Is there a motorcycle helmet law for riders and passengers in Massachusetts?
Yes. Massachusetts is one of many states in the U.S. that have enacted a "universal" helmet law for anyone riding on a motorcycle (whether as an operator or passenger).
The relevant part of the statute (Massachusetts Part I, Title XIV, Chapter 90, Section 7) reads:
"Every person operating a motorcycle or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle or in a sidecar attached to a motorcycle shall wear protective head gear conforming with…minimum standards of construction and performance,… and no person operating a motorcycle shall permit any other person to ride as a passenger on such motorcycle or in a sidecar attached to such motorcycle unless such passenger is wearing such protective head gear."
So, not only are motorcycle riders and passengers required to wear a helmet in Massachusetts, but anyone operating a motorcycle is under an additional legal obligation to make sure that his or her passengers are wearing a proper helmet.
So, what if you're injured in a motorcycle accident and you weren't wearing a helmet, in violation of Massachusetts law? You could be in for an uphill battle if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident.
Massachusetts courts follow a "comparative fault" system when deciding how an injured person's case is affected if they bear some level of fault (for the accident or for their injuries). And while it's not cut-and-dry, violation of a helmet law will probably lead to a finding of shared blame, especially if you're trying to get compensation for head injuries.
If your personal injury case goes to a jury, they'll decide what percentage of fault to assign you, and under Massachusetts's comparative fault rules, any damages award will be reduced by an amount that's equal to that percentage. (Get more information in our article Massachusetts Car Accident Laws.)
by: David Goguen, J.D.