Does New Jersey have a helmet law for motorcycle riders and their passengers?
Yes, and it applies to anyone -- regardless of age -- who is riding on a motorcycle, whether as a driver or as a passenger. This kind of statute is sometimes referred to as a "universal" helmet law, because it covers everyone riding a motorcycle. By contrast, some states' laws apply only to people who are under a certain age, such as 18.
New Jersey's motorcycle helmet law says, "No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he wears a securely fitted protective helmet of a size proper for that person and of a type approved by the director. Such a helmet must be equipped with either a neck or chin strap and be reflectorized on both sides thereof."
You can find the full text of New Jersey's motorcycle helmet law at New Jersey Public Law 39:3-76.7 (you can access the statutes from the New Jersey Legislature website). For more information on motorcycle safety regulations in the state, see the New Jersey Motorcycle Safety Resources page from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.
If you get into a motorcycle accident in New Jersey and you aren't wearing a helmet, your violation of the state's helmet law could have a negative impact on any personal injury case you decide to make. And that's true even if another driver actually caused your accident, and a jury decides the case in your favor.
That's because, like many states, New Jersey follows a legal rule known as "comparative negligence" when the person who brings a personal injury lawsuit (the plaintiff) is also partially responsible for causing his or her injuries.
So, if the jury in your case decides that your failure to wear a helmet amounted to negligence -- and that is a very real possibility, especially if you suffered head injuries -- any compensation you receive will be reduced by a percentage that's equal to your share of fault. Learn more about this rule in New Jersey Car Accident Laws.
by: David Goguen, J.D.