Stephen Hasner | Motorcycle Accidents | August 31, 2021
Georgia, along with 18 other states, requires all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet — regardless of their age. Georgia also requires all motorcycle riders to wear eye protection if the motorcycle lacks a windshield.
Georgia has taken these steps to reduce injuries and deaths resulting from motorcycle accidents; motorcycle operators and passengers have no passenger compartment to protect them. As a result, motorcycle riders have a much higher risk of injury or death from a collision.
Here are some of the things you should know about helmet laws in Atlanta, GA.
Purpose of Helmet Laws
Every state implemented universal helmet laws in the late 1960s, when the U.S. government threatened to withhold highway funding for states without these laws.
In the late 1990s, the government dropped its helmet requirement for highway funding. Some states repealed their helmet laws under the theory that motorcyclists should have the freedom to ride without a helmet.
This gave researchers a perfect opportunity to study the relationship between helmet laws and motorcyclist behavior and safety.
Motorcycle Laws Encourage Helmet Use
States with universal helmet laws see greater helmet usage than other states. 94.3% of motorcycle operators and passengers wear helmets when required by law, as compared to 59.8% of motorcyclists in states without helmet laws.
Motorcycle Helmet Laws Reduce Injuries
Helmets certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) are twice as likely to protect a motorcyclist from injury as a novelty, unapproved helmet.
Georgia’s Motorcycle Helmet Law
Georgia’s helmet law requires all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear an approved helmet. Georgia defines “motorcycle” to include two- and three-wheeled vehicles that have a seat or saddle. Tractors, ATVs, and mopeds are not motorcycles.
Georgia’s Department of Public Safety is the organization that approves helmets. The Department of Public Safety has deferred to the USDOT’s safety standards for helmet certification. As a result, any helmet approved by the USDOT is approved for use in the state of Georgia.
Georgia’s helmet law has two exceptions. The law does not require a helmet for anyone riding in an enclosed cab or motorized cart. It also allows the operation of three-wheeled motorcycles for agricultural purposes without a helmet.
Georgia’s helmet law also includes eye protection requirements. Under the helmet law, motorcycle operators and passengers must wear approved eye protection on motorcycles that lack a windshield. This provision has no exceptions.
Consequences of Not Wearing a Motorcycle Helmet
Motorcycle operators and passengers who do not wear a helmet could receive a traffic citation. Failing to wear a helmet constitutes a misdemeanor in Georgia, which means that you could face a fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to 1 year. But in practice, no one receives a jail sentence for violating the helmet law. Instead, a judge will usually assess a fine of $100 to $500.
If you suffer a TBI due in part to a lack of a helmet, do not expect sympathy from an insurance claims adjuster or a jury. Georgia uses a modified comparative fault system to ensure fairness in negligence cases. This means that a judge can reduce your damages in proportion to your share of the fault for your injuries.
For example, if a jury finds that you bear 35% of the fault for your injuries, the judge can only award you 65% of your damages.
If you sustain a head injury in a motorcycle accident, the insurer for the at-fault driver will investigate whether you wore a helmet. If you were not wearing a helmet during the accident, the insurer’s claims adjuster will likely reduce or deny your claim.
Worse yet, if you file a lawsuit, the insurer’s lawyer will argue to the jury that you failed to exercise reasonable care by riding your motorcycle without a helmet. Given the mountain of studies that prove the risks of riding without a helmet, the jury could reasonably assign some fault to you. If the jury assigns 50% or more of the fault to you, you’ll receive nothing.
The Role of the Injury Lawyer in Motorcycle Accident Cases
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, the job of your injury lawyer is to show the insurance adjuster and jury that you were the innocent victim of someone else’s negligence. This job becomes much more difficult when you fail to wear a helmet.
While no lawyer can predict the outcome of a case, you should assume that you will decrease your odds of recovering compensation for your injuries when you ride a motorcycle without a helmet in Atlanta, GA.
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