You may have heard of the universal helmet laws before and wondered who it applied to and how. Contrary to popular belief, universal helmet laws do not generally apply to cyclists and skateboarders, though separate laws may address their helmet needs. Universal helmet laws require motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets.
What qualifies as a motorcycle may differ from state to state. For example, some states make decisions based on how fast the vehicle moves or the type of engine that powers it. California generally requires anyone operating or riding as a passenger on a motorized bike to wear a helmet.
According to the CDC, wearing a helmet can save your life in the event of a crash. It reports that when motorcycle victims wear helmets, survival rates improve by 30%. The likelihood of sustaining moderate to severe injuries also decrease. In 2016, helmets saved almost 1,900 lives and saved $24 billion in costs to Americans and the economy.
When it comes to personal injury, California operates under a comparative fault law. This means that the state reserves the right to assign a portion of the blame to the injured party. While not wearing a helmet certainly will not stop a car from crashing into your motorcycle, it may affect the severity of the injuries you later sustain. California courts may decide to hold you partially liable for those injuries.
Insurance companies may try to convince you that not wearing a helmet invalidates your claim because of the comparative law. This is a scare tactic. However, you may lose a portion of resulting compensation if the court assigns a percentage of the blame to you.