Does Illinois have a law requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet?
No. While most states have some variation of a motorcycle helmet law -- from "universal" laws requiring helmet use for all riders and passengers, to statutes that require helmets for riders under a certain age -- Illinois is one of three states that have no motorcycle helmet law on the books. (Iowa and New Hampshire are the other two states with no helmet law, if you're keeping score at home.)
Regardless of what the law has to say on the subject, if you're going to ride a motorcycle (whether as an operator or as a passenger) wearing a helmet is always a good idea. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), when worn during a motorcycle accident, helmets are about 37 percent effective in preventing deaths, and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries.
If your health and safety aren't motivation enough, consider that if you end up getting into a motorcycle accident, even when another driver is clearly at fault for causing the crash, any personal injury case you file could be adversely affected if you weren't wearing a helmet. (Learn more about Helmet Use and Motorcycle Accident Injury Claims.)
That's because Illinois follows a rule known as "comparative negligence" when a personal injury plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) also bears some level of legal blame for causing their own injuries. This rule acts to reduce the plaintiff's damages award (money) by a percentage that is equal to his or her share of legal liability.
The issue comes down to whether or not the jury believes that the injured motorcyclist's (or passenger's) failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, and whether that negligence played a role in causing the accident or the plaintiff's injuries. So, if you weren't wearing a helmet during the accident and you're asking for compensation for head injuries, the Illinois comparative negligence rule could apply to reduce the amount of money you'll receive from the court. Learn more about this shared fault rule in our Illinois Car Accident Laws article.
by: David Goguen, J.D.