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A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment for cyclists. Every year thousands of Americans are in bicycle accidents that result in serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and paralysis. A proper safety helmet greatly reduces the chance and severity of head, neck and spinal injuries. As such many states have enacted laws mandating the wearing of bicycle helmets. These laws may have an impact on the ability of an injured cyclist to recover money damages after an accident.
Under New York law, all working cyclists — such as delivery riders and messengers — must wear helmets on the job. In addition, all cyclists under the age of 14 must wear helmets. A child under the age of six must wear a helmet when riding as a passenger on a bicycle. New York has no helmet requirement for other riders. However, government agencies encourage cyclists to wear helmets at all times.
Unfortunately, some cyclists choose not to wear helmets or to secure them properly. Although this may not cause an accident, it can greatly worsen the resulting injuries. So what compensation, if any, can an injured rider recover if they take the risk of riding without head protection?
In the first place, bicyclists are covered under the personal injury protection (“PIP”) provisions of New York’s no-fault auto insurance law. PIP coverage is required to be included in every New York auto insurance policy. A cyclist injured in a collision with a motor vehicle can recover from their own PIP coverage, from that of a household member or from the driver’s PIP coverage. There is no assessment of fault in a PIP claim, which can cover medical expenses and lost wages.
However, medical treatment costs and other damages can easily exceed the amount of PIP coverage available. If a cyclist has suffered serious injuries beyond what PIP will reimburse, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against the vehicle’s driver. In such a proceeding, it is necessary to prove fault. New York law follows the rule of comparative negligence, which means each party is liable for damages in proportion to their own degree of fault both for the accident and the injuries suffered. A cyclist who is not wearing a helmet may be found highly to blame for increasing the severity of the injuries, so the damages recoverable can be greatly reduced.
Nevertheless, an injured rider can recover a sizable award of damages by proving comparative negligence by the driver. A qualified vehicle accident lawyer can evaluate your case and assess the compensation that may be available.
If you have been in a cycling accident, call Goldberg Sager & Associates in Brooklyn at 718-514-9516 or contact us online for a free initial consultation. We serve people in all five boroughs and throughout the New York metropolitan area, including Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties.