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What happens when helmets aren't worn in fatal motorcycle wrecks?

Many states require that motorcyclists wear helmets, and for good reason. Helmets protect the brain and help reduce the likelihood of head injuries and subsequent fatalities. Connecticut does require helmets, but not for all motorcyclists. Those who are 16 and 17 years old must wear a helmet, as well as those who are over age 18 and have only a permit. So what happens in fatal motorcycle wrecks when the motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet and is killed by another motorist? Does the absence of a helmet affect liability as well as compensation in a wrongful death case?

Even though helmets are not required in Connecticut, they still should be worn in order to provide riders with protection. In fact, a motorcyclist who is injured or killed due to head injuries because a helmet was not worn may be considered partially at fault for the injuries. This could affect the victim's family's wrongful death claim - any claim for compensation could be reduced or barred altogether.

However, if the motorcyclist was killed by injuries not related to the head or brain, then the fact that he or she did not wear a helmet has no effect on a claim for compensation. This is because the person would have died whether or not a helmet was worn. The other motorist would likely be considered the negligent driver.

Liability and compensation in such a situation can be a gray area. There are no absolutes and experts may be needed to reenact the crash and determine whether a helmet would have saved the person's life. When a loved one is killed in an accident, it's best to seek legal help as soon as possible to determine what types of compensation may be available.

Source: FindLaw, "Helmet Laws and Motorcycle Accident Cases," accessed Feb. 28, 2015

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