There is no disputing the fact that motorcycle riding is a dangerous activity. According to the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle riders have a much higher chance of experiencing a traffic fatality than riders in cars.
But despite these dangers, motorcycle riding enjoys a nationwide level of popularity. Sadly, the more motorcycles on the road, the more likely a fatality or serious injury will occur. And these accidents take a great toll on victims and their families. They also have a high societal cost.
Luckily, helmets are very effective in mitigating the damage caused by motorcycle accident head injuries. However, in spite of the evidence that helmets save lives and lead to fewer serious brain injuries, most states do not have a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. West Virginia is not one of those states.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws in General
Serious injuries and fatalities take valuable people out of the workforce. They also require substantial resources to treat and deal with. One injured motorcycle rider can result in a great productivity decline at a job. In addition, this can cause a strain on the resources of a hospital or clinic.
For this reason, every state in the country has, at one time or another, debated establishing a mandatory motorcycle helmet law. By instituting a mandatory helmet law, fewer people may be hurt or killed in motorcycle accidents. This translates to higher productivity levels and fewer resources needed for treating accident victims.
However, most states opt to place individual freedoms and rights over the safety concerns involved with helmetless riders. Fewer than 20 states and D.C. have mandatory universal helmet laws. Most do, however, have some form of motorcycle helmet law based on the age of the rider.
How West Virginia’s Motorcycle Helmet Law Works
West Virginia’s motorcycle helmet law requires that anyone who rides on a motorcycle must wear a helmet. The helmet cannot be just any motorcycle helmet. It must be a helmet that has been approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Additionally, the helmet you choose should have:
- A DOT sticker affixed to it with “DOT” or “DOT FMVSS no. 218 Certified” visibly showing
- An ANSI or Snell Label, which indicates that the helmet meets the standards of these non-governmental motorcycle safety groups that have similar or higher standards than the DOT
- A snug fit on your head, as loose helmets are less effective at protecting riders and can interfere with the operation of a motorcycle
- No defects, such as cracked shields and shells or loose or missing padding, can render a helmet virtually useless for protection purposes
Because West Virginia’s helmet law is universal, riders of all ages must wear them when on a motorcycle. However, efforts have been made in the West Virginia legislature to pass a bill that would exempt those over 21 years of age from having to wear a helmet. The bill has not yet become law.
Why Wearing a Helmet Is Vital in West Virginia
Wearing a helmet is important to protect the operator’s or passenger’s head from violent blunt-force impacts. However, there is another reason why West Virginia residents may want to consider obeying this motorcycle helmet law. Failure to do so can hurt your chances of getting maximum compensation for your injuries.
Because the law requires helmets, a motorcyclist who does not wear one can be blamed for part of or all of their injuries. Under West Virginia’s tort laws, a victim who is partially responsible for their motorcycle injuries will lose out on compensation. The loss is relative to the degree that they were responsible.
For example, suppose that a motorcycle rider incurs $50,000 in damages. Since the rider wore no helmet, they are deemed 10% responsible for the damages. This means the rider will receive $50,000 minus 10%, or $45,000. If a motorcycle rider is more than 50% liable for their crash, their suit will likely be barred.
How Motorcycle Helmets Protect Riders
The motorcycle helmet’s main way of protecting riders is by absorbing or deflecting blunt force. Pads inside the motorcycle helmet cushion the head while a durable outer shell protects from the most violent of impacts.
Motorcycle helmets also protect against road rash and burns. If a motorcycle rider slides over asphalt, the helmet will keep the rider’s head from making contact with asphalt. And if a fire or hot vehicle parts threaten a motorcycle rider, the helmet prevents the head from getting burned.
Helmets also protect even when there is no accident. As a motorcyclist transits the roadways, the helmet acts as an insulator from sound and wind. It also helps with visibility by blocking bugs and debris from ending up in a motorcycle rider’s eyes.
Get Answers From a Seasoned Motorcycle Attorney
If you ride a motorcycle in West Virginia, it’s crucial to understand helmet rules in the state. An experienced West Virginia motorcycle accident lawyer is ready to answer any of your questions. And if you’ve been injured in a motorcycle crash, you deserve to know your legal options.
Contact the Joel Bieber Firm to learn more about the helmet law in West Virginia today.