Under California’s fault accident laws, drivers who cause accidents must pay for the damages of their victims—including motorcyclists. If you are in an accident with a negligent driver, you could file a lawsuit or insurance claim against him or her.
During its investigation, the insurance company may scrutinize multiple factors about the accident to determine fault—including whether or not you were wearing a helmet. Since California requires motorcyclists to wear helmets, this factor could impact your case.
Section 27803 of the California Vehicle Code requires that every person who rides a motorcycle wear a helmet. Both motorcycle operators and their passengers must wear a helmet whenever they are riding on these vehicles. It is unlawful to operate a motorcycle without a helmet and you may be subject to a $197 fine.
Because California is a fault accident state, you will need to prove that the other driver is responsible for your collision. These cases rely on the presence of negligence, or the driver’s failure to uphold his or her duty of care.
During the insurance process, the company will conduct an independent investigation into your collision and determine who was at fault. If you are filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you will need to supply evidence that supports four key elements.
Although you may be able to establish the at-fault driver’s negligence using evidence like medical records or surveillance footage, your award may be at risk. If you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, the adjuster can use this information to deny your claim or justify a lower settlement amount. The company may claim that, if you had been wearing a helmet, your injuries may not be as severe as they currently are.
If your case goes to trial, your award could be at risk of reduction due to California’s pure comparative negligence laws. As a motorcyclist, you also have a duty to follow traffic laws, including helmet laws, and operate your vehicle safely. If it finds that you were not wearing a helmet, the court may assign you a percentage of the liability.
The court will then reduce your settlement by the percentage of fault you share. For example, if you ask for a $30,000 settlement and the court assigns 20% of the liability to you, you will only receive $24,000 of your original award.
If you are in a motorcycle accident, you need an attorney on your side who can advocate for your best interests and defend you against these accusations of liability. Contact a San Francisco motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.