Am I Entitled to Compensation After a Bike Accident Even If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?

While evidence suggests that wearing a bicycle helmet can seriously reduce the risk of head injuries in a bicycle accident, many bicyclists do not wear helmets. Some find them uncomfortable, some find them distracting, some don’t like the look, and others just forget to put one on before they set out.

If a helmet can protect you from injuries but you fail to wear one and you are hurt in a bicycle accident in Virginia, D.C. or Maryland, does your lack of a helmet prevent you from recovering compensation? Can it be considered evidence of contributory negligence? While each case is unique, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to recover substantial compensation for your bicycle accident injuries even if you failed to put on a helmet.

Adults are Not Required to Wear a Bike Helmet by State Law but May Be Required to Do So by Local Law

While most states and the District of Columbia require minors under a certain age to wear a bicycle helmet while riding on public roads, the same requirements are not in place at the state level for adults. However, many counties and towns impose their own helmet requirements. For instance, the town of Sykesville, Maryland requires riders of all ages to wear a helmet.

Virginia does not have a state law requiring helmets, but state statutes permit localities to impose helmet requirements for bicyclists aged 14 and under. So, most adults involved in bicycle accidents in the DMV are not obligated to wear helmets legally, but many minors involved in accidents are required to be wearing helmets.

What is Contributory Negligence?

Regardless of whether a bicyclist is required by traffic law to wear a helmet, are they generally considered to be acting irresponsibly if they don’t? Are they negligent if they ride without a helmet? Is the failure to wear a helmet considered contributory negligence in Virginia, D.C., or Maryland?

Contributory negligence is an old legal doctrine that most jurisdictions have abolished. Under this doctrine, a person who is injured by the negligent actions of another person cannot recover compensation if their own negligent actions contributed to their injuries in any way, no matter how small. Most jurisdictions now follow a form of the comparative negligence doctrine which reduces the recovery allowed to account for the percentage of fault of the victim, but does not prevent them from recovering entirely unless they bear the majority of responsibility for causing the injury. For instance, if an accident victim was found to be 20% at fault for causing an accident, their compensation would be reduced by 20% in a comparative fault jurisdiction and they would receive no compensation in a contributory negligence jurisdiction.

Virginia and Maryland still follow the contributory negligence rule for bicycle accident cases, but D.C. now has a statutory provision that establishes a different standard for bicyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable users of the roads. If an injured bicyclist is not more than 50% at fault for the collision, then they are permitted to seek damages from the other responsible party. Moreover, their damages are not reduced to account for their share in causation. They can seek recovery for 100% of their damages even if they were partially at fault.

Is Failure to Wear a Helmet Considered Contributory Negligence?

While the comparative fault rule is good news for bicyclists injured in D.C., those injured in a bicycle accident in Virginia and Maryland do not have to worry about contributory negligence when it comes to bicycle helmets. If a rider was not wearing a helmet, that cannot be used against them to claim contributory negligence. In fact, evidence of helmet use—or the lack thereof—cannot even be introduced by the defense when arguing against liability for causing a bicycle accident.

Therefore, it is quite possible to recover compensation for a bicycle accident if you were not wearing a helmet. However, it is still crucial to collect evidence to demonstrate that another person’s negligent actions caused the collision and your injuries. Moreover, you may need to show that you were not negligent in other ways, such as failing to follow rules of the road.

Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC Helps Victims of Bicycle Accidents Recover Damages

The experienced team at Jennifer Porter law, PLLC understands how to take on insurance companies to recover full and fair compensation after a bicycle accident or other personal injury caused by another person’s negligence. If you or a loved one suffered injuries or wrongful death in a bicycle collision or other accident, it is best to start working on your case right away to collect evidence to demonstrate liability. Contact our team today for a free consultation and case evaluation by calling (571) 532-9070 or reach out to us online.