Motorcycle accidents often result in serious injuries to riders. A motorcycle is no match for an oncoming car or a commercial vehicle, and a rider has no barrier of protection. Massachusetts law requires all riders to wear helmets that meet certain safety specifications. If a rider without a helmet is hurt in a collision, he/she may be found to be partly liable for their injuries. However, he/she may still be able to obtain a partial recovery of damages.
There are two aspects of Massachusetts law that are relevant to how not wearing a helmet can affect damages in a motorcycle accident case. First, our state has adopted the rule of comparative negligence. That means an injured rider’s damages will be reduced by the percentage that he or she was at fault for causing the accident and the resulting injuries. Second, our state imposes a legal requirement of wearing a helmet. The lack of a helmet is unlikely to be found to have caused a collision, but it could increase the extent of the injuries suffered. The determination of the level of fault assigned to the victim, as well as how that affects the amount of damages, are both questions decided by a jury if the case goes to trial.
Suppose Joe Rider is obeying all traffic laws while operating his motorcycle. He is not, however, wearing a helmet. Now suppose that Dave Driver, behind the wheel of his SUV, is distracted as he approaches a four-way stop. Dave runs the stop sign and hits Joe, who is legally in the intersection. Joe is knocked from his motorcycle and suffers severe head and back injuries. Joe’s damages are determined to be $500,000. The jury finds that Joe is 30 percent responsible for the extent of his injuries due to failure to wear a helmet. Under the comparative fault law, Joe will be awarded 70 percent of his damages, or $350,000.
An important point to understand is that Massachusetts applies a modified comparative fault rule, requiring that the victim not bear the major portion of fault. This means that if a jury finds that the motorcycle accident victim was 51 percent or more to blame for the injuries suffered, then he or she will receive nothing. This is different from the pure comparative fault rule in some other states, which allow a victim to recover damages to whatever extent the other driver was to blame. If you are hurt in a motorcycle accident, you need a skilled attorney who can present strong evidence supporting the other party’s major fault for the accident and the resulting injuries.
Feinberg & Alban in Boston assists victims of motorcycle accidents throughout Massachusetts. Our attorneys are devoted to protecting the rights of riders even against stiff opposition from insurance companies. Contact us online or by telephone at 617-232-5950 to schedule a free initial consultation.
The attorneys serve the entire state of Massachusetts in addition to affiliating with lawyers in other states to handle cases outside of Massachusetts.
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