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Are You Required to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in Indiana?

January 21, 2020
Motorcycle rider wearing helmet for safety.

Indiana has no universal helmet law, or a law that requires anyone who rides a motorcycle to wear a helmet. The state repealed its universal helmet law in 1977. Today, only motorcycle operators and passengers under age 18, or operators with a learner’s permit, must wear a helmet in our state.

At Truitt Law Offices, we believe that every motorcycle rider should wear a helmet at all times when they are on the road. Studies show that helmets save lives and help to prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other serious injuries in motorcycle accidents. However, we also respect the rights of adults to ride without a helmet.

If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident that someone else’s negligent actions caused, we will work hard to pursue maximum compensation for you, regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

How Does Indiana’s Helmet Law Work?

Indiana’s motorcycle helmet law is found at Ind. Code § 9-19-7-1. The law specifically requires anyone under age 18 who operates or rides as a passenger on a motorcycle to wear:

  • A helmet that meets federal safety standards, and
  • Protective glasses, goggles or a transparent face shield.

Typically, you can tell whether a motorcycle helmet meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218 if it has a “DOT” sticker on the back of it. However, some manufacturers or distributors put counterfeit “DOT” stickers on helmets. So, you shouldn’t rely on the sticker alone.

To ensure that you are wearing a helmet that meets FMVSS 218, you should look for one that has:

  • At least a one-inch thick foam inner liner
  • Sturdy chin strap and solid rivets
  • A weight of at least three pounds
  • No features which extend farther than 2/10-inch from the helmet’s surface.

If a helmet meets Snell or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, then it should meet federal standards as well. If you buy a “novelty helmet,” it may not meet any of those standards and comply with Indiana law. As a result, it may provide little to no protection if you should get into an accident.

Keep in mind: Most motorcycle helmets today come equipped with a face shield. If you buy one that does not, then you need to make sure that you wear glasses or goggles.

Indiana also requires novice motorcycle riders who have a learner’s permit to wear a helmet – regardless of age. If you are an adult who meets all of the requirements to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on your Indiana driver’s license, then you can ride without a helmet if you choose.

Why Should You Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?

Driver holding a helmet for protection.At one time, virtually every state had a universal helmet law. However, in 1976, Congress took away the federal government’s power to penalize states that lacked such laws by, for instance, depriving them of highway safety dollars. Today, only 19 states have a universal helmet law, as the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) explains. Indiana is among 28 states with limited helmet laws. Only three states – Iowa, Illinois and New Hampshire – have no helmet law at all.

So, should you wear a helmet even if the law does not require you to wear one? Most safety experts will say yes. Helmets simply provide a host of safety benefits. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatalities among riders and 41 percent effective in preventing deaths among motorcycle passengers.

Several different studies have shown that motorcycle helmets help to prevent:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Skull fractures
  • Cervical spine (neck area) injury
  • Eye injury
  • Ear injury.

Even if you are the safest motorcycle rider, the fact remains that you cannot control what others do. Any time you take your motorcycle on the road, you face the risk of getting hit by a negligent driver. If you wear a helmet, you will clearly minimize your risk of suffering serious injury or death.

What Happens If You Get in a Motorcycle Wreck While Not Wearing a Helmet?

Even if you are legally permitted to ride without a helmet, an insurance company may try to use your lack of a helmet against you if you get into a crash and file a bodily injury claim. This is because of Indiana’s modified comparative fault system. Under this system, you can be barred from recovering any damages in a personal injury lawsuit if you are found to be 51 percent or more at fault for your injuries. Otherwise, you can still recover damages, but your damages may be reduced based on the percent of fault assigned to you.

For instance, an insurance company may claim that your failure to wear a helmet contributed 20 percent to injuries, so your damages should be reduced by 20 percent. If you suffered $100,000 in damages, the insurance company may offer only $80,000 in damages.

It is important to work with a lawyer who knows how to counter those tactics and protect the rights of motorcyclists. At Truitt Law Offices, we often work with doctors and accident reconstruction experts in motorcycle accident cases to establish our clients’ damages. We will know how to respond to an insurance company’s attempt to blame you for your injuries in a motorcycle crash, and we will demand maximum compensation for you.

We always consult with our clients in order to determine their needs and goals. If an insurance company refuses to make a settlement offer that you wish to accept after your motorcycle accident, then we will be prepared to fight for you at trial if that’s what it takes.

Our Fort Wayne Motorcycle Accident Lawyers Are Here for You

At Truitt Law Offices, we care about our clients and their future. If a negligent driver caused a motorcycle crash that has left you with serious injuries, we will work tirelessly to pursue maximum compensation for you – regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet. To discuss the specific facts of your case in a free consultation, contact us today. We can assist you from our offices located in Fort Wayne, Huntington or Indianapolis.

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