Part II - The Impact Of Mandatory Helmet Laws On The Consequences Of Motorcycle Accidents

This is the second installment in our two-part blog that analyzes the role that helmets play in protecting riders in motorcycle accidents as well as the impact of helmet use on a personal injury or wrongful death claim. If you have not yet had the opportunity to review Part I of this blog post, you may benefit from doing so before reviewing the information below.

Do universal motorcycle helmet laws constitute an intrusion on the personal choice and liberty of riders to decide whether to use head protection when riding?

There is no dispute that mandatory helmet laws constitute an intrusion on personal liberty, but advocates of universal helmet laws contend that this intrusion is justified by the cost in public health care costs and other losses associated with serious traumatic brain injuries and motorcycle fatalities. While some states that mandate helmet use only for certain riders have attempted to address these concerns by requiring those not wearing helmets to carry minimum health insurance coverage, these minimums are typically dwarfed by the actual lifetime costs of a severe head injury and fail to address other types of costs like loss of earnings to a family from the primary breadwinner. While this political debate is beyond the scope of this Kentucky personal injury blog, we urge all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet because we have seen the devastating toll inflicted by drunk motorists, distracted drivers and others who fail to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others.

Do motorcycle helmets impair vision or hearing in a way that they contribute to motorcycle crashes?

A study conducted by the NHSTA tested the degree to which helmets impair the vision or hearing of motorcycle riders by comparing the ability to see and hear with and without helmets. The study found that motorcyclists experienced no noticeable difference in hearing with or without a helmet. Although motorcycle helmets did cause some obstruction in lateral vision, the study showed that the net impact was negligible because motorcyclists instinctively turned their head further to compensate for the minor obstruction in lateral vision. The conclusion of the study was that motorcycle helmets did not increase the risk of a crash because of the adverse impact on the rider's ability to hear or see obstacles and other vehicles.

Will wearing a motorcycle helmet increase the risk that a rider suffers a neck injury?

While a study conducted almost three decades ago suggested that motorcycle helmets could increase the risk of a neck injury, the reliability of the findings and methodology of that study have been widely criticized. Further, more recent evidence suggests that not only do motorcycle helmets not increase the risk of a neck injury, but they may actually decrease the risk of cervical spine injuries. In addition to the criticism of the original study, helmets have evolved so that they are much lighter than when the study was originally conducted. A more recent study reported in the Journal of American College of Surgeons found that helmets did not increase the risk of neck injuries and actually reduced the risk of suffering a cervical spine injury by 22 percent.

Will the decision not to wear a helmet impact a motorcycle accident injury or wrongful death claim?

The decision not to wear a motorcycle helmet generally does not preclude a motorcycle crash personal injury or wrongful death claim, but it can impact the amount of financial compensation. If the motorcycle injury victim suffers a head injury, the amount of the damages awarded may be reduced to the extent that the head injury was caused or exacerbated by the lack of a helmet. When a collision occurs where the motorcyclist suffers injuries to the lower extremities or parts of the body other than the face or head, the use of a helmet will generally not be relevant to the damage award.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle collision, our experienced Kentucky motorcycle accident attorneys work diligently to get our clients the compensation they deserve. We encourage you to schedule a FREE consultation and contact us or visit our website at www.kylawpractice.com. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your legal needs!

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