What Riders Should Know About Defective Motorcycle Helmets

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1 in 6 motorcycle deaths in states with mandatory helmet laws is attributed to riders wearing inadequate head protection, rather than helmets approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Experts agree that the helmet is the single most vital piece of protective gear for a motorcyclist to wear. Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the chance of a fatality in the event of a crash. However, not all helmets are created equal.

The DOT recognizes the importance of adequate protective gear, especially in regard to motorcycle helmets. Unfortunately, some novelty helmets including those like the ones featured on the popular television show Sons of Anarchy are growing in popularity but provide little to no protection in the case of a motorcycle accident. In fact, when the DOT tested these helmets on simulated riders, 100% suffered injury.

If you or a loved one ride a motorcycle, it’s important to make sure the rider as well as any secondary riders have access to and wear a DOT-approved helmet, preferably in a bright color that can be easily seen by other drivers.

DOT approved motorcycle helmets must meet a variety of standards, including:

  • Be able to withstand penetration. This refers to the outer material of a helmet. It is essential for rider safety that any debris which might bounce off the road or connect with the helmet in case of an accident cannot penetrate directly through the helmet, which is a common hazard with novelty helmets.
  • Have adequate impact attenuation. These words might sound complicated, but they simply refer to a helmet’s ability to absorb an impact that, without the helmet, would have been absorbed by the rider. Impact attenuation hinges on the kind of material used to pad the inside of the helmet. While this can make DOT-approved helmets slightly heavier and warmer than novelty helmets, the increase in safety for a rider is exponential with the use of a DOT approved helmet, outweighing the mild inconveniences of weight and temperature.
  • Secure straps and buckles that will not break under pressure. Many riders might overlook how secure the straps on their helmet are. Unfortunately, straps and buckles on novelty helmets are notorious for snapping in the midst of an accident, causing the helmet to fly off, ensuring some level of damage to the rider’s head, often severe. In order for a helmet design to pass DOT inspection, the straps and buckles must be made in a way that prevents them from snapping or breaking in the event of an incident.

In 19 states, it is mandatory to wear a DOT-approved helmet while on the road.

In states that require the use of a DOT approved helmet while riding a motorcycle, novelty helmets, sometimes referred to as “brain buckets”, will not suffice. Riders in these states receive fines and penalties for failing to wear a helmet, or failing to wear a DOT approved helmet. In the case of an accident, failing to wear a DOT approved helmet can also have significant consequences on the kind of compensation a rider is eligible for.

Even if your state does not require the use of a DOT approved helmet when riding a motorcycle, it is still highly recommended. It can easily save the life of both the rider and any secondary riders that accompany them. Failure to wear adequate head protection can result in truly catastrophic consequences for riders and their families.

Even if a motorcyclist did not cause the accident, failing to wear a DOT-approved helmet could affect their potential for compensation.

This is primarily due to the way that juries tend to approach cases involving motorcycle accidents. In general, juries already tend to be more skeptical of motorcycle accidents. If a rider was not wearing a helmet, or wearing a novelty helmet at the time of the crash, a jury might decide that they should not be eligible for compensation. Alternatively, a jury could decide that the rider is only eligible for a partial amount of the compensation they might otherwise have received if they had been wearing a DOT-approved helmet.

Experts recommend preparing to spend a little more money on a good helmet than any other type of protective gear.

If there is one piece of protective gear you intend to splurge on, experts and long-time motorcycle riders alike generally agree that the money should go toward a DOT-approved helmet with the highest likelihood of preventing a fatality in case of a motorcycle accident. While other types of protective gear are also recommended, including a jacket, gloves, riding pants, and riding boots, none of these are required by law, indicating the severity of what can happen without a proper helmet.

If you or a loved one were injured in a motorcycle crash, talk to an experienced motorcycle accident attorney.

Due primarily to the predisposition of many juries to discount the validity of a rider’s case, it’s important to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney before pursuing a case. A motorcycle accident attorney will have experience dealing with these situations and will be able to help prove to the jury that you were taking every safety precaution possible. If you were wearing a DOT-approved helmet, this greatly improves your potential for compensation.

However, if you were not wearing a helmet or were wearing a non-DOT approved helmet at the time of the crash, it is even more important to contact a motorcycle accident attorney who will know how to speak to the jury on your behalf, and help mitigate some of the inherent damage to your case. The good news is that most of these attorneys offer free consultations and work on contingency, which means you won’t have to pay for their services unless and until they win your case.

To learn more about the danger of novelty helmets or to learn whether your helmet is safe or not in the case of a collision, contact a motorcycle accident attorney.