive if you’re wearing a US DOT-compliant motorcycle helmet than if you were not wearing the specified helmet.

Besides California, 17 other states have universal helmet laws. Twenty-nine other states (No, not 29 Palms) have helmet laws that only cover some riders, in most cases, those under 18. On the other hand, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire do not have any helmet laws. Most M/C’s we have spoken with consider any government coercion or force to be “unsat.” These M/C’s would prefer the choice offered by these states. Imagine riding in the hot sun, with your helmet acting as an oven, literally cooking your brain? But the statistics do show overall, that helmet can protect your “grape.” (Marine and Navy term for your uncovered head.)

Research suggests that states with universal helmet laws have lower numbers of injuries and fatality rates, and this is why, although there is no helmet law in Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, safety advocates encourage riders to wear one.

California Helmet Requirements

Most of our rides happen in CA. So let’s start there. DOT safety standards, Economic Commission Europe, and Snell are the three helmet manufacturing safety standards.

Four factors drive safety standards in the helmet manufacturing industry in the United States, and these include:

  1. Impact
  2. Positional stability
  3. Retention system strength
  4. Extent of protection

Helmets that follow the safety standards of the DOT must have a DOT certification sticker to help consumers decide which helmet to buy.

Regardless of the helmet manufacturer you choose, you must ensure that the helmet ticks the following boxes:

  • Size: You should ensure that the helmet fits comfortably on your head. Some helmets come with extra padded cushioning for a bit more comfort.
  • Strap: Once you’ve got the helmet on your head, work the strap. Tighten it and check if the helmet moves around on the head. A perfect-sized helmet should be the one that fits on the head and tightens in place using the strap.
  • Fit: The helmet should stay on the forehead and not fall below the eyebrows; otherwise, it can affect the rider’s visibility.
  • Sticker: By law, you must wear a US DOT-compliant helmet, so check for the sticker that shows that the helmet meets the US DOT safety standards.

One of the misconceptions regarding helmets is that regardless of how you wear one, it should offer protection to the head. That’s never the case. A hard hat can protect you from falling objects, but wearing one while riding a motorcycle is not recommended. Riders and motorcycle passengers must wear helmets that fit properly on their heads. A loose helmet is dangerous as an impact from an accident can knock it off your head.

There are two types of helmets that you can buy on the market; a full-face helmet and a half-coverage helmet. A full-face helmet comes with a face shield that reduces the risk of injuries to the head and brain and facial injuries.

It is crucial to understand that safety standards don’t always guarantee the safety of a helmet. Sometimes, a manufacturer’s negligence when it comes to helmet quality control can result in a helmet with hidden defects, making it unfit for use. Suppose you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident and believe your helmet did not provide safety. In that case, it should have, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney today to know your legal rights.

Violation of Helmet Law in California

The California Vehicle Code is pretty straightforward about wearing a helmet when operating a motorcycle. It is illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet for both the motorcyclist and the passenger. If the police catch a motorcyclist riding a motorcycle without a helmet in California, they could stop and give a ticket for a traffic violation.

Tickets and fines are within the discretion of law enforcement. A police officer can fine riders without a helmet up to $250. The fines could be more if the rider is also breaking other laws or traffic rules or if they’re carrying a minor passenger without a helmet.

How Effective are Helmets?

Every year in the United States, there are thousands of injuries and deaths from motorcycle accidents. In 2019 alone, there were more than 5,000 deaths; in 2020, over 5,500 people died in motorcycle crashes. More than 180,000 people received treatment at emergency departments. Motorcycle accidents have a significant economic cost from all the injuries and deaths.

In 2017, a study revealed that motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,872 lives. If all motorcyclists wore helmets that year, it could’ve saved 749 lives. Another study reported that if all the motorcyclists in the country wore helmets, it could save the United States more than $1.5 billion in economic costs.

There is a magnitude of research available that suggests motorcycle helmets save lives. However, it is important to note that helmets do not guarantee 100% safety; they simply reduce the risk of severe injuries and fatality rates. According to research, wearing a helmet increases survival chances in the event of an accident by more than 30%, and it reduces the risk of brain injuries by up to 70%.

Why Do Some Motorcyclists Not Wear Helmets?

Statistics suggest that those wearing a helmet have a higher chance of survival from a motorcycle accident than those that don’t wear one. But when you’re on the streets or driving on the road in certain states, you will still encounter or come across many motorcyclists who refuse to wear a helmet. Why are they simply choosing to let go of a piece of life-saving equipment?

The answer is more complicated than that. Let’s explore some of the reasons why some motorcyclists do not wear helmets.

State Laws

Not all state laws require motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Some state laws come with caveats, while others do not require wearing a helmet.

For example, in Florida, the law gives a choice to anyone over the age of 21 years to wear a helmet if they have medical insurance coverage of $10,000. Major motorcycle insurance companies provide such coverage, and since the law exempts an individual from wearing one if they have insurance, many riders prefer not to wear one.

Better Visual and Hearing

Some motorcyclists will argue that motorcycle helmets and visors make it difficult to see the road and traffic, especially from the side view. Since the helmet goes over the ears, some may find it difficult to hear cars and other types of traffic approaching. These motorcyclists believe that by choosing not to wear a helmet, they have improved their vision and hearing, allowing them to remain sharp and prevent accidents.

Comfort

Why do we buy better cars when we have the money? Why do we choose to get memory mattresses instead of regular foam mattresses? It’s all about comfort for a consumer, and comfort matters a lot for some.

Motorcycle helmets might be uncomfortable for some as a properly fitted helmet often feels tight, applying a small amount of pressure around the head. This can be unusually comfortable for many, especially those who do not ride motorcycles that much. The pain or pressure from a motorcycle helmet can be distracting, and this is why many avoid wearing one as they feel more attentive on the road.

Why Should You Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?

Here are some benefits of wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle.

Prevent Brain Injuries

There are several types of injuries motorcycle helmets prevent, such as fractures, lacerations, and even scalp contusions. However, the most dangerous type of injury remains traumatic brain injury (TBI), and motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of TBI by absorbing and redistributing the impact of the accident.

Several studies confirm that almost 70% of fatal motorcycle accidents involve some sort of damage to the brain, resulting in the death of the rider or motorcycle passenger. Leg and arm injuries like road rash injuries are easier to treat, unlike brain injuries, which can cause long-term physical, emotional, and cognitive impairment. Unlike other types of injuries that heal over time, brain injuries last much longer, and severe brain injuries can negatively affect an injured victim’s quality of life.

Protection from External Elements

Unlike cars, motorcycles are open vehicles that expose the rider and passengers to external environmental factors such as the glaring sun, rain, snow, dust, and animals, among many others.

A glaring sun or heavy downpour can limit visibility, especially if you’re not wearing a helmet. It reduces the challenges the external environment has on motorcyclists without helmets. The Visor helmet reduces sun glare, improving visibility and protecting the rider from rain splashing on their face.

Increase Your Visibility to Other Drivers

One of the significant arguments motorists have after getting involved in an accident with a motorcyclist is that they did not see the motorcyclist. Motorcycles are small vehicles, and motorists often become “blind” to them. A shiny, bright-colored helmet can make motorcyclists visible to motorists on the road, helping avoid a motorcycle crash and cut down on serious injuries during accidents.

Are Motorcycle Helmets Enough to Prevent Injuries?

A motorcycle does not offer the type of protection a motor vehicle does. A car comes with a safe cabin where the driver and other occupants sit, protecting themselves from the direct impact of an accident and other environmental factors. All a motorcycle helmet does is keep your brain inside your head. It won’t necessarily stop a TBI or skull fracture during a motorcycle crash.

Besides the reinforced steel in cars and trucks, these relatively large vehicles also have safety features like seat belts and airbags to protect the vehicle occupants, unlike motorcycles. Motorcycle helmets are one of the few pieces of safety equipment that riders have. However, other types of protective gear offer protection against particular types of injuries.

Face Shields

Bikers can buy two types of helmets: full-face and half-covered helmets. The full-face helmet has a face shield that protects riders from environmental elements such as rain, sun glare, and insects. It also reduces the risk of facial injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Those who have already purchased a half-covered motorcycle helmet do not need to invest in a full-face helmet as they can buy goggles.

Kevlar

Kevlar wearables are now more readily available. Kevlar offers military-grade protection and is often used in industrial and military applications. However, certain manufacturers have now introduced different varieties of kevlar wearables that protect the rider’s body during accidents.

Kevlar gloves, pants, underwear, and other forms of clothing cushion the blow from an accident and prevent abrasions, lacerations, and road rash injuries. Kevlar is not the only type of protection that can minimize the risk of such injuries, as there is leather clothing perfect for bikers. These also offer protection from road rash injuries.

Hi-visibility Gear

One of the major concerns for motorcyclists on the road is distracted drivers or those who are “blind” to motorcyclists. High-visibility gear is clothing and equipment, including a motorcycle helmet that comes in bright colors and improves the visibility of riders and motorcycles.

Does Not Wearing a Helmet Affect Another’s Liability?

One of the most important questions after reading this information about helmets is whether or not a responsible person’s liability changes if the victim is not wearing a helmet.

It is crucial to remember that motorcycle helmets save lives and are made for the protection of motorcyclists. However, the responsible party’s liability does not change whether or not you wear a motorcycle helmet.

When a motorcyclist suffers injuries from accidents that were not their fault, the negligent party is liable for those actions. The state where the accident happens affects the liability. In no-fault states, insurance companies pay for the damage regardless of who is at fault, while in at-fault states, the law awards compensation based on the degree of fault.

When you file a claim against a responsible party, the insurers, judges, and juries decide the liability based on the actions of the person before the accident. In situations where a driver’s negligence causes an accident, they are legally responsible for the aftermath of it. This is because if the negligent driver did not make any move that would jeopardize the safety of others around them, it wouldn’t have led to the injuries sustained by the victim in the first place.

That said, insurers are not in the business of paying out on every single claim. They are businesses for profits that aim to increase their shareholders’ wealth, and paying claims negatively affects their bottom line. They often bring up the lack of a motorcycle helmet as part of their negotiation tactics. These are the types of complications that responsible parties and their insurers use to avoid paying damages.

Having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side can increase your chances of securing maximum compensation even when you did not use a motorcycle helmet on that fateful day.

Should You Hire a Motorcycle Accident Attorney to Handle Your Claim?

You can file a claim yourself without needing an attorney. But it’ll affect your chances of securing compensation, especially if you fail to wear a motorcycle helmet. Motorcycle accidents are often complicated, and the insurers and negligent parties often pass the blame to the motorcyclist. They state that the motorcyclist was driving recklessly, or they were overspeeding when they shouldn’t have, even if the motorcyclist wasn’t.

Motorcyclists have a bad reputation, and insurance companies use that as an argument to avoid paying for the damages caused by their policyholders. Hiring an attorney to handle the negligent party, their insurer, and their attorney on your behalf is a great strategy as it improves your chances of securing compensation. If you got into a motorcycle crash and were not wearing your motorcycle helmet, the insurer will try and blame your head injury on you to get out of paying.

Help For Motorcycle Riders in Motorcycle Accidents

Attorneys from reputable law firms have the resources to gather evidence, witness testimonies, and the necessary paperwork to strengthen your case. They can guide you throughout the legal process and even negotiate with the negligent party’s insurance company on your behalf.

When filing a lawsuit, there are four crucial elements that an injured victim must prove, and these include:

  1. The defendant had a duty of care.
  2. The defendant breached that duty of care.
  3. The plaintiff suffered injuries.
  4. The plaintiff suffered injuries from the defendant’s negligent actions or inaction.

An attorney can help prove the key elements of a personal injury case, whether you wore a motorcycle helmet or not. If you suffered injuries from a motorcycle accident that was not your fault, contact us and we will try and help you find a military veteran lawyer for a free consultation. Many of our members know trusted personal injury attorneys. Typically, these attorneys will aggressively pursue your legal claim and hold the negligent parties responsible for your loss.

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