January 29, 2019 Motorcycle Accidents
Driver riding motorcycle on the empty asphalt road

California requires all motorcycle riders – both drivers and passengers – to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle. It is not even legal for a motorcycle passenger to ride with an unhelmeted driver. What happens if you are injured in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet? You can likely still sue for damages but it may impact your financial recovery.

Liability for motorcycle accidents in CA

If you are like many Los Angeles bikers, you may be tempted to feel the wind through your hair as you hit the Southern California highways. Not only is this extremely dangerous, it could reduce your settlement or verdict if you are injured in an accident.

Since California follows a negligence-based theory of recovery, if a motorist is injured because of another driver’s negligence, he or she can typically hold the negligent driver liable. This means the negligent driver could be responsible for both financial and non-financial losses caused by the accident, from medical bills to lost wages, to funeral bills, and physical and emotional pain and suffering.

However, California also follows comparative fault rules. If a plaintiff is partly to blame for the accident or injuries, his or her recovery is reduced in proportion to fault. Theoretically, even if a plaintiff were 99% at fault, he could recover the 1% of damages caused by the other party, though this may not be practical.

Comparative fault and motorcycle accidents without helmet

Under California Vehicle Code Section 27803, riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a ticket-able offence, subject to a fine of up to $100. However, studies have found that helmets have saved the lives of thousands of people and thousands more have died because they did not wear a helmet. Clearly the cost of riding without a helmet is far more than a $100 fine.

When it comes to comparative fault, the key question is whether the injured party’s actions contributed to the injury. For example, if the motorcyclist suffered a serious head injury that could have been avoided with a helmet, this will likely lead to a significant reduction in financial award. However, if the accident caused injuries such as broken bones and bruising that would not have been avoided with a helmet, there may be no finding of contributory negligence to reduce the award.

What to do after a Southern California motorcycle accident

If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident in CA, it likely did not take long to start receiving calls from insurance adjusters looking to make a quick, unfairly low settlement. If you were not wearing a helmet at the time, they may even tell you that you are not entitled to any money. Rather than speaking with the adjusters directly, retain a Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyer who will handle all communications.

The personal injury lawyers at the Salamati Law Firm understand the physical and financial impact of serious motorcycle accidents and always fight for full and fair compensation. Call today to schedule a free confidential consultation.

Additional California motorcycle helmet law resources:

  1. California Legislative Information, Vehicle Code Article 7. Motorcycles [27800 – 27803], https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&division=12.&title=&part=&chapter=5.&article=7.
  2. State of California Department of Motor Vehicles, Motorcycle Handbook Preparing to Ride, https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/?1dmy&urile=wcm:path:/dmv_content_en/dmv/pubs/dl655/mcycle_htm/preparing