Public-service announcements about motorcycle safety often focus on wearing helmets. Traffic safety groups and government agencies tell us that helmets save lives. The implication is that Illinois riders are responsible for any head injuries they suffer in a collision with a four-wheeled vehicle.
However, state law does not go so far as to require motorcyclists to wear helmets. Illinois is one of the few laws in the U.S. not to require a helmet when riding a motorcycle, moped or other two-wheeled motorized vehicle.
Helmets not required, but…
At the same time, if you went bare-headed and got caught in a motorcycle accident, it might hurt your case if you sue the driver and their insurance company. The defendants could claim that your decision not to wear a helmet was contributory negligence, which could reduce or eliminate the damages you recover. Also, riders and passengers must wear some form of eye protection, such as sunglasses, prescription eyeglasses or goggles.
But ultimately, riders are not automatically barred from seeking or collecting damages from the negligent driver who injured them just because they did not have a helmet on when the crash happened. As with most personal injury cases, the facts dictate whether the plaintiff has a viable claim and how much they can reasonably expect to recover for compensation of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.
Negligent driving is never acceptable
While wearing a helmet is a good idea, it is your choice in Illinois. And whether you have one on or not does not excuse a driver’s choice to follow you too closely, fail to yield to you on a left turn, open their door in front of you, or otherwise act negligently.