In Washington, motorcyclists generally must wear a helmet when riding. This is in the best interests of riders, as wearing a helmet can protect a person from suffering a head injury if the person is involved in a motorcycle accident. In fact, a motorcyclist who doesn’t wear a helmet is three times more apt to suffer a brain injury in a motorcycle crash than those who do wear a helmet. Simply put, helmets save lives.

However, does the failure to wear a helmet mean a motorcyclist cannot pursue a legal claim if they are hit by a car? In some states, the damages a motorcyclist may collect if they were not wearing a helmet when the crash occurred could be reduced or even barred altogether. This may be the case when the motorcyclist is deemed to be partially at-fault in the collision — that is, their negligence played a role in the crash.

It is important to note that there is a difference between negligence that contributes to the crash itself and negligence that simply makes a rider’s injuries worse. If the motorcyclist’s negligence did not contribute to the collision, the fact that their injuries may have been made worse due to not wearing a helmet will not always bar them from seeking damages.

In some states, not wearing a helmet is considered an act of negligence, so if it is a proximate cause of the damages the motorcyclist suffered the compensation the motorcyclist may seek could be reduced or barred. However, if the motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet did not contribute to the injuries he or she suffered in the crash, the proximate cause element may not be met, and recovery may still be a possibility in the right circumstances. Therefore, it is important that motorcyclists understand helmet laws in their state and how the laws may affect their ability to pursue a lawsuit in the event of a motorcycle accident.