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Freedom Safety And Liability Legislator Joins The Cause To Repeal North Carolinas Motorcycle Helmet Requirement

March 13th, 2013

A motorcycle-riding state legislator has joined a long-standing movement to repeal North Carolina’s universal motorcycle helmet law. North Carolina is one of nineteen states that require all riders to wear a helmet. Despite findings published by the CDC that wearing a helmet reduces the likelihood of death by 37%, some insist that the freedom to ride without a helmet should be the rider’s choice. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,544 motorcyclists in 2010 alone. Those who do not wear helmets in a motorcycle crash are more likely to die from traumatic brain injury. A brain injury costs 13 times more than a non-brain injury; the initial bill alone can be $250,000.

In North Carolina, someone injured in a motorcycle accident can suffer greater financial repercussions due to the state’s theory of strict contributory negligence. If someone was contributorily negligent in any way, even if the other party was more negligent, you cannot recover damages in North Carolina. Although failure to wear a helmet does not constitute contributory negligence in North Carolina, there are other ways motorcyclists can forfeit their right to recovery in the event of an accident.

The legal determination of whether or not there was contributory negligence hinges on when someone fails to act with the same level of care as a regular person would in the same situation. This determination is made by a jury, not a judge, because peers in the community have a better sense of how an “ordinary person” would act in the situation of concern. There is an exception, however. It is called the ‘last clear chance’ and was established by the case Watson v. White, 309 N. C. 498 (1983), where a pedestrian struck by a vehicle had negligently placed himself in a position of peril where he couldn’t escape with reasonable care. The motorist saw, or easily could have seen, the pedestrian and taken measures to avoid hitting and injuring him.

Gross negligence, or wanton and willful misconduct, is also an exception to a bar from recovery when contributory negligence is a factor. If another motorist is driving with reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others, an injured motorcyclist or pedestrian can recover damages, even if they were negligent themselves. Gross negligence in an automobile context has typically been driving drunk, speeding, or racing for both plaintiff and defendant in North Carolina. Young plaintiffs, or plaintiffs with severe cognitive disorders, may also be immune from the contributory negligence bar from recovery because they are not able to operate as an ‘ordinary person’ would in a similar situation.

The experienced North Carolina motorcycle accident lawyers at Auger and Auger know how to sort through complex sets of facts so you can recover the maximum amount of compensation you’re owed. They are undaunted by insurance company defense teams and will aggressively fight against any claim of contributory negligence. If you have been injured as a pedestrian or motorcyclist in an automobile accident, call the motorcycle accident attorneys, Auger & Auger, at .


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Two Teens Die In Prearranged Speed Racing Crash, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, January 2, 2013.

Posted In: Car Accidents, Motorcycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents