In California, suffering bicycle injuries without helmets does not mean cyclists have no legal recourse when seeking compensation.
If you have sustained injuries in a vehicle accident while not wearing a helmet, don’t make the mistake of assuming the other driver’s insurance won’t cover your injuries. When it comes to such accidents, California law treats bicycle injuries without helmets no differently than it does injuries sustained while wearing helmets. Whatever happened, you can seek compensation.
But how is that possible, considering insurance companies will use any excuse not to pay out? If you have questions about your bicycle injury claim, contact Los Angeles Bicycle Law today.
California Law Does Not Require Adults to Wear Bicycle Helmets
We recommend you do wear a helmet when you drive your bicycle, just in case. But you don’t have to. There’s no California law requiring you to wear a bicycle helmet if you’re 18 or older. That’s the biggest reason why sustaining bicycle injuries without helmets can’t keep you from seeking compensation.
Some people may claim otherwise by citing California Vehicle Code 21212, but don’t fall for it. That’s for people under 18 only. If they cite the 2015 bill introducing mandatory helmets for all bike riders, SB-192, shut down that argument too. Lawmakers scaled SB-192 back before it went into effect. It doesn’t cover adults.
At one point there were some municipalities that required all bicyclists to wear helmets, specifically Chico and El Cerrito in northern California, but state law has since trumped local law.
Bicycle Injuries Without Helmets and Comparative Negligence
Comparative negligence is a rule of law used in California to determine how much each driver contributed to a vehicle accident. In some states, getting assigned partial blame means you can’t seek compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. California is not one of those states. Therefore, sustaining bike injuries without helmets doesn’t leave you high and dry when it comes to injury compensation.
From a strict legalistic standpoint, whether you were wearing a helmet doesn’t apply to comparative negligence (for reasons we’ll discuss in more detail later). That said, attempting to file an insurance claim without help if you weren’t wearing a helmet probably won’t get you enough compensation to pay your medical bills. Legal or not, whether you were wearing a helmet does matter to insurance companies.
The best way to fight them? Hire a good bicycle injury lawyer.
How Insurers Will Try to Avoid Paying You
If you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, the insurer will claim your own negligence contributed to the injury. Some online advice will also tell you that. It may even be true — but helmet laws do not apply here.
And let’s get real. Your bicycle helmet is really meant to protect you if you bump into something at very low speed or fall and hit the ground. How well will it protect you if you’re hit by a two-ton car at even just 20 miles per hour? It may help a little, but you may still be hurt.
Here are ways we can fight an insurance company’s attempt to reduce compensation for damages.
- Inequitable results. It makes no sense to lower a compensation offer for non-head injuries because you weren’t wearing your helmet. But it’s a common tactic.
- Circumstances. When and where did the accident happen? You might not have been wearing a helmet because you didn’t expect to need it. Maybe you were just going around the corner for a loaf of bread.
- What caused the accident? Did the other driver hit you while you were driving in the bike lane? Did you dart out in front of them unexpectedly? Would a helmet even have made a difference? If not, we can move to exclude arguments based on helmet use.
- Legislative intent. The state demands numerous things of a bicycle and its driver, including functional brakes, but helmets are optional. Compare this to a car, where the state requires seatbelts and their use. Do you, as a bicyclist, have a duty to wear a helmet? The state legislature doesn’t think so.
Contact a Los Angeles Bicycle Accident Attorney
Michael Stephenson specializes in Los Angeles bicycle law. If you have questions about a bike accident in Los Angeles County or elsewhere in southern California, call us for a free consultation. We may be able to help you get the compensation you need.