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Why wearing a motorcycle helmet is fiscally responsible

November 2, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

President of motorcycle safety group SMARTER on why riders should wear a motorcycle helmet

Today the state House passed a bill repealing Michigan’s law that requires motorcyclists to wear protective motorcycle helmets.

Even though the motorcycle helmet repeal has now passed the Senate and the House, it’s still unclear whether the Gov. will sign it. Gov. Snyder has made several public statements that he would consider the motorcycle helmet repeal, but as part of a larger effort to “reform” Michigan’s No-Fault insurance system. It seems every day brings us closer to being a state that allows its motorcyclists to ride without helmets. Stay tuned for more legal updates about the helmet repeal.

Now on to the third post in my series about about the rebuttal to my blog, 7 reasons every state should pass a motorcycle helmet law.

For those of you who are just joining in on the debate, a reader named Clay responded with what he called his “rebuttal to your 7 reasons why I should be forced to wear a helmet.”

Dan Petterson, president of SMARTER, a safety group for Michigan motorcyclists, was generous enough to respond to Clay’s comment. For the next several weeks, I’ll be blogging about individual points made from my own blog (in green type), with Clay’s reader comments (in blue type) and Mr. Petterson’s rebuttals (purple type).

Reason 3 for a helmet law: Fiscal responsibility. Riders without helmets have higher health care costs as a result of their motorcycle accident injuries. Given my 17 years experience as a motorcycle accident attorney, I can say that injuries for motorcyclists without helmets are always almost catastrophic, and usually include traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries. And nearly half of these motorcycle accident victims do not have private insurance. The financial burden for treatment and care of uninsured motorcycle crash victims is then placed on the government and taxpayers. For instance, in 2005, Maryland estimated that a repeal of its all-rider helmet law would increase Medicaid expenditures by $1.2 million in the first year and up to $1.5 million each year after.

Biker rebuttal: I agree completely with fiscal responsibility. I pay extra to maintain a level of insurance that will cover the costs of severe injury from a relatively high risk sport. However, this should be the case regardless of helmet laws. Putting on a helmet does nothing to mitigate the risk of an accident on a motorcycle.

More information from SMARTER: Clay’s position that individuals “should” pay extra to maintain a level of insurance that will cover the costs of severe injury from a relatively high risk sport is a worthy goal. The available research however, indicates that non-helmeted riders utilize more hospital resources. Additionally, hospitals receive poorer reimbursement for their charges in comparison to helmeted riders. An excellent review of the research on this issue can be found on pages 22 to 25 in Motorcycle Helmet Laws: The Facts, What Can be done to Jump-Start Helmet Use, and Ways to Cap the Damages by Melissa Neiman, M.D., J.D.

Recent Michigan motorcycle accident deaths

I’m sad to report that this past Saturday, a motorcyclist from Pontiac, Michigan who was involved in a motorcycle accident passed away. The man died from injuries sustained in the accident, which occurred Cass Avenue north of Johnson Street in Pontiac. The rider was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. But according to published reports, he was speeding when he lost control and hit a curb, a traffic sign and a fence.

Additionally, there was a motorcycle accident last week on eastbound I-94 at Inkster road that caused the death of a motorcycle passenger. The motorcycle driver scraped the guardrail and lost control of the bike, ejecting the passenger.

The point behind both of these deaths is that wearing a helmet, which readers of this blog know I am a strong proponent of, does not mean that motorcycle owners should assume they are protected from other drivers, or even their own mistakes. Wearing helmets and following the traffic safety laws, like driving within the speed limit, and watching for motorists, can work together to help save lives.

Think twice about Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law repeal

My recent blogs about motorcycle helmet laws and Michigan’s proposed motorcycle helmet law repeal have been extremely popular – especially among motorcycle owners. People get very passionate about this topic. As a motorcycle accident attorney, I too believe it is a critically important issue, because wearing a helmet is literally the difference between life and death.

Let’s really think about this. What is more important, saving the lives of our motorcycle riders, or allowing them to ride with the wind in their hair?

Please think twice about the motorcycle helmet repeal law that’s currently in the works. This law will allow Michigan motorcyclists to ride without helmets and put their lives in great jeopardy. It will also hold Michigan taxpayers responsible for paying their medical bills when they are involved in catastrophic motorcycle accidents with no helmets.

Here are the first two blogs from our series:

Motorcycle helmet laws save lives

Motorcycle helmet laws increase helmet use

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

Related information to protect yourself:

Michigan motorcycle accident lawsuits

When you have a motorcycle accident due to a road defect

Do motorcycle helmets interfere with riders’ vision and hearing?

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 (248) 353-7575 for a free consultation with one of our Michigan motorcycle accident attorneys.

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