As a bicycle accident lawyer, I can attest to the significant role wearing a bicycle helmet can have both on preventing or minimizing injury sustained in an accident, and in obtaining a just result in litigation.
While there has been some debate in the popular media lately over whether the safety factor of using a bike helmet is offset by the risky behaviors and increased speed occasioned by the “sense of security” a helmet may provide to the rider, few if any doctors I’ve dealt with would be willing to debate the fact that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury in a crash. Doctors do not stand alone in this regard. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a person’s risk for head injury is reduced by up to 85% if they wear a helmet. Estimates issued by the Center for Disease Control indicate that helmet usage can reduce the risk of brain injury by 88% and the risk of facial injury by 65%. These estimates are further supported by the data concerning fatal bicycle accidents, which show that of the 616 cyclists killed in 2010, 429 were not wearing helmets. Against this backdrop, it is perhaps surprising to note that New Jersey does not mandate helmet usage by cyclists who are over the age of 17.
Helmet use is an important factor in the context of litigation as well. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a head injury in a bicycle-related crash, your lack of helmet usage can be used against you in litigation, even if you are 18 or older and thus not mandated by law to wear a helmet. In New Jersey, as in many other states in this country, a jury is permitted to consider whether your failure to use safety equipment, like a helmet, caused or contributed to the injuries you suffered in your crash. And if so, you may be found to be wholly or partially responsible for your own injury. Which can reduce or eliminate your ability to recover damages.
Traumatic Brain Injury is a serious and all too frequent consequence of bicycle accidents. So, do yourself a favor and wear a helmet every time you ride your bike.