Many motorcyclists do not like helmets. But Tennessee law does require you to wear a helmet at all times while you’re on the road on your bike. (It also prohibits you from hunting whales while riding a motorcycle, but that one doesn’t seem to come up too often). It’s also illegal for passengers to go without a helmet.
In fact, wearing a helmet is so important in Tennessee that it’s one of the facts reporters mention any time they cover a motorcycle crash.
So, if you weren’t wearing a helmet, you can expect it to have an unfavorable impact on your personal injury case.
Here are two ways the lack of a helmet can harm your case.
#1) Violating the law negates most insurance coverage.
In Tennessee insurance companies don’t cover damages caused by violations of the law. Because you are indeed violating the law by failing to wear the helmet you may forfeit all your rights to any insurance claim.
Much depends on what your specific insurance contract says. But most major companies do include clauses to this effect.
#2) You will be found negligent.
Perhaps you got lucky, and the insurance company does not automatically reject claims when you are violating the law. What’s the next hurdle you’ll have to overcome?
Tennessee is a comparative negligence state. This means that the court tries to assess the percentage of fault for any accident for each person involved with the accident.
In order to receive anything from a personal injury case the plaintiff must show by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant was at least 51% responsible for the damages. If you didn’t wear a helmet that can be a lot harder, and you could lose your case altogether.
In some cases, the defendant may be found 51% negligent, but if you’re 49% negligent you still won’t recoup very much money. The award you would have gotten is reduced by that 49%.
The lack of a helmet doesn’t necessarily preclude a lawyer from taking your case, though it does represent a risk for the lawyer. There are some mitigating factors which can make your case stronger.
#1) You didn’t suffer any head or face injuries.
If your injuries were on other parts of your body then the lack of a helmet didn’t contribute to your injuries. This can be your saving grace if you get into an accident, because it means the lack of a helmet is completely irrelevant to your case. You can move forward as long as your violation of the law does not preclude insurance coverage.
#2) We can prove you weren’t at fault for the crash.
If there is clear-cut evidence to show you absolutely bore no fault for the crash then the lack of a helmet matters a little bit less. While your comparative negligence percentage will still be higher than it would have been had you been wearing your helmet, it may nevertheless be low enough to continue. A finding of 5% or 10% negligence isn’t nearly as damaging as a finding of 49% negligence.
You’ll need help from serious experts to navigate this situation.
If you were riding without a helmet at the time of your injury you need expert help. Fortunately, we’ve got decades of experience with motorcycle personal injury law.
Contact us today for a case evaluation.