Is there a helmet law in Washington D.C. for motorcyclists and their passengers?
Yes. The District of Columbia has passed a "universal" motorcycle helmet law that requires anyone of any age who is riding on a motorcycle -- that means as an operator or a passenger -- to wear an appropriate helmet.
Specifically, District of Columbia Municipal Regulation 2215.3 states "No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless wearing a protective helmet in the manner for which the helmet was designed and of a type approved" by D.C.'s Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If you violate the D.C. helmet law and you end up getting in a motorcycle accident, even if another driver was the main cause of the accident -- they ran a red light, for example -- you still could pay a price. That's because D.C. courts follow a pretty unforgiving shared fault rule known as "contributory negligence."
Under this rule, if a person who files an injury lawsuit is found to share any amount of blame for causing the underlying accident or their injuries, they won't be able to collect any damages at all from any other at-fault party. (Learn more about these shared fault rules in our D.C. Car Accident Laws article.) Very few states still follow this rule, in part because it's pretty harsh to plaintiffs.
Bottom line: If you're found to have violated the D.C. helmet law and you wind up with a head injury after a traffic accident, that's a pretty clear-cut case of negligence, and it will probably prevent you from getting any kind of remedy in civil court.
by: David Goguen, J.D.