Is there a Montana law requiring motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?
Yes, but Montana's helmet law is not of the "universal" variety that is on the books in many states in the U.S. In Montana, only people who are under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on a motorcycle.
Specifically, the applicable law states, "An operator and passenger under 18 years of age of a motorcycle or quadricycle operated upon the streets or highways of this state shall wear protective headgear upon the head. The headgear must meet standards established by the [Montana] Department of Justice."
The statute goes on to declare it illegal to operate a motorcycle on any Montana highway if a passenger who is under 18 is not in compliance with the law. So, if you're the one driving the motorcycle, you could receive a traffic citation if your passenger is under 18 and isn't wearing a helmet.
If you violate Montana's helmet law and you get into a motorcycle accident, it could complicate matters if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In fact, even if you're over 18 and not legally required to wear a helmet, the fact that you weren't wearing one may have an impact on the amount of compensation you receive, especially if you suffered head injuries. (More on Helmet Laws and Injury Lawsuits.)
If your case goes to trial and the jury believes that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, under Montana's "comparative negligence" rule any damages award you receive will be reduced by the percentage of fault that's attributed to you. So if the jury decides that you suffered $10,000 in damages but that you were also 40 percent to blame for your injuries, you'll only receive $6,000 ($10,000 minus 40 percent). Learn more about these shared fault rules in our article Montana Car Accident Laws.
by: David Goguen, J.D.