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Missouri’s Motorcycle Helmet Law
Many states have specific laws pertaining to motorcycle helmets. Helmets, particularly those approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, have proved valuable as life-saving safety equipment. However, many people believe that citizens have the right to forego wearing a helmet at their personal discretion. It may seem irresponsible to revoke motorcycle helmet laws, but many argue that it is the right of the individual to assume the risks of riding without a helmet. Below, our Kansas City motorcycle accident attorneys explore Missouri’s motorcycle helmet law further.
The Missouri House of Representatives narrowly passed a first-round approval for a bill that would remove the state law requiring bikers to wear helmets. Missouri currently enforces a “universal” helmet law that requires every person who rides a motorcycle as either a driver or passenger to wear a helmet.
Why Wear Helmets?
The case for individual choice is a strong one. Many people believe that the government shouldn’t be able to dictate what risks you may and may not assume if you are the only person who stands to suffer the consequences. Choosing not to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle can be an assumption of a fatal risk.
Motorcycles offer riders very little protection. For example, a car being hit on its side may not result in terrible damage to the driver since the car’s door and frame would absorb the brunt of the impact. On a motorcycle, the impact goes straight to the motorcyclist.
Motorcycle helmets prevent hundreds of deaths and traumatic brain injuries every year. Being thrown from a motorcycle typically leads to broken bones, lacerations, friction burns from sliding on asphalt (commonly called “road rash”), spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and death. A traumatic brain injury, even when not fatal, can leave a victim permanently disabled.
Wearing a helmet can be a matter of legal protection in addition to the physical safety they afford. Imagine riding your motorcycle without your helmet. You are following all the rules of the road and riding at a lawful speed when another driver talking on a cell phone strikes you and causes an accident. Even though you were not responsible for the crash, comparative negligence laws may cause you to receive less compensation than you expect if you were not wearing a helmet.
Comparative negligence means that a plaintiff can be found partially at fault for the incident that led to his or her lawsuit. If a judge deems a motorcyclist was not technically at fault for an accident but did not wear a helmet, she may deem this an act of negligence and assign the biker a percentage of fault for the accident. If the plaintiff is found 10% at fault for the accident since he or she did not wear a helmet, the compensation will be reduced by 10%. This is highly likely for riders seeking compensation for head injuries, because a jury may decide that those injuries would have been mitigated or prevented by wearing a helmet.
It is still illegal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet in Missouri, but helmet citations are little more than infractions with minimal fines. No points will be added to your record. Despite the fact that it is a minimal offense and the law is currently under review, it is always safest to err on the side of caution and wear a helmet.
Even the most experienced riders can suffer severe or fatal injuries. If you suffer an injury in a motorcycle accident or have questions about Missouri’s motorcycle helmet laws, reach out to a qualified personal injury lawyer in Kansas City.