Do Helmets Really Protect Motorcyclists?
Your senses are alive as you coast down the road. The purring of your bike’s engine, the sun’s rays warming your leather jacket, the cool wind in your face . . . It’s a perfect day to be out riding your motorcycle.
In Colorado, although motorcyclists are required to wear protective eye gear, adults are not required by law to wear helmets. (Minors must wear helmets.)
But should the fact that there is no law affect your decision of whether to wear a helmet?
The real question that motorcyclists may want to ask themselves is whether wearing a helmet may save their lives. The fact is that helmets do reduce the risk of injury or death, although of course they do not guarantee either. Not surprisingly, high-speed motorcycle collisions result in a high rate of fatalities. However, most motorcycle accidents occur at relatively slower speeds, and this is where helmets can really help. A helmet worn in such an accident is said to decrease your risk by 50%. It may mean the difference between minor injuries or death.
How Does a Helmet Work?
Imagine your head wrapped in protective padding several inches thick with a tough exterior. It will soften and spread the force of any blow to the head. Inside your skull, it slows down the acceleration of your brain and diminishes your chances of a closed head injury, like a concussion, internal bleeding, or a coup-contrecoup injury. It will also keep objects from making direct content with your head, which can create penetrating (open) brain injuries.
One of every five motorcycle crashes reported in the Centennial State involves head or neck injuries to the biker—and most are head injuries. Some bikers believe a helmet reduces their field of vision, and that is undoubtedly true. But Colorado notes that a DOT-approved helmet will let you see as far to the sides as necessary. “A study of more than 900 motorcycle crashes, where 40% of the riders wore helmets, failed to find even one case in which a helmet kept a rider from spotting danger.”
Will Not Wearing a Helmet Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
If you are in an accident, and you are not wearing a helmet, does it affect your ability to collect compensation? If the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, the fact that you were riding a motorcycle but not wearing a helmet will not affect or lessen the amount of money that you might recover. You are within your rights not to wear a helmet. If someone else does not follow traffic laws, then he or she may be held liable for your injury, regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet.
But remember, collecting monetary damages will not bring back your health. Unhelmeted riders are three times more likely to suffer fatal head wounds in a collision than helmeted riders. If you survive, living with brain damage is expensive—it will change your lifestyle, your relationships, your ability to work, and cost thousands of dollars for ongoing treatment and care. Our motorcycle accident attorneys know this, and we calculate these expenses when we represent injured bikers in court.
Colorado Motorcycle Licensing Laws
The most important legal requirement for riding a motorcycle in Colorado is that you have a valid motorcycle license. Colorado issues a couple of different types of motorcycle endorsements. In order to ride two-wheeled bikes, you must have an “M” license, which also qualifies you to operate bikes with three wheels. Alternatively, you can obtain a specific “3” endorsement, which allows you to only operate three-wheeled bikes.
In addition to a driver’s license endorsement, you must register the vehicle with the Colorado DMV, get plates, and get insurance. The minimum policy includes $25,000 of coverage in injury to another person, $50,000 of coverage for injury to more than one person, and $15,000 to cover any property damaged by the accident. Since the preceding amounts are liability insurance, they go towards the other driver’s injuries and repairs if you are at fault for the crash, not yours.
Increasingly, we see ridesharing companies like Lime, Bird, and Uber adding electric scooters to the mix of vehicles already on the road. “Low-power” scooters include both e-scooters and motorized scooters, and they are defined as self-propelled vehicles with no more than three wheels touching the ground, that either do not exceed 50 cubic centimeters (50cc), if powered by internal combustion; or 4,476 watts, if powered by electricity. E-scooters cannot exceed 40 miles per hour, and they are not considered motorcycles by the State of Colorado.
Riding Your Motorcycle in Colorado
When going out for a ride on Colorado’s highways, there are some laws you should be aware of and follow. If you are driving with a passenger, the extra rider cannot be sitting in front of you. Although you are permitted to share a lane with another motorcycle, you may not share a lane with a car; nor are you permitted to pass a car within the same lane. Lane-splitting, or going between lanes to pass two lanes of traffic, is also illegal. Also, you may not grab (or otherwise attach) and hold onto another vehicle while driving your motorcycle.
Your bike must be in safe riding condition, with at least one side-view mirror and a working muffler. You should also be aware that at any time you are on the road, police officers may legally stop you to perform a safety check on your motorcycle. For more information on motorcycle laws, take a look at the Colorado Motorcycle Operator’s Handbook.
Why should you know these rules? Well, Colorado has a legal standard known as contributory negligence, which means if two people are partially at fault for an accident, they’ll share the blame for the costs as well. If a motor vehicle collides with your motorcycle, sending you to the hospital, the driver will probably say you were doing something wrong and caused him to hit you. This is a common defense, and there is an inherent bias against bikers in the wider community. Insurance companies are happy to jump on this bandwagon when it comes to protecting their bottom line.
But the Tenge Law Firm, LLC, wants you to know that even if you think you did make a mistake while riding your bike, you can file a strong personal injury claim. It’s up to a jury to decide “fault,” and we have taken up arms for many motorcyclists who were seriously injured by negligent motorists. If you have questions about your own motorcycle collision—if you’re in pain and unsure of what to do—we are here to help. The sooner you call, the better. Contact us online or call (303) 665-2929 to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Boulder, Fort Collins, and Denver to serve you.
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Todd is very thorough, diligent and knowledgable in his litigation skills and also exhibits professional decorum with clients and defense counsel.
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