Many motorcyclists enjoy the freedom of riding their bikes in the open air, the experience often stimulating a rider’s physical and mental faculties. Riding a motorcycle can give a person a sense of independence and purpose. Yet, a rider understands that with such freedom comes responsibility. Motorcycle safety is essential for protecting the lives of the rider and passengers.
While some states only require certain age groups to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, Massachusetts law requires all users to wear a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 52 Massachusetts motorcycle fatalities in 2020. Protective headgear is vital for anyone riding on a motorcycle, which is why stringent laws have been put in place to keep people safe.
If you would like to learn more about how helmet law affects your potential motorcycle accident claim, please contact Kiley Law Group today.
Why Massachusetts Motorcyclists Should Wear Helmets
Motorcycles don’t have the same kind of protection as other vehicles. There is no outer shell to protect a person when falling or crashing into something, which leaves riders to feel the full force of the collision.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2019 report stated that motorcyclists are about 29 times more likely to die in a crash (per mile traveled) than passenger vehicle occupants. Meanwhile, national data revealed that 84,000 motorcyclists were injured and 5,014 motorcycle fatalities were counted in 2019.
Wearing protective headgear could be the difference between life and death. Helmets have saved the lives of thousands of people who were involved in motorcycle accidents. Anyone who gets on a motorcycle must do his or her own part to ensure personal safety, which includes putting a helmet on.
Failure to wear a helmet may lead to catastrophic injuries including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head injuries
- Neck and spinal injuries
- Cuts, bruises, and lacerations
- Fractures and broken bones
How to Identify a Motorcycle Helmet That Meets National Safety Standards
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has strict motorcycle helmet laws requiring all motorcycle operators and passengers of all ages to wear protective headgear, including those riding in a sidecar. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218 establishes the minimum performance requirements for helmets designed for use by motorcyclists.
Generally, if you want to identify a helmet that meets or exceeds the federal safety standards, there are 3 essential markers to check for:
- DOT Sticker: Helmets that meet the federal safety standard must have a “DOT” sticker on the outside back of the helmet. Some novelty helmets may have a fake DOT sticker on the back, which is why you should look for more than 1 of the 3 indicators to determine whether it is a safe helmet.
- Certification label: In addition to the DOT sticker on the outside, look for a certification label located inside the helmet. Private, non-profit organizations such as the Snell Foundation and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provide an added level of confidence in the certification process. These organizations perform impact tests of various helmets to ensure they meet the federal standards and are safe for use.
- Manufacturer’s label: Helmet manufacturers are required to place a label on or inside the helmet providing specific information. The label must include the:
- Manufacturer’s name
- Month and year of manufacture
- Construction materials
- Owner’s information
Looking for the 3 indicators listed above will help you to choose a helmet deemed safe according to the national standards. Yet, more is required to find a safe helmet that is a good fit for you.
How to Choose the Right Motorcycle Helmet
There are a variety of helmets available for purchase, yet not all of them are safe for use. Simply putting any kind of helmet on your head is not necessarily going to give you the protection you need. Caution is needed when shopping for a suitable helmet that is the right fit for you.
In order for a motorcycle helmet to do its job, it must meet the safety standards set by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) and needs to fit the rider properly. A helmet that is too tight or too loose not only affects the comfort factor for the rider, but it may also be unsafe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides helpful advice for choosing the right helmet. There are specific construction and safety features that will help you determine which motorcycle helmets are safe and which ones are not.
Thick inner liner
The hard inner liner of a helmet helps prevent head injuries by dispersing the force of impact during a crash. For this reason, the inner liner should be about 1 inch thick of firm polystyrene foam.
Sturdy chin straps and rivets
A helmet is only useful if it is fastened to the head properly. The purpose of a chinstrap is to hold the helmet firmly on the head. A helmet’s sturdy chin strap fastened with solid rivets will ensure it will stay in place and not fly off a rider thrown from a motorcycle.
Weight of helmet
There is no “one-size-fits-all” helmet because head shapes vary from person to person. The weight of a helmet will vary depending on the size, shape, and design. However, helmets that meet the federal safety standard generally weigh about 3 pounds. It is important to be aware of helmets marketed as “lightweight” – make sure the one you buy meets the minimum legal and safety requirements.
The federal safety standard for helmets allows visors, but it does not allow anything to extend beyond two-tenths of an inch from the surface of a helmet. Protruding decorations could be unsafe and should therefore be avoided.
Massachusetts Comparative Negligence Law
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts follows the comparative fault law for cases involving negligence. This means that even if a motorcycle accident victim shares part of the fault, he or she may still pursue compensation for damages.
The award for damages is adjusted according to the amount of negligence attributed to the injured party. You will not be barred from recovery as long as you share less than 51 percent of the fault for the accident.
What If a Motorcyclist Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet at the Time of the Accident?
It is extremely dangerous to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. If you are pulled over by the police, you will probably be fined for not wearing one. Failing to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle is careless and against the law.
At the same time, failing to wear a helmet does not necessarily block a rider from seeking financial damages for his or her injuries. This is because it is highly unlikely that choosing not to don a helmet would directly cause a traffic accident. However, failing to wear a helmet may lead to motorcyclists bearing responsibility for some of their own injuries.
For example, if a truck driver got distracted and hit a motorcyclist, the truck driver may be liable for the damages. But if the motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet and he sustained serious head injuries, the rider himself may be responsible for those injuries.
Insurance companies can use this sort of information to increase your portion of blame and thereby reduce the amount of your settlement.
The portion of fault assigned to the rider will affect the amount of compensation he or she is awarded for the damages. Even if riders are not liable for their respective accidents, each may still be responsible for his or her own head or neck injuries if a helmet was not worn.
Yet, if a rider’s injury (such as a broken leg) is unrelated to wearing a helmet, he or she may be able to pursue compensation for those costs.
How a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help You
All Massachusetts motorists who share the road have the responsibility to operate their vehicles in a safe manner. Motorcycle riders are often at much more risk on the roads because of unaware drivers. Even experienced motorcyclists who are safety conscious might be hurt or killed in an accident.
The lawyers at Kiley Law Group are familiar with Massachusetts laws that govern motorcycle accidents and safety standards. We use our knowledge and resources to provide quality legal representation for the people of Massachusetts and beyond. When we take on a case, we aggressively pursue the maximum financial recovery for the client so he or she can move on in life.
When you hire our legal team to protect your rights, your attorney will:
- Visit the accident scene and gather relevant evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and photos to support your claim
- Review case material and conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of your accident
- Determine all negligent parties involved in the accident
- Advocate for your rights and safeguard you from insurance company tactics
- Consult with recognized experts to give an accurate estimation of your damages
- Manage all correspondence and negotiate settlements with insurance companies
- Keep you and your family up to date with the progress of your case
Contact a Seasoned Motorcycle Accident Lawyer ASAP
Act now before the statute of limitations nears its end. If you have questions about your motorcycle accident, don’t hesitate to talk to one of our personal injury lawyers today. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer’s assistance makes it easier to meet the deadline on time. So why wouldn’t you want help in seeking justice for your injuries and getting the financial recovery you deserve?
Kiley Law Group is passionate about protecting the rights of those in the motorcycle community. In fact, our law firm’s founder, Tom Kiley, has been a keen motorcyclist longer than he has been practicing law. Over our years of serving the community, our legal team has helped recover hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for motorcycle accident victims.
When you hire Kiley Law Group, our qualified motorcycle accident lawyers will work tirelessly to protect your rights. Simultaneously, we are able and willing to make the process as stress-free as possible for every client. If you are unable to come to our office, we can even come to you and meet at a time and place convenient for you.
Call us at (888) 435-1321 to schedule your free case evaluation with Kiley Law Group today.