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Motorcycle Accidents and Helmet Use

Almost all states have some form of helmet safety law for motorcycle operators. Many states simply require that all motorcyclists and passengers wear a helmet to protect against head injuries in the event of a crash, but Rhode Island has taken a different approach to helmet safety requirements. RI has a very limited helmet law. If you were injured in a motorcycle accident in RI  contact a RI motorcycle accident lawyer.

Rhode Island helmet law is very limited

RI motorcycle accident lawyersPursuant to Rhode Island law, “Any operator under the age of twenty-one (21) shall wear a helmet of a type approved by the administrator of motor vehicles. In addition, all new operators, regardless of age, shall be required, for a period of one year from the date of issuance of the first license pursuant to § 31-10.1-1, to wear a helmet of a type approved by said administrator.”  TITLE 31 Motor and Other vehicles CHAPTER 31-10.1 Special License for Motorcycles, Motor Scooters, and Other Motor Driven Cycles SECTION 31-10.1-4 § 31-10.1-4 Required equipment.

And, when other motorists are involved, the failure to wear a helmet could also be a significant reason that a respondent insurance provider would deny a claim outright, or at least make a much lower settlement offer than the injured motorcyclist expects. It is imperative to retain an Rhode Island accident attorney or a RI motorcycle accident lawyer when this is the situation because claims can be highly contested and often complicated.

Rhode Island motorcycle accident attorney

Sadly, Rhode Island helmet law does not require that all passengers on a motorcycle wear head protection. Passengers on a motorcycle who fail to wear a helmet could be taking a significant personal risk, especially when any head injuries or TBI are claimed. While passengers are not normally assessed for comparative fault, assumption of personal risk can still be a defense for an unscrupulous respondent insurance companies in an effort to deny or lessen the value of an injury claim. This can become particularly important in high-value wrongful death claims when there is a large amount of insurance coverage available. Insurance claims adjusters are always predominantly concerned about the company bottom line, even in states like Rhode Island that utilize pure comparative negligence that allows even those who are largely at fault for their own injuries to receive some amount of injury damage recovery.

Motorcycle Operators 

Helmet law for motorcyclists is different from passengers in a couple of respects. Anyone who has only had a motorcycle operators license for less than one year is required to wear head protection. In addition, anyone under 21 years of age is also required to wear a helmet while riding. Operators who are over age 21 are not required by law to wear head protection, but just as with all passengers, failure to wear a helmet can be a problematic case factor when head injuries are being claimed in an accident case. Personal assumption of risk is a potential leverage card for insurance adjusters.

 NHTSA Statistics

“Based on a comparison of fatal crashes involving motorcycles with two riders, at least one of whom was killed, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated helmets to be about 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities.1 In 2003, there were 3,661 rider deaths in fatal motorcycle crashes. An effectiveness of 37 percent for motorcycle helmets suggests that an estimated 1,158 additional motorcyclists would have died were it not for the fact that they were wearing helmets. Had all motorcyclists consistently worn proper helmets, an additional 640 motorcyclists could have survived otherwise fatal crashes in 2003. Unfortunately, the potential lifesaving benefits of helmets are not being realized, as fatalities continue to rise in response to declining helmet usage rates. According to the 2002 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, only 58 percent of motorcyclists nationally were observed to be wearing helmets2 . This represents a dramatic decline since 2000, when the usage rate was 71 percent. Despite the fact that less than 3 percent of registered passenger vehicles are motorcycles, motorcyclist fatalities represent about 9 percent of all passenger vehicle rider fatalities. Considering that passenger car rider fatalities are trending downward, policies that result in raising public acceptance of the protective value of helmets can have a significant impact on reducing the total number of lives lost annually on America’s highways.” National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), August 2005 DOT HS 809 861 Calculating Lives Saved by Motorcycle Helmets William V. Deutermann*  crash stats “Motorcycle crash deaths are costly, but preventable. The single most effective way for states to save lives and save money is a universal helmet law.

  • Helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives in 2016.1
  • If all motorcyclists would have worn helmets in 2016, 802 more could have been saved. 1
  • Each year, the United States could save more than $1billion in economic costs if all motorcyclists wore helmets.2
  • Helmets reduce the risk of death by 37%.2
  • Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69%.3,4″


Legal Notice per Rules of Professional Responsibility: The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers and attorneys in the general practice of law, but does not license or certify any lawyer / attorney as an expert or specialist in any field of practice. While this firm maintains joint responsibility, most cases of this type are referred to other attorneys for principle responsibility

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