Is Evidence of a Motorcyclist’s Failure to Wear a Helmet Admissible as Evidence of His Own Negligence?

Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, only those accident victims who are completely free of fault are able to recover for their injuries. This strict law, which is not applied by the majority of states, precludes many Maryland motorcycle accident victims from recovering for the injuries they’ve sustained. Thus, in a motorcycle accident case against an allegedly negligent driver, the focus is not just on the defendant’s conduct, but also on the plaintiff’s.

Of course, some motorcycle accidents cannot be avoided by even the most attentive and skilled riders. Thus, an accident victim cannot be faulted for failing to avoid an imminent collision caused by another’s negligence; otherwise, no Maryland motorcycle accident would ever be able to recover for their injuries. Courts will usually look to the plaintiff’s conduct leading up to the accident to determine whether the plaintiff bears any responsibility in bringing about the accident.

Courts may also consider a plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages. For example, if a plaintiff is injured in an accident and is told that she needs a certain surgery but does not get the surgery, the defendant may not be liable for the injuries caused by the plaintiff’s failure to get the required surgery. In other words, a plaintiff’s post-accident conduct can also be relevant to the availability of damages.

A motorcyclist accident victim’s decision not to wear a helmet is frequently raised by motorcycle accident defendants as a defense to the claim against them. However, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided this issue long ago. In that case, the plaintiffs were the parents of a young man who was killed in a motorcycle accident that was caused by the defendant. The defendant intended on calling a medical expert to testify that, had the plaintiffs’ son been wearing a helmet, his injuries would have been reduced by at least 50%.

The court held that evidence of a motorcyclist’s failure to wear a helmet is not relevant to either his fault in bringing about the accident or his failure to mitigate damages. In this situation, the court held that the accident victim’s failure to wear a helmet did nothing to bring about the accident that ultimately caused his injuries. Thus, the court determined that helmet non-use evidence is not relevant to a defendant’s potential liability in causing an accident.

The court then explained that a plaintiff can only be expected to mitigate damages after they have sustained an injury. In this situation, the court pointed out that a motorcyclist’s decision to not wear a helmet is made before the accident occurs, and thus cannot be considered a failure to mitigate damages. Thus, as the law currently stands, a motorcyclist’s decision not to wear a helmet is not relevant in a Maryland motorcycle accident case.

Of course, motorcyclists should always wear a helmet because helmets have been shown to significantly reduce the chances of being seriously injured or killed in a motorcycle accident.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Maryland motorcycle accident, you may be able to obtain compensation for the injuries or losses you have endured. Do not let the fact that you were not wearing a helmet deter you from pursuing your claim for damages. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims in all types of Maryland motorcycle accident claims including those involving serious or fatal injuries sustained by riders who were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. To learn more about how we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries or losses, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Can a Motorcycle Passenger Hold a Driver Liable for Injuries in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published August 30, 2018.

Determining Liability in Maryland Bicycle Accidents, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published September 6, 2018.


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