Much like motorcycle helmet laws, bicycle helmet laws vary significantly in different jurisdictions. In the Empire State, all bicycle riders under age 14 must wear bicycle helmets.
Various studies indicate that bicycle helmets reduce head injuries when it comes to falls but vehicle collisions present a different scenario.
There is additional evidence that bicycle helmets have the opposite effect when it comes to safety. Subconsciously, when motorists see helmet-wearing bicycle riders, they assume they will survive collisions.
So, drivers take additional risks, such as passing close to bicyclists or not paying as much attention to them.
When a 4,000-plus pound motor vehicle strikes a 20-plus pound bicycle, the results are usually tragic for bicyclists, whether or not they are wearing helmets.
A New York personal injury attorney can obtain needed and deserved financial compensation for these crash victims.
Bicycle Helmets and Head Injuries
Thin bicycle helmets often protect against certain kinds of trauma head injuries. But this protection is limited, at best, in a full collision with a vehicle.
Most bicycle helmets do not protect the cervical spine, which is in the back of the neck. This part of the spine is one of the most crucial parts of the central nervous system.
A trauma injury to this area, such as falling off a bike after a collision, often causes a pinched nerve. These injuries are often debilitating.
Alternatively, an injury to this area could knock the cervical spine out of alignment. This spinal misalignment, which is very difficult to correct, often causes paralysis.
Furthermore, although they are effective against some trauma injuries, helmets offer no protection against motion-related head injuries.
When people fall and land hard, their brains repeatedly slam against the insides of their skulls.
These internal Traumatic Brain Injuries are very difficult to diagnose and treat. Doctors often ascribe the initial symptoms, such as disorientation, to shock from the accident.
So, many victims don’t get immediate treatment. If that happens, it’s much more difficult for brain injury physical therapists to treat the symptoms.
Treating brain injury symptoms is the only option in these cases. The injuries themselves are permanent. When brain cells die, they never regenerate.
Can I Obtain Compensation If I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?
More than likely, yes, victims are eligible for full compensation even if they weren’t wearing helmets and even if they were legally required to do so.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme cases.
As mentioned, helmet laws vary significantly in different states.
The effect of not wearing a helmet also varies significantly in different states. The law in the Empire State is particularly complex on this point.
The so-called bicycle helmet defense mirrors the so-called seat belt defense.
According to 1984’s Bongianni v. Vlasovetz, “Failure to use a seat belt does not amount to negligence per se or contributory negligence. Seat belt defense is strictly limited to determination of damages, and is unavailable for determining liability.”
Wearing or not wearing a bicycle helmet has nothing to do with causing or not causing a wreck, regardless of the rider’s age (negligence per se or contributory negligence).
In fact, if anything, wearing a helmet contributes to crashes. Many helmets limit rider visibility and restrict rider hearing.
Next, as for the determination of damages, insurance company lawyers cannot simply cite safety statistics and wag their fingers at helmetless victims.
Instead, the insurance company must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the victim’s failure to wear a helmet, as opposed to the other driver’s negligence, substantially caused injury.
As per the discussion above regarding head injuries, this point is very difficult to prove.
Helmet or no helmet, bicycle accident victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.