Motorcycle Accidents and Helmet Use Under Arizona Law

Jody L. Broaddus

Arizona is one of the states that allow motorcyclists over the age of 18 to ride without a helmet. Arizona’s weather and beautiful scenery make riding helmetless highly enticing. Although legal to ride without a helmet, the consequences of not wearing a helmet can be catastrophic if an accident occurs. Given the nature of motorcycling, serious injuries and death can occur from even a minor collision. Moreover, the choice to not wear a motorcycle helmet may adversely impact a claim for injuries, even though Arizona law does not require a helmet.

Currently, under Arizona case law, a helmetless motorcyclist who is injured and brings a claim or lawsuit against the adverse driver may bear consequences from not wearing a helmet when trying to recover damages. For example, under comparative negligence principles, Arizona allows a person who caused an accident to assert the helmetless motorcyclist’s damages should be reduced if there is evidence a helmet may have reduced or prevented the injuries. In other words, a motorcyclist’s ability to recover damages may potentially be diminished if no helmet is worn, even if the adverse driver was fully at fault for causing the accident. This can be devastating for a motorcyclist and his/her family members, especially if the injuries result in a permanent impairment, loss of limb, lost employment, impaired earning capacity, and other types of damages.

The defense of the non-use of a helmet is limited in a civil claim or lawsuit. In this regard, the defense only allows a reduction of damages if a helmet would have mitigated, reduced, or prevented the injuries. Obviously, a helmet would not prevent broken limbs, broken ribs, internal torso injuries, and other injuries unrelated to the head. Thus, the application of the defense of non-use of a helmet, if it applies at all, should be limited to only those head injuries that could have been prevented or mitigated by helmet use. Often, however, expert testimony will be needed to determine what, if any, injuries could be subject to the non-use of a helmet.

In sum, while riding in Arizona without a helmet is legal, a motorcyclist’s ability to recover damages for certain injuries may be impaired if a helmet is not worn. Since the defense of helmet non-use is limited, you should contact an attorney to protect your rights. Be safe!

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