Motorcycle Helmet Law
Arizona’s current laws only require motorcycle helmets for riders under the age of 18. Adult riders in Arizona have the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. However, most motorcycle and safety experts strongly recommend the use of helmets. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets saved 1,784 lives in 2007. There is also another reason to wear a helmet at all times. If you are injured by a negligent driver, poor road conditions, or an equipment malfunction and attempt to seek compensation, not wearing a helmet can make it more difficult to receive proper compensation and may make a difference in the size of the award you receive.
Negative Jury Perceptions
It should again be emphasised that, in Arizona, adults have the right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet. In addition, if you are injured because of the negligence of someone else, you have the right to receive compensation, whether or not you were wearing a helmet at the time. However, seeking compensation often means convincing a jury that the defendant is responsible for your injuries. Many people have unfair prejudices against motorcycle riders, to begin with, and if a rider was not wearing a helmet at the time of his or her injury, many jury members may think the rider was responsible for the injuries through his or her negligence.
If a motorcycle rider was not wearing a helmet, the defence lawyers will set out to prove that the rider was at least partially responsible for his or her injuries. This is known as a comparative negligence defence. In comparative negligence, the jury can reduce the number of damages a plaintiff can claim if it is proven that the plaintiff was partially responsible for his or her injuries through his or her own negligence. Arizona has a pure comparative fault rule, which means that a damaged party can collect damages even if he or she is 99% at fault. However, the damage amount is reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault. In other words, if the jury believes you are 50% at fault for your injuries, the defendant will only be responsible for 50% of your damages.
Brain and Spinal Injuries
Comparative negligence reductions are especially damaging in motorcycle helmet cases because they often involve brain and spinal injuries, which are among the most devastating types of injuries a motorcycle rider may suffer. A jury may award damages for other injuries, but determine that a rider’s brain or spinal injuries are their own fault due to the lack of a motorcycle helmet. For example, a rider with a broken arm and a severe brain injury may receive compensation for the broken arm, but not for the brain injury.