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Is the Michigan motorcycle helmet law a thing of the past?

April 14, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan motorcycle accident lawyer explains why new bills are a terrible idea, especially after two recent, tragic motorcycle deaths in Waterford

Two motorcyclists died in separate motorcycle accidents in Waterford Township just this weekend. It is said alcohol was not a factor in the crashes.

Every time I write about motorcycle accidents and the helmet safety law in Michigan, I feel I probably lose gung-ho motorcyclists who have been injured in accidents but go to another lawyer who won’t talk about why our helmet law is so important. But so be it.

Look, I’ve probably handled more motorcycle accident personal injury cases than any other lawyer in Michigan, so I know a thing or two about the biker mentality toward our mandatory helmet law. And with Republicans now in control of the Legislature, Michigan Supreme Court, and governor’s office, it looks like 2011 will be the year the motorcycle helmet law in Michigan will be repealed.

Here’s why motorcycle accident lawyers believe the repeal of the motorcycle helmet law in Michigan is a bad idea:

There are many bikers and people like Rep. Richard LeBlanc, who say of the helmet law repeal, “it’s a personal liberty thing.” LeBlanc could not be more wrong. Motorcycle accident lawyers know this is dead-wrong, because we see the enormous costs of medical care for catastrophic traumatic brain injuries being shifted to the taxpayers and to Medicaid. Your “personal liberty” includes the public checkbook when a spinal cord or TBI injury occurs, which makes it a matter of “our liberty.” And as taxpayers, we should also have a say on the helmet law, since it will increase the costs of taking care of the increased numbers of injured motorcyclists.

LeBlanc, by the way, is the legislator whose proposal, HB 2008, would allow motorcycle riders aged 21 and older to go helmet-less if they carry at least $20,000 in personal injury insurance to cover medical costs in case they’re hurt in a motorcycle accident.

Twenty thousand dollars in personal injury insurance to cover medical costs is almost laughable. In the event of any serious motorcycle accident injury case, that $20,000 will be exhausted by the ER visit, with the rest of the costs for catastrophic care shifted to the taxpayers and Medicaid.

Your personal liberty to ride a motorcycle with the wind in your hair ends when it infringes on my personal liberty to be forced to pay your medical bills for the catastrophic traumatic brain injury you suffered for not wearing a motorcycle helmet to begin with.

Remember (as of now), Michigan is a No-Fault state. So even when another motorist causes a motorcycle accident, the person who causes the accident is only responsible for pain and suffering damages. Medical bills are paid by us (the taxpayers), if the motorcyclist does not have motorcycle personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Because it is so expensive, very few motorcyclists have motorcycle PIP.

Helmet laws are simple: without one, motorcycle riders are more likely to suffer serious personal injuries and deaths from motorcycle crashes. There’s a reason that the groups like emergency room doctors, auto insurance companies and associations such as the Skilled Motorcycle Association and Responsible, Trained and Educated Riders Inc., oppose repeal of the helmet laws. All of these groups cite studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which estimates that hundreds of motorcycle riders’ lives would be saved each year if motorcyclists wear helmets.

Dan Petterson, CEO of SMARTER, says it best in a recent Detroit News article on the proposed law:

“It’s just radically unbelievable that we would be even considering repealing the helmet law. No. 1, more motorcyclists will die. No. 2, more motorcyclists will be severely injured. No. 3, it will cost all of us — according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning — $129 million a year in medical costs.”

We are thinking of the Waterford motorcyclists who lost their lives last weekend. And we urge Michigan bikers to always wear their helmets. Protect yourselves and help our attorneys prevent motorcycle accidents.

Steven M. Gursten heads Michigan Auto Law. He received the highest motorcycle accident settlement in Michigan last year, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He is recognized as one of the nation’s top motorcycle lawyers. Steve has spoken at trial seminars on motorcycle lawsuits, and is available for comment on Michigan’s motorcycle accident laws and personal injury cases.

Related information:

What to do after a motorcycle crash in Michigan

Insurance for Michigan motorcyclists

Current Michigan helmet laws for motorcycles

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our motorcycle accident lawyers.

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