Massachusetts was home to 168,931 registered motorcycles in one recent year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. While motorcycle riding is an efficient and invigorating way to travel through our Commonwealth, it also has the potential to be very dangerous.
The risk of a fatal injury in a collision is much greater for motorcycle riders than automobile occupants. Every year, thousands of motorcyclists are injured and dozens are killed in Massachusetts traffic accidents.
One important safety precaution that motorcyclists can take is to wear an approved protective helmet while riding. Head injuries are the number one cause of motorcycle accident fatalities. Riders without helmets are 40 percent more likely to suffer fatal head injuries in a crash.
If you have been in a Massachusetts motorcycle accident – with or without a helmet – the legal team at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan is committed to protecting your rights and interests. Contact us today by phone or online. We will schedule a free consultation to discuss your motorcycle accident and your legal options.
Is It Illegal to Ride a Motorcycle Without a Helmet in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has a “universal helmet law,” which requires motorcycle riders and passengers to wear protective helmets on the road at all times. Mandatory helmet use applies to all motorcycle operators, regardless of age or experience.
Motorcycle helmets must conform to minimum safety standards, which are described in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218. Operators must also wear eye protection such as eyeglasses, goggles or face shields if their bikes are not equipped with a windscreen.
Motorcycle operators and passengers who are caught riding without appropriate protective gear for their heads or eyes may be subject to legal penalties. The first offense for such a violation typically results in a $35 fine, plus a years-long surcharge added to your motorcycle insurance premiums. For second offenses, fines can range from $75 to $100, plus more insurance surcharges and potential bike towing costs.
Massachusetts Motorcycle Helmet Requirements
Many motorcyclists in Massachusetts have questions about the specific requirements in place for “approved” helmets. For example, are half helmets or novelty helmets legal? What should you look for if you are considering the purchase of a used motorcycle helmet?
The requirements and recommendations for protective helmets are set out in the Massachusetts Motorcycle Manual:
- Only two styles of motorcycle helmet provide the protection necessary to meet federal safety standards. These include full-face and three-quarter helmets.
- Half helmets, which cover only the top of the head, and novelty helmets, which are typically cheap and unprotective, are not legally compliant.
- When selecting a helmet, make sure it fits your head snugly and comfortably. Before you purchase a helmet, inspect your field of vision to make sure no blind spots or distracting features are present.
- When looking at a new or used helmet, check all surfaces for cracks, exposed metal or loose padding. Also check for safety issues such as blind spots that could compromise visibility.
- Take note of the manufacturer and distributor of any new or used helmet you consider purchasing. Look for company names that you trust. Ask questions or do research if you feel unsure.
Can You Recover Compensation If You Were Not Wearing a Helmet in a Motorcycle Crash?
Riders who are not wearing helmets and become injured in traffic accidents often face hurdles when seeking compensation. For example, insurance companies of at-fault drivers may use the absence of a helmet as an excuse to blame the motorcyclists for his or her own injuries. In these cases, the assistance of a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer can help motorcycle riders pursue damages in court.
Failure to wear a helmet does not cause a motorcycle accident, but it can make injuries worse when an accident happens.
In Massachusetts courts, personal injury law follows a doctrine of modified comparative fault. Our Commonwealth’s model of comparative fault has a 51 percent bar for pursuing and receiving compensation for personal injury. This means that as long as a person does not take more than half of the blame for their own injuries, they are legally eligible to pursue compensation for their injuries.
If a car or truck accident case involving head injuries to a non-helmeted motorcyclist goes to court, the motorcycle rider’s compensation may be reduced by the amount of head trauma that could have been prevented by a helmet. However, if injuries were sustained to body parts other than the head or neck of a motorcyclist, the absence of a helmet should have no effect on the amount of available compensation.
Other Recommended Safety Gear for Motorcyclists
In addition to protective helmets and eye shields, Massachusetts recommends motorcyclists use several pieces of protective safety equipment. The types of suggested gear include:
- Brightly colored clothing, reflective vests and reflective tape on motorcycle helmets to increase visibility to other motorists.
- Defensive and protective clothing, such as well-fitting motorcycle jackets and pants or multiple layers of dry, warm and breathable clothing.
- Shoes or boots that provide ankle coverage and support. Soles should be durable and slip-resistant, heels should be short, so they don’t get caught, and shoelaces should be tucked in while riding.
- Durable synthetic or leather motorcycle gloves, which allow for better handlebar grip and protect hands in the event of an accident.
The knowledgeable attorneys at The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan are dedicated to protecting the rights of all Massachusetts motorcyclists and those who love them. Our family-run firm has helped accident victims secure maximum compensation for more than three decades. We will give you and your case the same diligent care and exceptional service that has earned our clients’ trust, again and again.
For more information about the ways we can help you, call us or contact us online now for your free initial consultation.