Do You Have to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in California?
You may or may not lawfully have to wear a motorcycle helmet depending on the state in which you are riding. In California, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. Motorcycle riders and their passengers have to wear helmets at all times within state lines. If you fail to wear a motorcycle helmet in California, you could face a traffic ticket and fine. Breaking California’s helmet law could also negatively impact your injury claim after a motorcycle accident.
California’s Motorcycle Helmet Law
Motorcycle helmets are a universal requirement according to California Vehicle Code 27803. This law states that all drivers and passengers must wear safety helmets that meet state requirements while riding on motorcycles or motorized bicycles. It is against the law in California to ride a motorcycle without a safety helmet. Under state law, wearing a helmet means using protective headgear that meets federal helmet safety standards. The helmet must fit properly on the wearer’s head while fastened with straps.
In a single year, motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although several studies have proven the effectiveness of a helmet in preventing fatal head and brain injuries, most states do not require all motorcyclists to wear them while riding. Many states with helmet laws only require them for riders under the age of 18 or 19, or only without certain types of insurance. California is one of the only states with a true universal helmet law.
If you unlawfully ride a motorcycle without a helmet in California, the police could stop and ticket you for a traffic violation. The penalty for riding without a helmet is a fine of up to $250 per offense. If you were also breaking another law at the time of the helmet infraction, such as speeding or reckless riding, you could face even higher fines. In extreme cases, law enforcement could impound your motorcycle.
Can Not Wearing a Helmet Affect an Injury Claim?
Choosing not to wear a motorcycle helmet in California could put you at risk both physically and legally. You greatly increase your chances of sustaining a serious injury to the head, brain, face or neck in a motorcycle accident by not wearing a helmet. You also run the risk of a police officer stopping and citing you. Another legal risk of not wearing a helmet is receiving less money – or no money at all – for your motorcycle accident damages because of the infraction. Breaking California’s motorcycle helmet requirement is a valid reason for the courts to reduce your compensatory award.
The courts in California permit an at-fault party, or defendant, to use the comparative negligence defense during a motorcycle accident case involving a lack of helmet wearing. Under California law, this defense states that a defendant may pay a victim less if that victim contributed to his or her own injuries. If a motorcyclist was breaking the law by not wearing a helmet and he or she suffered related injuries, the defendant could assert the comparative negligence defense. If the courts accept this defense, the injured party would receive less compensation for his or her injuries.
California uses a pure comparative negligence law, meaning an injured party could be any degree at fault – even 99% – and still be eligible for some financial recovery. The assigned percentage of liability to the victim, however, will diminish his or her compensatory award accordingly. If failing to wear a helmet made you 25% liable for a brain injury, for example, you would receive $75,000 instead of a $100,000 award during a motorcycle accident claim. California’s comparative negligence law makes it important to hire a Los Angeles motorcycle accident attorney to help you maximize your financial recovery. A lawyer can help you combat the comparative negligence defense.