Wearing a bicycle helmet is always a good idea no matter what the law has to say, but bicycle helmet laws might also have an impact on an injury claim after a bicycle-car accident.
No state currently requires helmets for adult bicyclists, but just under half of U.S. states require the use of helmets by riders under a certain age. And it’s very important to note that the city or town where you live might have its own ordinance that applies to the wearing of bicycle helmets by adult riders, or by riders under a certain age.
For example, the state of Texas has no bicycle helmet law on the books, but a number of cities in Texas (including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Houston) require a helmet for riders under the age of 18, so minors in those cities need to abide by those laws despite the absence of any helmet law at the state level.
Similarly, the state of Washington has no bicycle helmet law on the books, but all bicyclists in the city of Seattle (and all of larger King County) are required to wear a helmet when they ride -- adults and minors alike.
If you’re in a city or state where the law requires bicyclists to wear a helmet, and you end up getting a head injury after a collision with a vehicle, you’re probably going to have a more difficult time getting compensation from the at-fault driver.
That’s because, since there is a law requiring you to wear a helmet, your violation of that law could automatically make you negligent in connection with the accident. So, in a personal injury lawsuit, your state’s rules on shared fault could kick in to either reduce the amount of compensation you can receive from the at-fault driver, or eliminate your opportunity to collect anything at all. (Learn more about comparative and contributory negligence rules.)
In some cases, you may need to show that your head injury would have occurred even if you had been wearing a helmet, and that can be a tough thing to prove.
Here’s a look at state bicycle helmet laws in the U.S. If you don't see your state on this list, it means there's currently no state-level law mandating helmet use by bicyclists. But again, remember to check laws at the local level (your city county, or township, for example).
|State||Bicyclists Required to Wear Helmet|
|District of Columbia||Under 16|
|New Hampshire||Under 16|
|New Jersey||Under 17|
|New Mexico||Under 18|
|New York||Under 14|
|North Carolina||Under 16|
|Rhode Island||Under 16|
|West Virginia||Under 15|