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Bicycle Helmet Laws in Washington State

Colburn Law

Woman on bicycle with a helmet on
Bicycle accidents can lead to severe damage and injury, especially if you are not wearing a helmet at the time. Studies show that wearing a helmet increases cyclist safety significantly, protecting you from severe head trauma and brain injury.

However, not all states or municipalities require you to wear a helmet while riding. Do you have to wear a bicycle helmet in Washington state?

The Importance of Wearing a Helmet

Cycling can be very dangerous without proper safety equipment – especially helmets. Our brain is one of the most important organs in our body, and any damage to it can lead to lifelong complications. Helmets protect our skull and brain from injury in case we fall off or hit the ground – and without a helmet, our brains can risk significant damage that can lead to the following impacts.

  • Memory loss and difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Inability to perform daily functions without assistance
  • Trouble speaking or moving
  • Vegetative state or coma
  • Seizures
  • Paralysis
  • Hearing and vision loss
  • Brain death

Wearing a helmet can turn a potentially fatal bike accident into a less severe one. Even if the city you live in does not require a bicycle helmet, you should try to wear one every time you ride and contact a bicycle accident attorney if you have been injured.

Washington Bicycle Helmet Laws

In the state of Washington, wearing a bicycle helmet is highly recommended to protect you from injury and death while riding. However, the state does not require riders to wear a helmet while cycling. While no state law exists, different counties and municipalities do have helmet wearing requirements.

For example, all residents of King County, including Seattle, have to wear a helmet while riding a bike, as do residents of Spokane, Vancouver, Puyallup, and Aberdeen. However, Orting only requires residents under the age of 17 to wear helmets, and Poulsbo requires helmet use for anyone under the age of 18.

The area you live in may be subject to different requirements. Before you ride without a helmet, make sure you are complying with your local laws. To protect yourself from injury and to ensure you follow the law, always wear a helmet while riding.

Liability in Bicycle Accidents without a Helmet

Wearing a bicycle helmet is important if you are in an accident for legal reasons as well as for your own safety. If you suffer severe injuries while cycling and want to file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the person responsible for the accident, your lack of headgear could be an argument against you.

An insurance company or a defense attorney could claim that you did not take responsibility for your safety by not wearing a helmet. If you live in an area that requires a helmet,  these entities can claim that you were not following local laws and share a portion of liability.

These actions can reduce your overall settlement claim – sometimes reducing your ability to receive compensation at all. If you do not receive the compensation you need to recover from your injuries, you could suffer from significant financial burden.

Other actions can reduce your settlement too – for example, if you ride your bike on a sidewalk in a city where this act is illegal, you could share a portion of the liability for an accident. If you are riding your bike on a sidewalk in Seattle, however, you are complying with local law and this will not impact your claim. To protect yourself and your right to compensation, make sure to wear a helmet while cycling and to comply with all local and state laws.

You should always aim to wear a bicycle helmet while riding in Washington state. Not only does this help protect you in case of an accident, but wearing a helmet can also decrease your liability in a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim. The safer you are, the less likely an insurance company or a defense attorney is to successfully place blame on you for your injuries.

Related:

Washington Bicycle Accident Hotspots