The Center for Disease control reports that bike helmets protect cyclists by reducing the risk of head injury by as much as 70 percent and a fatal head injury by 40 percent.
In Spokane, anyone riding a bike, scooter, ebike and basically any non-enclosed vehicle on wheels is required to wear a helmet. The law says that anyone older than one must wear a helmet. In Spokane County, the anyone over three up to 16 has to wear a helmet, but anyone over 16, doesn’t.
Washington State Law
In Washington the state government has no law requiring helmets for any age group, so it is left to the local municipalities and counties to determine the helmet laws for that jurisdiction. The state has 39 counties and 171 cities of population over 10,000. Out of these, only 25 have laws requiring helmets in some form.
What if I get in an Accident While not Wearing a Helmet?
Many people think that if you are not wearing a helmet and get into an accident—especially if you suffered a head injury—you can’t make a claim against the person who hit you because they will put the blame on you for not wearing a helmet.
On the surface, there seems to be some logic in that notion, but the truth is, wearing a helmet or not wearing one is not a determining factor in making your claim for compensation.
Where Helmets are Required
In Spokane where helmets are required, if you get hit by a vehicle while riding on the street or a bike lane and are not wearing a helmet, this fact can’t be used against you in your personal injury claim. Why?
Because Washington has a law that prohibits any vehicle code violation from being the sole factor in determining liability. This is because the civil law and criminal law systems are separate and use different standards of proof.
Washington law does allow the alleged at-fault driver to bring up the fact that the person wasn’t wearing a helmet in order to lessen the amount of compensation awarded. But any civil case will hinge on whether the defendant driver was negligent when he hit the cyclist.
Where Helmets are not Required
In places where the city or county has no law regarding helmets, then the fact that someone didn’t use their helmet can also be used to show that the physical injuries might have been less had the plaintiff used a helmet. However, even if the jury feels that the person should have been wearing a helmet, it will usually just lessen the amount of compensation awarded.