Since you cannot control others’ actions on the road, it is impossible to prevent all bicycle accidents. However, there is no doubt that helmet use can significantly decrease a biker’s risk of severe and fatal injuries when these accidents occur. A 2016 study reported by the American Journal of Surgery found that helmeted bicycle riders were 51 percent less likely to suffer major head injuries in an accident and 44 percent less likely to suffer fatal injuries.
If you were not wearing a helmet at the time of your crash and sustained injuries, you might be wondering if you still have a valid legal claim. The good news is that you can still recover damages for your injuries even if you did not put on a helmet. The not-so-good news is that you may not be able to recover as much compensation as you would have if you wore a helmet.
Do Washington Laws Require Bike Helmets?
Washington does not have a law that requires bicyclists to wear helmets, although this does not necessarily mean it is legal to ride without one. Many Washington counties and cities have enacted mandatory bicycle helmet laws. King County and the City of Seattle are among them. Since 2003, bicyclists of all ages must wear a helmet here.
According to the law in King County, “any person operating or riding on a bicycle not powered by motor on a public roadway, bicycle path or on any right-of-way or publicly owned facilities located in King County including Seattle, shall wear a protective helmet designed for bicycle safety.” Anyone found in violation of the law can face a civil infraction and a fine of $30.
Can You Recover Damages if You Weren’t Wearing a Helmet?
The potential fault an injured victim might have had in causing or exacerbating their own injuries is always a consideration in personal injury claims. Any person that is 100% at fault for their injury does not have a claim for recovery. However, a law violation does not automatically preclude a victim from recovering damages, although it can diminish their financial recovery. People who had some fault in causing their injuries can still recover compensation under Washington’s comparative fault law.
Using the concept of comparative fault, also known as contributory negligence, each party is assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. Your percentage of fault will proportionately reduce the compensation you are eligible to receive. Suppose your damages are worth $100,000, but you are 20 percent at-fault because you were not wearing a helmet at the time of your accident. You would be able to recover $80,000, or 20 percent of your damages, instead of the full $100,000.
Keep in mind that injuries that could not have been prevented or made less severe by using a helmet will not count towards comparative fault. If you broke your leg and separated your shoulder, a helmet could not have prevented those injuries. As such, your recovery should not be decreased by not wearing a helmet and sustaining these types of injuries.
Your damages can include expenses and other losses such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Scarring or disfigurement
We Help Injured Bicyclists Like You Recover Compensation
Helmet use is not a prerequisite for financial recovery after a bicycle accident. Do not let your lack of a helmet keep you from pursuing the compensation you deserve or from calling Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC for a consultation. We have helped many injured riders receive a fair recovery, even if they were not wearing a helmet when they were injured. Call us today to receive your free bicycle accident case consultation.