North Carolina laws require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. North Carolina is also one of a small number of states that apply a strict contributory negligence standard in accident cases. Specifically, if your negligence contributed to or caused the accident and your injuries, then regardless of the other party’s negligence you will not be awarded any damages in a negligence lawsuit against the other party. If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident in North Carolina and you were not wearing a helmet, you might conclude that the balance of the North Carolina helmet law and the state’s contributory negligence standards will eliminate your opportunity to recover damages to compensate you for your injuries. Fortunately, this is not the case.
The North Carolina helmet law expressly states that a rider’s failure to wear a helmet “shall not be considered negligence per se or contributory negligence per se in any civil action.” This express statement only means that your failure to wear a helmet will not be deemed to be negligence in and of itself. The other driver in a motorcycle accident case can still argue that your failure to wear a helmet is evidence of your own negligence in an accident. Your motorcycle accident attorney will respond that you were not negligent and that you are entitled to recover damages. The success of that response will be a function of the nature of your injuries.
Generally accepted scientific evidence shows that a motorcycle helmet will significantly reduce head and neck injuries in a motorcycle accident. When this evidence is combined with the mandatory helmet law in North Carolina, you suddenly have two strikes against you if you suffered head and neck injuries in the motorcycle accident. Your motorcycle accident lawyer might argue that you would have suffered the same or similar head and neck injuries even if you had worn a helmet, but North Carolina’s contributory negligence standards will come back at you to get the third strike.
Whether or not you were wearing a helmet should be irrelevant in a contributory negligence argument if you did not suffer a head or neck injury. Regardless, your opponent who caused the accident will probably raise the fact that you were not wearing a helmet in an attempt to show your acceptance of risk or to argue that you were careless.
Motorcycle riders face a natural bias from non-riders who do not understand or appreciate riding culture. If you ride in North Carolina, you will always be better off if you follow the law and wear a helmet. We understand motorcycle riders and the issues and biases they face when they seek damages to compensate them for injuries from motorcycle accidents. Please contact us as soon as you can after you’ve been in an accident. We can evaluate your case and assess your chances to recover damages no matter if you were wearing a helmet or otherwise.