Motorcycle crashes can cause catastrophic injuries, which in turn, can cause missed work and massive medical bills. Often, motorcycle crashes also result in extensive property damage. Frequently, motorcyclists are not to blame for the wreck but faced with large bills, it is common for injured riders to be anxious about their rights after a crash.
One common question that gets asked: If you did not have a helmet on at the time of the crash, will that prevent you from seeking full compensation from the other driver through a civil lawsuit? The short answer is that helmets are not required, but they could affect the outcome of your case.
Helmet usage is not compulsory in Iowa
While there is certainly statistical data backing up the idea that motorcycle helmets save lives and reduce the severity of injuries, Iowa is one of only a few states that does not require you to wear a helmet. You can legally ride without one. In addition, our supreme court has held that there is no common law duty to wear a helmet and the lack of a helmet is usually irrelevant to who is liable for a crash. Put simply, your decision to forgo a helmet will not prevent you from making an insurance claim or filing a civil lawsuit against the driver who actually caused the crash.
HOWEVER, you should understand that if you suffer head injuries and were not wearing a helmet, it is possible – and maybe even likely – that a jury will subconsciously include the lack of a helmet in their assessment of your case, including their assigning some amount of fault to you and/or reducing their calculation of your damages. The jury may decide that you took an unnecessary risk in not wearing a helmet. Your attorney will argue against this thought process, but it’s a possible uphill battle you might face if you don’t wear a helmet.
The Importance of Having the Right Insurance
Setting aside the issue of helmet or no helmet, the extent of available insurance can be just as important to you obtaining a positive outcome for your case. You typically depend on the at-fault driver’s coverage, but the at-fault person can legally have as little as $20,000 in coverage in Iowa. This will not get you far in the face of missed work and massive medical bills. You can, and likely should add underinsured and uninsured coverage to your policy to potentially cover your damages more thoroughly should you be faced with a catastrophic crash caused by another. Underinsured and Uninsured insurance is coverage that would either stack on top of the at-fault party’s coverage or kick in if the at-fault party failed to have insurance. It is a smart decision to speak with your insurance agent about these additional coverages now.
Knowing what laws protect you, and how you can protect yourself, will increase your chances of a positive outcome should you suffer an unfortunate motorcycle crash.