If you were in a motorcycle accident but not wearing a helmet, can you still collect damages from the at-fault driver?
This is a question that comes up quite often when clients are discussing their cases. In brief, the answer is “Yes, but with a very important restriction.”
How Motor Vehicle Laws Impact Accident Claims
First, the motor vehicle laws in Tennessee and Georgia require that anyone riding a motorcycle must wear a helmet. Not wearing a helmet has no bearing on your right to sue for damages because the accident would have happened regardless of what you were or were not wearing.
Although not wearing a helmet will usually result in nothing more than a traffic citation, not wearing a helmet can influence your lawsuit for personal injury damages after an accident.
Both Tennessee and Georgia have adopted a legal doctrine known as the “premodified comparative negligence, 50% bar rule.” This doctrine can be quite complicated but can be explained in general terms as follows.
If you were injured in an accident, you have the right to seek damages from the person who caused the accident even if you were partially at fault. However, if the jury that hears your case finds that you were partial to blame for the accident, any damages that you are awarded will be reduced by the percentage of your contribution to the accident.
How Premodified Comparative Negligence May Impact Your Claim
For example, you were in a motorcycle accident and not wearing a helmet. The jury hearing your case awards damages of $100,000 but determines that you were 40 percent to blame for that accident. In the end, you will receive only $60,000 in damages ($100,000 – 40% = $60,000).
If that same jury determined that you were 60 percent responsible for the accident, you would receive nothing. The law in Georgia and Tennessee prohibit awarding damages to anyone responsible for 50 percent or more of the accident.
Determination of negligence in motorcycle accident cases can be difficult since there are factors that must be considered but aren’t always in a police report. Questions of negligence in motorcycle accident cases should always involve a motorcycle accident attorney with experience in such matters.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact Dennis & King today for your free consultation.