Does Helmet Use Affect My NYC Motorcycle Accident Claim

Under the laws of New York, all persons who ride a motorcycle must wear helmets that meet the federal requirement for motor vehicle safety. Data from years of study of motorcycle accidents show that head injury is one of the most common causes of serious injury and even death in motorcycle accidents in NYC. Wearing the right helmet can help prevent serious and fatal head injuries. Although over the years, compliance with the helmet law has improved considerably, there are still persons who continue to operate their motorcycle without wearing a helmet. 

What are the Consequences of a Motorcycle Accident?

Motorcycle accidents can have serious consequences for the rider, and the most common ones include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neck injuries
  • Burns
  • Amputation injuries
  • Nerve damage
  • Anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder

All such injuries require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. As a result, the accident victim will have to bear the costs associated with:

  • Long hospital stay
  • Repeated consultations
  • Therapy sessions
  • Nursing care
  • Medication
  • Assistive devices or home help
  • Long term care and rehabilitation

What are the Minimum Motorcycle Helmet Requirements in New York?

In New York, helmets motorcyclists wear are expected to meet the following basic requirements.

  • Approval from the Department of Transportation (DOT) indicated by the DOT symbol at a distance between 1 and 3 inches from the lower surface of the helmet.
  • Presence of a protective surface that is continuous and curved and protects the entire face.
  • Weight of at least three pounds to give sturdiness to the helmet.
  • No projections of a rigid nature within the helmet shell.
  • No projections beyond 0.2 inches from the outer surface of the helmet.
  • Inner lining made of polystyrene foam that is durable and has a thickness of at least one inch.
  • Peripheral vision clearance to ensure complete visibility for the rider.

Data from the US General Accounting Office shows that the fatality rate of motorcyclists who use helmets is up to 73% lower than those who do not wear a helmet. Also, the rate of traumatic brain injury and other head injuries is significantly lower when the motorcycle rider is wearing a proper helmet.

Does Not Wearing a Helmet Affect Your Motorcycle Accident Claim in NYC?

Under New York law, wearing a helmet is mandatory for anyone riding a motorcycle. So, if you were in an accident during which you were not wearing a helmet, it’s almost definite that you will be considered irresponsible and guilty of not complying with the law. This will have a detrimental effect on your motorcycle accident injury claim and you could end up with nothing in compensation.

Under the pure comparative negligence rule of New York State, even a person who may have contributed partly to the accident is eligible to file a compensation claim. So, you can certainly file an insurance claim or bring a lawsuit against the party at fault even if you were riding without a helmet at the time of the accident.

But there is no guarantee that you will be able to win all the damages you claim because you will be considered to have flouted the law by riding without a helmet. If the jury finds you responsible to an extent of 25 percent of the injuries, you will receive only 75 percent of the actual compensation that was your due.

Exceptions do exist in rare cases. In case of extremely serious neck or head injury, an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in NYC may be able to get you some compensation if they can prove that even the presence of a helmet could not have protected you against the injuries you suffered in the accident.

Questions Asked To Determine Liability in an NYC Motorcycle Accident

As in any other motor vehicle accident, the amount of damages you receive depends on which party is found to be at fault for the collision. In some cases, such as accidents caused due to poorly maintained roads, a government entity may also be considered responsible for your accident. Here are a few important questions that insurance adjusters or the courts consider when deciding who is liable for an NYC motorcycle accident.

  • Was a citation issued at the accident site?
  • Were any of the concerned drivers speeding at the time of the accident?
  • Is there evidence that either party was driving under the influence of alcohol or other prohibited drugs?
  • Were there issues of distracted driving that led to the accident?
  • Did the drivers make legal turns after checking for traffic?
  • Was the motorcycle wearing a helmet at the time of the crash?
  • Was the helmet worn by the motorcyclist one that met DOT safety standards?

After a careful consideration of the facts revealed by each of these questions, the insurance company or the court will determine to what extent the several parties involved in the accident are liable. If such an enquiry shows that your injuries were caused due to your not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, you will be considered partly responsible for the accident even if you argue that the other driver was really the one at fault.

How Does the Helmet Usage Clause Impact Liability?

Technically speaking, a helmet can only protect you against head and neck injuries. So, if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, and you sustained head or neck injuries, you can be held liable for being irresponsible. To the extent of your negligence, you will lose out on a portion of the compensation you claimed.

In case you sustained an injury to any part of the body other than the head and neck, whether you wore a helmet or not makes no difference to the liability. However, the attorney’s of the other parties concerned in the accident will definitely try to use the helmet usage clause to reduce the amount they offer as a settlement. In these types of instances, it’s vital that you have concrete medical evidence that supports your claim that your injuries are in no way connected to helmet usage.

How Can a Motorcycle Accident Attorney in New York Help You?

If you were found riding your motorcycle without a helmet at the time of the accident, the other parties at fault will use this fact to emphasize that your injuries were caused due to your own irresponsible behavior. Insurance companies always do the best they can to restrict the amount of money given in compensation.

So, they will bring in all sorts of medical evidence and testimony to show that lack of a helmet had a huge impact on the severity of your injuries. Unless you have a skilled and experienced motorcycle accident attorney on your side, it can be very difficult to counter such arguments by the other party.

A motorcycle accident attorney will have a strong network of independent investigators, medical experts and financial analysts who can help to prove the extent of your injuries and their far-reaching impact on your health, your finances and quality of life. The testimony of these experts will be key to proving that your injuries would have still been just as severe even if you had been wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

The legal process one has to go through to win compensation in an NYC motorcycle accident case is quite complex. The jargon and paperwork can make you feel lost and this feeling gets worse when you have to interact alone with attorneys and insurance companies that have their most aggressive and experienced team contesting your claims.

Hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer in New York to deal with them is the easiest way to make sure the other parties get the message that you are serious about pursuing your compensation claim. Data too shows that plaintiffs who are represented by a legal expert tend to win more in compensation that those who decide to go it alone.

Get in Touch with an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Attorney in New York

At Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP, our compassionate and experienced motorcycle accident attorneys know how difficult life is for accident victims. In a motorcycle accident, it is the motorcycle rider who is likely to be far more injured than the car driver. Adding insult to injury, motorcyclists also have to deal with accusations of reckless driving even if the accidents were caused due to the fault of the other party.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident in New York due to another’s negligence, you could be entitled to receive damages for all the loss you suffered. Even in case you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, it can be possible to recover compensation by proving that the lack of a helmet had no impact on the nature of your injuries.

For a free review of your case, call Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP today at 1-800-660-2264 or contact us online to discuss your case particulars.


122 E. 42nd Street Suite 3800
New York, NY 10168

Tel: 1-800-660-2264



8900 Sutphin Blvd Suite 501
Queens, NY 11435

Tel: (718) 399-3100

*By Appointment Only



220-226 E 161st Street
The Bronx, NY 10451

Tel: (212) 344-1000

*By Appointment Only