We all know that wearing a helmet while riding a bike is smart, but did you know it could actually affect your ability to recover compensation after an accident? If you are riding a bicycle in the state of New York and get into an accident, laws regarding helmet use and comparative fault could limit the compensation you are able to receive.
What are New York’s bike helmet laws?
New York state law requires that all persons under the age of 14 wear an approved bicycle helmet whether they are pedaling the bike or riding as a passenger.
Failure to do so can result in a fine up to $50. The state may waive the fine if a parent can prove that he obtained a helmet and will ensure the child wear it in the future.
Bicycle Injuries and Fatalities in New York
But avoiding a minor fine is the least of your worries if you are not wearing a helmet while riding your bike. Consider the following:
The Department of Health has stated that approximately 2,000 people require hospital treatment after bicycle-related injuries each year in New York.
About 38 percent of these accidents lead to the person involved suffering from a brain injury.
A more disconcerting fact is that over 50 people die in New York bicycle crashes every year; many of these are the result of not wearing a helmet.
- Cause more than 60 percent of bicycle accident deaths
- Make up more than 66 percent of injuries requiring treatment in a hospital
In other words, if you are not wearing a bicycle helmet, even a minor accident could lead to death or serious injury.
If you are fortunate enough to only end up in the hospital, not wearing a helmet could affect your ability to pay for costly medical expenses too. This is where the state’s comparative fault laws come into play.
How Comparative Fault Laws Affect You
No matter the circumstances, in the event of an accident, insurers can argue that your lack of helmet use while riding your bike contributed to any head injury you suffer.
Moreover, because of New York’s comparative fault laws, this could seriously affect how you are able to cover the high expenses of hospital visits, medication, or surgery.
Comparative fault, or comparative negligence, is “a rule of law applied in accident cases to determine responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident.” In other words, if you are not wearing a helmet, an investigation may consider you equally responsible for any injuries you incur in a bicycling accident.
Under New York’s pure comparative negligence laws, you are eligible to file a claim to recover compensation even if you are 99 percent at fault for the accident.
Sounds great, right? Not entirely.
This is because your percentage of fault will decrease your settlement amount. Consider this: You are biking across the street in the crosswalk. You have the right-of-way and are following all laws when a motorist turns left in the intersection and hits you, catapulting you off your bike. Because of the accident, you suffer a traumatic brain injury.
The insurer may attempt to say that you are at-fault for your head injury because you did not take the proper precautions to prevent it. The insurer finds you were 50 percent at fault for your head injury. This means you are only eligible to recover 50 percent of your settlement amount (you demanded $100,000; you can only receive $50,000.).
How can I get help after a bicycle accident?
The Long-Island-based personal injury lawyers at Goldstein & Bashner can help you establish fault and liability in an accident, and ensure you get the help and payout you deserve for any injury you incur.
If you are injured in a bicycling accident, and need help defending against comparative fault laws, give Goldstein & Bashner a call today to see how we can help you.
Contact us at 516-222-4000.