Should I Replace My Helmet After a Motorcycle Accident?

In a Motorcycle Wreck? Make Sure to Replace Your HelmetPerhaps in an effort to protect the personal freedom of motorcyclists, only 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have universal motorcycle helmet laws. Twenty-eight states require some motorcyclists to wear helmets, and three states have no helmet laws whatsoever.

Missouri and Kansas have different helmet laws. While Missouri has a universal law requiring that all motorcyclists wear helmets, in Kansas only riders under age 18 must wear them. But no matter what motorcycle helmet laws particular states have, one thing seems clear: when motorcycle helmets are worn, lives are saved. Wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the risk of neck or head injury.

According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), a helmet protects the head and face, cuts down on wind noise, deflects bugs and other objects flying through the air, contributes to a rider’s comfort during variable weather conditions, and helps reduce fatigue. In addition, motorcycle helmets, eye protection, jackets, boots and other types of protective gear can also decrease the severity of injury in the event of an accident.

According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing helmets, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.”

Why should I replace my helmet after a motorcycle accident?

According to the MSF, a motorcyclist should always replace their helmet after being involved in an accident because it may have absorbed a blow from the impact, and even if the helmet appears totally undamaged, it may still have been affected in some way.

Because a helmet that is broken or compromised in some way could be less effective in a future crash or incident, the MSF recommends that riders replace their motorcycle helmets as soon as possible after a wreck, and every few years (even if it hasn’t been in an accident) because the protective qualities of the helmets can deteriorate with time or wear. For example, the chin strap might fray or loosen at attaching points, or the shell could be chipped or damaged in some other way.

Motorcycle riders should always read the manufacturer’s instructions included with their motorcycle helmet when they attempt to clean and care for it. Typically, these instructions recommend mild soap when cleaning the helmet and face shield – harsh cleaning liquids should be avoided.

Choosing the right motorcycle helmet

All new adult-sized helmets to be used while riding on highways are required to meet DOT standards. DOT-certified helmets are designed to meet certain minimum safety standards, and feature the DOT and/or a Snell sticker on either the inside or outside of the helmet. They are designed to lessen injury from impact through the use of a tough outer shell, an impact-absorbing lining, comfort padding, and a retention system, otherwise known as a chin strap.

According to DOT requirements, the chin strap must be worn any time the motorcycle is in motion. In the event of a crash, both the shell and liner will compress upon impact, diffusing the forces of impact throughout the helmet material. The science behind a motorcycle helmet is simple: the more the impact is deflected or absorbed, the less chance of head or brain injury to the rider.

While price, color, and design likely will influence a rider when they choose a motorcycle helmet, the most important considerations should be protection and comfort. Four common types of motorcycle helmets include:

  • Full-face. A full-face motorcycle helmet provides the most complete security to the rider because it covers more of the face and usually includes a flexible face shield that when closed, protects the eyes.
  • Three-quarter. Also referred to as “open face,” a three-quarter motorcycle helmet is made with the same basic components as a full-face helmet, but without the same level of protection. However, a snap-on face shield or goggles built to withstand the impact of a stone or similar debris can help increase the protection presented by a three-quarter helmet.
  • Half-helmet. Sometimes known as a “shorty,” a half-helmet offers the least amount of protection to a motorcycle rider or passenger, and is also more likely to fly off the head during impact. The MSF does not recommend the use of half-helmets.
  • Flip-up modular helmets are a combination of a full-face and an open-face helmet. They offer a front portion that flips up to create an open-face helmet.

DOT-compliant helmets sold in the US must have a label on the back that includes the following wording: “manufacturer and/or brand, model designation, DOT, FMVSS No. 218, CERTIFIED.” Labels on certified helmets made before May 13, 2013, will read DOT. Although motorcycle helmets sold in the US must meet federal standards and possess the DOT certification label, certain retailers who sell what are known as “novelty helmets” that do not meet NHTSA safety standards. Fake DOT labels are also being sold to apply to these dangerous helmets to make them appear compliant; however, novelty helmets will not protect a rider in the event of an accident.

At Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys, we will investigate the cause of your motorcycle accident, determine who is responsible, and when insurance companies make you a low-ball offer to settle your case, are ready to try your case in court. Our experienced team of motorcycle injury attorneys is led by a long-time motorcycle rider, James Roswold, who understands exactly what bikers face when they’re injured in a wreck. To learn more about our services or to obtain a free case review, call our offices or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment in Kansas City, Lee’s Summit, St. Joseph and Parkville, MO, as well as Overland Park, Kansas City or Olathe, KS.