We all know helmets help reduce injuries in bike and motorcycle accidents and most states mandate helmet use. As a bike accident lawyer, I see bikers hurt by drivers on a regular basis, and most people wear helmets. I am still amazed when I drive in Illinois that I see most bikers riding without helmets. Being in a motorcycle accident and a bike accident myself, I believe a helmet saved my life when I was in a motorcycle accident in the St Louis area, a driver cut out in front of me, forcing me to lay my motorcycle down and I slide under their car and struck my head on the bottom of the car, cracking my helmet. Even though I was wearing a full face helmet, I still suffered a concussion and post concussion syndrome. Had I not been wearing a helmet, who knows if I would be writing this article. So based on my personal experience and my experience representing victims of bike crashes, I cringe when I see people rising without one.
There have been many studies showing the effectiveness and safety benefits of helmets. A recent study "Helmet crash tests: Don't hit the road without one" further supports this known fact and gives statistics for how much the head is protected by a helmet.
"Crashing without a helmet exposes the head to accelerations and forces -- or loads -- up to 9.5 times greater than with a helmet and so greatly increases the risk of head, skull and brain injury, according to a detailed biomechanical study"
The study used the apparatus pictured above to simulate real world forces from many different angles and degrees of acceleration to collect data on the different forces exerted on the head with and without a helmet. The study found:
"When you look at injury risk, an unprotected head is likely to suffer concussion even dropping only half a meter while you are stationary .... [a]s the height of the drop and the horizontal speed increase, so does the risk of skull and brain injury. We found that a helmeted head, however, is protected against serious injury until the most severe impacts in our study: even with a drop of 1.5 m and a speed of 25 km/h the helmet has an important protective effect."
Why is this important to my bike accident case?
In Missouri evidence of someone not wearing a seat-belt is generally inadmissible, and when it is it only affects comparative fault (a reduction in the at fault drivers fault) by 1%. However, there is no such law regarding not using a helmet. Therefore, if you suffer a severe brain injury and were not wearing a helmet, the defense can use the above study along with many others to argue to a jury that the brain injury is significantly your own fault because you did not wear a helmet; regardless if it is legally required or not. It is a failure to mitigate your damages defense.
Bike crash cases are difficult enough, as many jurors feel motorcycle riders voluntarily expose themselves to heightened risk just by riding a motorcycle, and therefore, are sometimes very forgiving of any negligence by the at-fault driver and will often not hold them responsible for all the motorcyclists' injuries. You must have a good motorcycle lawyer that knows how to present these cases to a jury and work them up properly so that they settle for top dollar before ever going to trial.
Bicycle cases present some of the same challenges as mentioned above, however, they have the added challenge that most jurors are not bikers and most jurors have encountered a cyclist on the road that obstructed traffic or rode through a stop sign and they may not like them in general. Add to that bias many jurors already have the fact you were not wearing a helmet and you are giving them an additional excuses to either return low verdict or a verdict not in the bike rider's favor. Again, you need a good bicycle accident attorney that knows how to handle these specialized cases.
If you have been injured in a bike crash call the accident law firm of Sansone / Lauber at (314) 863-0500 or contact our lawyers online to arrange a free consultation about your case. We handle cases throughout Missouri and Illinois and will find you the right lawyer outside of our area, free of charge.