Motorcycle accidents often result in very serious injuries, which is why it's vital to protect your right to compensation by filing a personal injury claim as soon as possible. However, if you weren't wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, keep in mind that your ability to recover damages may be affected.
Understanding Louisiana's Helmet Law
Helmets have been consistently proven to reduce the risk of fatal head injuries in a motorcycle accident, which is why the vast majority of states require motorcycle riders and their passengers to wear an approved helmet. LA Rev Stat § 32:190 states:
"No person shall operate or ride upon any motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or motorized bicycle unless the person is equipped with and is wearing on the head a safety helmet of the type and design manufactured for use by operators of such vehicles, which shall be secured properly with a chin strap while the vehicle is in motion. All such safety helmets shall consist of lining, padding, visor, and chin strap and shall meet such other specifications as shall be established by the commissioner."
Exceptions to the law include:
- A person operating or riding in an autocycle if the vehicle is equipped with a roof which meets or exceeds standards for a safety helmet
- Members of organizations sponsoring, conducting, or participating in parades or other public exhibitions who have received permits from the police authorities of a village, town, city, or parish
There is a $50 fine for violating the law.
How Failing to Wear a Helmet Affects Your Personal Injury Claim
If you weren't wearing a helmet and suffered head or neck injuries, it's likely that you'll be found to be partially at fault for your injuries. Under the doctrine of comparative fault, your ability to recover damages will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. This means, if you're found to be 50% at fault for your injuries, you'll only be able to collect 50% of the settlement you'd otherwise receive. However, you may be able to increase your compensation if you can provide evidence indicating that your injuries would have occurred even if you were wearing a helmet.
If you weren't wearing a helmet and suffered no neck or head injuries, your failure to abide by the state's helmet law is considered legally irrelevant. Injuries to the arms, legs, and/or torso can't be prevented by helmet use, so your lack of a helmet is not an issue in your ability to recover damages.
Types of Available Compensation
Available compensation in a personal injury claim includes:
- Medical expenses, including emergency care, surgery, hospital stays, follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and prescription medication
- Anticipated future medical needs, if you've been left permanently disabled
- Lost wages, if you were unable to work because of your injuries
- Loss of future earning potential, if your injuries have caused a permanent disability that will affect your ability to return to work
- Pain and suffering, including both the physical pain and emotional trauma associated with the incident
Keeping careful records of your medical expenses and lost wages is essential in protecting your right to compensation, since pain and suffering is most often calculated as a multiplier of these expenses. In cases involving permanent disability, expert testimony is often used to establish the level of compensation necessary to account for future medical expenses and loss of earning potential.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
Personal injury claims involving motorcycles can present complex issues. Protect your right to compensation by retaining the services of an experienced attorney who can assess the value of your case, line up necessary documentation, locate appropriate experts to testify on your behalf, and negotiate with the insurance company for the highest possible settlement.
If you've been injured in a motorcylce accident you need to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents who've suffered serious motorcycle accident injuries receive the compensation they need to move forward with their lives. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.