Does Virginia law require motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a helmet?
Yes, Virginia has passed a so-called “universal” motorcycle helmet law, which requires everyone to wear a proper helmet while riding on a motorcycle -- no matter their age or amount of riding experience, and regardless of whether they are operating the motorcycle or riding as a passenger.
You can find the full text of Virginia’s motorcycle helmet law -- which also lays out a few very rare exceptions to the law, plus other requirements related to safety equipment for motorcycles -- online at the Virginia legislature’s website: Code of Virginia section 46.2-910. And for more information on motorcycle rider licensing in the state, check outObtaining a Motorcycle License in Virginia from the Virginia DMV.
Virginia adds an important wrinkle to its motorcycle helmet statute, which could come into play if you get into a motorcycle accident and end up filing a personal injury lawsuit against another driver. If you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, in many states that fact could affect your right to get compensation for your injuries, since failure to wear a helmet could be considered negligence, and that is especially true if you are seeking compensation for head injuries.
But in Virginia, the motorcycle helmet statute says that this kind of evidence -- the fact that you weren’t wearing a helmet -- is not definitive proof of negligence in an injury lawsuit. Specifically, the law says “Failure to wear a face shield, safety glasses or goggles, or protective helmets shall not constitute negligence per se in any civil proceeding.”
This is important because Virginia follows a very harsh “contributory negligence” rule when the person filing a personal injury lawsuit also bears some amount of legal responsibility for causing their own injuries. This rule essentially eliminates an injured person’s ability to get any compensation at all from other at-fault parties, if the injured person is found to share any degree of fault (even one percent). Learn more about how Virginia’s contributory negligence rule works in vehicle accident cases in our article Car Accident Laws in Virginia.