As predicted by many people, Michigan highways have experienced a dramatic increase in motorcycle fatalities and injuries since last year’s change in state laws regarding motorcycle helmets. No longer required to wear helmets, many motorcyclists in Michigan are going without, and the result of that decision is an increase in Michigan motorcycle injury claims and a fast-growing tab for medical costs and other damages.
According to a study released earlier this summer by the Highway Loss Data Institute, the average cost of motorcycle injury claims has increased about 22% since the new helmet law went into effect in April 2012. The average claim for a motorcycle injury was $5,410 for the two years prior to the law change and increased to $7,257 the change. That’s actually a 34% increase, but after adjusting for factors the study found the increase due to lack of helmet was approximately 22%.
Undoubtedly, the insurance industry will use statistics like this to deny more claims, reduce the amount they pay for claims, and simultaneously increase insurance rates. As always, their strategy will be to find ways to pay less and get paid more. If they use statistics like this to justify increasing insurance rates, they shouldn’t also be allowed to claim that the choice to not wear a helmet reduces their liability for motorcyclist injuries.
However, when motorcyclists aren’t to blame for an accident, they shouldn’t be made to pay for another driver’s error or recklessness regardless of whether the cyclist choose to wear a helmet or not. Car and truck drivers who cause accidents are liable for the injuries they cause, and insurance companies take on that liability when they insure a driver. When a motorcyclist is injured or killed by a motor vehicle driver, the driver’s insurer is liable for the damages suffered by the motorcyclist. Yet motorcyclists and their families are regularly told by insurers and jurors that they contributed to the severity of their own injuries by choosing not to wear a helmet -- even though it’s not against the law to do so.
When state law required motorcyclists to wear helmets, insurance companies had some ground to stand on in denying or reducing claims for injured motorcyclists who weren’t wearing a helmet. But now it is legal to ride without a helmet. Denying Michgan motorcycle injury claims because a rider chose not to wear a helmet is like denying the claim of a sedan driver because he didn’t have a roll cage installed in his car.
Right now, statistics like this mean three things for motorcyclists:
Wearing a helmet when you ride significantly reducing your chances of dying or incurring severe injuries.
If you choose to not wear a helmet and are involved in an accident, you (or your family if you are killed) have a long battle ahead of you to recover the damages you suffer
The amount of damages you succeed in recovering for accident injuries is likely to be less if you choose not to wear a helmet
Do insurance companies always succeed in denying claims to motorcyclists who don't’ wear helmets? No.
If fault for a motorcycle accident lies with a car or truck driver, and that fault can be proven, the driver’s insurer will end up paying for most of the damages, especially for medical costs related to injuries not involving the head, face or neck. If injuries occur to the head, face or neck, however, the battle is much tougher to fight. If an injured motorcyclist can show that the injuries would have occurred even if he had been wearing a helmet, then he’s likely to recover closer to the full value of the damages. If he can’t prove that, then the damages recovered are likely to be significantly less.
The Michigan auto injury lawyers at Sachs-Waldman, as well as many personal injury lawyers throughout Michigan, hope to put an end to the unfair prejudice against unhelmeted motorcyclists one day soon. In the meantime, unhelmeted motorcyclists injured in accidents need to be represented by highly skilled and experienced motorcycle accident attorneys, like those at Sachs-Waldman, to successfully argue against insurance companies and ensure the best recovery of damages possible.
We’ll help you fight to recover damages for your unhelmeted motorcycle accident injuries
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident when not wearing a helmet, you need to be represented by someone with a high level of expertise in such accident to ensure maximum recovery of damages. In Michigan, the personal injury attorneys at Sachs Waldman, P.C., have extensive experience and skill in representing victims of motorcycle accidents. Call our Detroit personal injury attorneys’ office at 1-800-638-6722 to schedule a free consultation.
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