Motorcycle Helmet Laws for Riders in Seattle, WA

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A motorcycle wreck causes devastating injuries and of particular concern are injuries to the head. Helmets protect the head from more severe injuries and even save lives. In 1990, the state of Washington enacted a universal helmet law that mandates all motorcycle riders must wear a helmet.

Research provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Washington ranks as number 20 in lives and money saved because of helmet use. Washington’s helmet laws equated to saving 17 lives per 100,000 registered motorcycle users and savings of $35 million in 2010.

If you break the law by riding a motorcycle in Seattle without a helmet, then not only are you putting your health and even your life at risk, you are putting compensation recovery at risk if you suffer a head injury in a motorcycle accident.

Comparative Negligence Penalizes for a Lack of Helmet

Washington is an at-fault insurance state, allowing bikers injured in a motorcycle accident to pursue compensation for their damages from a driver who caused the accident. However, Washington’s comparative negligence guidelines mean that both drivers are assigned fault.

Per section 4.22.005 of the Revised Code of Washington, “Contributory fault . . . diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as compensatory damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.”

This means your compensation will be reduced according to the amount of negligence you contributed to your wreck and injuries. That’s true even if you only contributed two percent of the negligence. For instance, if your lack of a helmet contributed 30 percent to your head injuries, then your compensation will be reduced by 30 percent.

Of course, if you suffered a knee injury in your motorcycle accident then helmet use – or lack thereof – did not contribute to the injury or its severity. So helmet use may not contribute to your percentage of negligence. Head and neck injuries, though, are another story.

Helmet Guidelines

Whether you were wearing a quality helmet may be a factor the insurance company cites if it’s trying to reduce its insured’s percentage of fault. Washington State Patrol warns that novelty helmets are a big danger for motorcycle riders, for example. They do not withstand the force of a crash and fail to protect riders.

Therefore, Washington requires that all motorcycle riders wear helmets that meet the safety standards of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) as stipulated in 49 CFR 571.218.

A certified helmet meets the following guidelines:

  • it features a DOT sticker on the back;
  • labeling inside the helmet indicates manufacturer name, helmet model, size, plus other manufacturing information;
  • it features an inner foam lining approximately one inch thick; and
  • it features a thick chinstrap with sturdy rivets.


Preserving the motorcycle helmet if you were in an accident can establish that it met the federal regulations from the DOT. Talk to an attorney about other evidence that can establish your adherence to the law and establish the other driver’s liability for your accident and any resultant injuries.

Call Max Meyers Law PLLC to set up your FREE consultation about your motorcycle wreck injuries and how your helmet use may affect your case. Call us at 425-399-7000, or contact us online.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.