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Question: If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet, Can I Still Receive Compensation for a Motorcycle Crash?

Answer: Many motorcyclists who get hurt in motorcycle accidents but were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash want to know if they can still recover compensation. The short answer is that many motorcyclists still may be able to obtain damages even if she or he failed to wear a helmet.

Under Nevada law (NRS 486.231), all motorcyclists in the state of Nevada—regardless of whether you are a Nevada resident—are required to wear motorcycle helmets anytime they are on the road. More specifically, the statute states that anytime a motorcycle is being driven on the highway, “the driver and passenger shall wear protective headgear securely fastened on the head and protective glasses, goggles or face shields meeting those standards.”

In other words, it is illegal to ride a motorcycle helmet on the highways in and around Las Vegas without a helmet. But does breaking the law when it comes to helmet you preclude you from obtaining financial compensation if you file a claim? The answer to this question depends on many different factors, but most importantly it raises the question of comparative negligence (NRS 41.141). Comparative negligence refers to the amount of the plaintiff’s negligence in comparison to that of the defendant (or defendants).

According to the statute, as long as a motorcycle accident victim is not 51 percent or more responsible for his or her injuries, then that motorcycle accident victim can still recover. This is tricky when it comes to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and motorcycle accident recovery. If a motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet and suffered head trauma, the court can take into account the motorcyclist’s own negligence in failing to wear the helmet. If the court decides that the motorcyclist was more than 50 percent to blame for his or her head injuries, then the motorcyclist is barred from recovery. Even if the motorcyclist is 50 percent to blame, however, then she or he can still recover damages but the award will be reduced by the percentage of the motorcyclist’s own negligence.

For example, if the court says that failing to wear a helmet resulted in a plaintiff being 80 percent at fault for his head injuries, then he cannot recover anything. However, if the court determines that the plaintiff is 50 percent responsible for a TBI due to his failure to wear a helmet, then his damages award would be reduced by 50 percent.