Is there a New Hampshire law requiring motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?
Yes, but it's not the "universal" variety of motorcycle helmet law that many states have passed. In New Hampshire, only operators and passengers who are under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet while riding on a motorcycle.
Specifically, New Hampshire Revised Statutes section 265:122 states "No person less than 18 years of age may drive or ride upon a motorcycle unless he wears protective headgear of a type approved by the director. Such headgear shall be equipped with either a neck or chin strap."
The "director" reference is to the director of the New Hampshire Department of Safety's Division of Motor Vehicles.
The statute goes on to make clear that it is illegal to operate a motorcycle in New Hampshire if a passenger is under 18 and is in violation of the helmet 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, regardless of whether or not you're wearing a helmet yourself.
If you end up getting into a motorcycle accident while you are not wearing a helmet in New Hampshire -- even if you are over 18 and not legally required to wear one -- that could complicate any personal injury lawsuit you file against the at-fault driver. This is especially true if you're trying to get compensation for head injuries.
If your case goes to trial and the jury believes that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence, under New Hampshire'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 $20,000 in damages but that you were also 40 percent to blame for your injuries, you'll only receive $12,000 ($20,000 minus 40 percent). Learn more about these shared fault rules in our article New Hampshire Car Accident Laws.
by: David Goguen, J.D.