This is a probably the most frequently asked question after an accident where a motorcyclist is injured. Although many people believe that anyone injured in a motorcycle accident is unable to recover damages, this is not the case! In this post, a Austin personal injury lawyer explains why an injured motorcyclist who was not wearing a helmet can collect damages after an accident.
Under Texas motor vehicle law, all cyclists and passengers are required to wear a helmet. There is, however, an exemption contained within this law that allows motorcyclists not to wear a helmet if:
- The cyclist is at least 21 years of age and
- the cyclist has completed a Department of Public Safety-approved motorcycle operator safety course, or
- is covered by at least $10,000 of insurance that specifically issued for motorcycle accident injuries.
A cyclist who meets the above-listed requirements can ride without a helmet and remain “legal” under Texas law. We can now turn to the issues of fault and liability and how these two issues are addressed by the Texas courts.
Under common law, the person whose carelessness caused an accident is held responsible (“liable”) for any injuries or property damages that are the direct results of that accident. As an example, if a motorist makes a sudden lane change but does not see the motorcyclist who was already in that lane, the motorist would be liable for damages suffered by the cyclist. But what, you might ask, would happen if the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet?
In Texas, the courts have held that since the motorist was responsible for the accident, the accident would have happened regardless of what the cyclist was or was not wearing! The motorist in our example is therefore liable for any damages suffered by the cyclist.
A liability that arises solely from the negligence of the “at fault” party’s actions cannot be defended by claiming some negligence on the part of the injured party. If, however, the injured party’s negligence also contributed to the accident in some way, any damages awarded may be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of that contribution. In Texas, this is known as comparative fault rule and this rule allows an injured party to collect at least some damages so long as he or she was found to be no more than 50% responsible. This rule is complex in its interpretation and should be discussed in more detail with a Austin personal injury lawyer.
Returning to the question posed in the title of this post, you do not lose your case simply because you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Since there are more factors to consider following an accident of any kind, it is always best to consult a personal injury attorney for advice before planning a course of action after an accident.