How to Choose a Bicycle Helmet & How Helmet Use Affects Claims

It is common knowledge that bicycle helmets save lives, but what you might not know is how to choose the right bike helmet for you. In this article, we discuss how to choose a bicycle helmet, state law requirements, and how helmet use affects accident claims in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

What should I consider when choosing a bicycle helmet?

With so many options at relatively similar prices to choose from, it is difficult to decide which bicycle helmet to purchase. While the different types and styles might be overwhelming, you only need to remember a few key characteristics before you make a purchase.

Safety

The obvious reason to wear a helmet is for safety purposes — but how do you know that it is really safe? Luckily, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has taken the guesswork out of finding a safe helmet for your biking needs. Just looks for a CPSC, Snell Foundation, or ASTM sticker which means the helmet meets the safety standards set forth by the CPSC. Easy enough!

Proper Fit

We cannot stress enough the importance of a perfect fit. It is so important to find a properly fitting helmet so that in the event of an accident, the helmet stays in place and does its job — protect your skull.

When choosing a helmet, always try it on. Find a mirror or have a friend evaluate the following:

  • The front of the helmet is level (not tilted up or down).
  • The front of the helmet should rest on your forehead and be no more than one or two finger widths above your brow bone.
  • The helmet fits on your head snugly, with the head partially compressing the soft foam pads inside. If it can wiggle around, it is too big. 
  • Buckle the straps. The buckle should rest perfectly centered under your chin.
  • Adjust your side straps so the “V” sits perfectly below each ear.

Additional Concerns

It is best to choose a bright or colorful helmet for visibility purposes. A driver will surely see you from much further away (and be more mindful of your presence) if your helmet is bright yellow or lime green instead of black.

You must also remember that you need to replace your helmet after every accident, even if there is no visible damage. If you are lucky enough to avoid an accident in five years, you should replace your helmet at the five-year mark, as the materials may begin to deteriorate after that point, according to Helmets.org.

Does the law require me to wear a helmet?

Simply put, it depends on your state. Below is a breakdown of Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws regarding helmet use.

Pennsylvania Law

Though the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation strongly recommends all bicyclists wear helmets every time they ride, Pennsylvania law only requires that anyone under the age of 12 years old wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. Note that this does not only apply to the operator of the bicycle. Anyone riding as a passenger or in a trailer under the age of 12 must wear a helmet as well.

New Jersey Law

In New Jersey, state law requires that anyone under the age of 17 that rides a bicycle must wear a safety helmet. All riders must properly fasten and fit their helmets to reduce the risk of sliding. Like Pennsylvania, this also extends to all passengers of a bicycle. New Jersey lawmakers extended the law in 1998 to include roller skates and skateboards.

There are a few exemptions to the helmet rule. If you are riding your bicycle on a roadway closed to motor traffic or created specifically for bicycle use, New Jersey law does not require you to wear a helmet. However, if there is a roadway adjacent to the bicycle-only path, these exemptions do not apply and you must still wear a helmet.

Penalties for violating New Jersey helmet laws are as follows: 

  • Initial violation: Warning
  • Violation by a minor: Parent or legal guardian may receive a $25 fine for the first offense
  • Subsequent violation by a minor: Parents can receive a fine of $100 if the violation was a result of a lack of supervision

What if I am involved in a bicycle accident but I am not wearing a helmet?

First, assess your injuries. The purpose of a helmet is to protect your head and neck, so if you did suffer a head or neck injury, the fact that you were not wearing a helmet at the time of impact does not matter to your claim.

Note: A self-check is not adequate. Any time you fall off your bike, you should always have a doctor examine you, even if you did not hit your head. You could be suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and not know.

If you did sustain head and neck injuries, your helmet use may negatively affect your claim. For example, if you file a claim for a TBI and a broken arm after a bicycle accident, it is likely that the at-fault party’s insurer will argue that you contributed to your injuries, a concept called comparative negligence.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania follow the comparative negligence 51 percent bar rule, which means that a victim can be 50 percent at fault, and still recover damages.

But, you must know that your percentage of fault will reduce your settlement. Using the example above, if a car runs a red light and hits you, causing a TBI and broken arm, it is pretty obvious that the driver is at fault. However, if you were not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, the insurer can argue that you are responsible, at least in part, for your head injury.

If an investigation of the accident finds that you were 40 percent at fault for the accident and your settlement is $100,000 you may only receive $60,000.

Where can I get help with my bicycle accident case?

The bicycle accident lawyers at Cordisco & Saile LLC want to make sure that all cyclists remain safe on our roads. Always wear a helmet and if you are ever injured in an accident, contact us for help filing a claim: 215-642-2335