What is the Helmet Defense and How Can it Affect Your Claim in California
Riding a bicycle is generally a safe and healthy exercise. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes a careless or reckless motorist could cause serious personal injuries or catastrophic harm to a bicyclists. According to statistics, there are over 840 bicyclist fatalities each year in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that most of these fatalities as well as other accidents are caused between 6 pm and 9 pm, mostly in urban areas, and alcohol intoxication is involved in approximately 37% of fatal bicycle crashes. But even when a negligent motorist causes serious personal injuries to an innocent bicyclist, that does not mean an insurance adjuster or defense lawyer will agree to pay a claim—especially if a bicyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet in a bicycle accident in California.
In fact, some insurance carriers and defense lawyers will even blame a victim for his or her injuries—even if their client was intoxicated. Sometimes they will offer very little if any compensation, agreeing to only split costs or award nominal medical bill coverage. This often adds insult to injury, as some defendants will even reject paying any pain and suffering or other emotional harmed caused by their negligence if you were not wearing a helmet.
That is simply not fair. At the Broadway Law Firm, our experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident lawyers will hold a defendant liable for causing reckless or careless injuries to a bicyclist. We will not let overreaching insurance carriers or overly aggressive defense lawyers use any helmet defense or comparative fault arguments against a bicyclist. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team will work with your medical providers and leading liability experts to establish your claim. Learn how we can help you during a FREE consultation by dialing 213.344.0067.
Do I Have to Wear a Helmet While Riding a Bicycle in California?
It depends. California’s Vehicle Code section 21212 requires individuals who are under the age of 18 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle on public streets. This means anyone 17 and under must be using a properly fitting helmet that meets current safety standards. This means that adults do not need to be wearing a helmet.
But the statute does impose a duty on adults to ensure that minors who are 17 years old or younger are wearing helmets. The statute provides under subdivision (e) (2) that a parent can be jointly and severally liable for a minor’s fine and be required to pay it in full. This means that statute places an onus on parents to monitor their children.
However, even though it is not required to wear a helmet as adult, for safety purposes it is always a good idea. But there is no legal requirement for anyone 18 years or older to wear a helmet in California.
Not Wearing a Helmet? Here is How Defense Lawyers Use That Against You
Even though it is not required to wear a helmet, insurance adjusters will blame you for your damages. If you try to handle your bicycle accident claim without a lawyer like ours in Los Angeles, CA, the insurance adjuster will even argue that you were at fault for your injuries and that your injuries were caused by the failure to wear a helmet. The adjuster may even sound very convincing and push you into agreeing to resolve your case for cheap. That is a mistake and why you should always hire a lawyer like us to represent you in a bicycle accident case.
Defense lawyers will also typically argue to a judge or jury that you failed to wear a helmet and that was the cause of your injuries. Defense lawyers will even go as far to use the “helmet defense” to try and get your damages cut in half or even more. This is also unfair.
What is the Helmet Defense?
Even though there is no legal requirement for an adult to wear a helmet, defense lawyers will argue that a reasonably prudent bicyclists would wear a helmet and your failure to do so was negligent. This is caused the helmet defense.
The helmet defense argues that your damages should be reduced by the different between the injuries you sustained minus the injuries you would have sustained had you been wearing a helmet. For example, if you would have just had a mild concussion if you were wearing a helmet but suffered a moderate concussion and a skull fracture because you did not wear a helmet, the defense would argue that they should only be responsible for the mild concussion and you responsible for the worse concussion and the skull fracture.
As you can see right away, this requires mental gymnastics and speculation to determine what you may have suffered versus what you actually suffered. It is simply very subjective and blatantly ignores that fact that a bicyclist is very vulnerable to injury which was caused by a negligent motorists.
Comparative Fault in California
The helmet defense used by defendants is part of a comparative fault defense. Comparative fault is a type of damages calculation where a victim’s partial fault for the accident or injuries can be considered by a jury or judge. The proportional amount of fault from the victim will then be used to reduce the amount of damages.
For example, if a jury finds a victim is 25% comparatively at fault, an award of $100,000 will likely be reduced to $75,000.
How Our Bicycle Accident Lawyers Can Fight Back for You
The helmet defense is simply an unfair defense. Our experienced Los Angeles bicycle accident lawyers at the Broadway Law Firm can fight back at the helmet defense to demonstrate that:
- The defense is speculative
- California law does not require a helmet for adults
- A helmet would not have helped mitigate damages due to the force of impact
- A victim’s not wearing of a helmet did not contribute to being hit by a car, and
- Other attacks based on the defendant’s arguments.
If you or a loved one suffered any serious injuries in California, learn how we can help you recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and your pain and suffering during a FREE consultation with one of our experienced bicycle accident lawyers in Los Angeles, California by dialing 213.344.0067.