You know that if a driver negligently hits you while you are on your motorcycle and causes injuries, you can bring a lawsuit against them to recover the costs of your injuries. But what happens if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident? If failing to wear a helmet made your injuries worse, can you still seek compensation?
Virginia’s mandatory helmet law
In Virginia, it is illegal to drive a motorcycle over 15 miles an hour without a helmet and face shield or goggles. This law is in place to lower the likelihood that a motorcycle accident will be fatal to the driver.
Your failure to wear a helmet won’t prevent you from bringing a lawsuit and attempting to hold the other driver responsible for the accident that they caused. You can still seek compensation for things like your medical bills, the cost of repairing your motorcycle, compensation for lost days of work while you recover, etc.
However, your failure to wear a helmet might greatly reduce your chances of a successful recovery, due to the legal doctrine of “pure contributory negligence.”
What is pure contributory negligence?
Every state has different laws as to the amount of fault or negligence that the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) can have before they are barred from getting compensation. Virginia’s laws follows the doctrine of pure contributory negligence, which makes it much more difficult to recover for personal injury than in other states.
Under pure contributory negligence, if the court finds that you were even a little bit at fault for your own injury, you cannot recover against the other driver. For example, a negligent car driver hits a motorcyclist who suffers head injuries. If the car driver proves that the motorcyclist’s head injuries were partially caused by not wearing a helmet, the motorcyclist will be unable to recover.
Motorcycle accidents are often much more devastating than car accidents for the driver. Helmets do a great deal to make up for this danger. Riding without a helmet not only increases your odds of suffering serious injury, but unfortunately also makes it less likely that you will be able to get compensation for your injuries.