Am I Legally Required to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet in New Jersey?
Yes, and, in New Jersey, this law is clear for both motorcycle riders and their passengers. The helmets must certified by the DOT at the Federal level and must meet certain design standards. For those who remember a time when helmet laws were not enacted know that helmet laws have completely changed the motorcycle experience.
There are many who consider New Jersey’s helmet laws to be a government infringement upon personal choice. Ironically, the penalty for violating the helmet law is only $25 and without points upon a driving record. There are some willing to pay the $25 and continue to ride without a helmet as their personal stand against this law.
The purpose of this blog is not to dissuade a person’s stand on a matter important to them, or to preach about the safety and the sense it makes to wear a helmet. The purpose of this blog is to set out New Jersey’s helmet laws and offer other considerations in an unfortunate case of an accident.
Everyone has the right to personal choice. But, knowing the circumstances when facing the laws of civil procedure to seek relief to damages sustained in a motorcycle accident will help make the decision informed.
New Jersey’s Motorcycle Helmet Law
The requirements, in addition to the DOT’s certification, for helmets are:
- The secure fit for the wearer’s head;
- Both sides of the helmet must be reflectorized;
- The requirement of a neck or a chin strap;
- The design standards of the full-face design and the inner lining;
- The substantive weight of at least 3lbs.; and
- Compliance labels.
There is no need to spend time stating the obvious about the helmet being the only source of protection between the rider and the asphalt.
Motorcycle Insurance and the Injury Claim
A crucial factor in any personal injury claim is the insurance coverage, especially in motorcycle accidents.
A motorcycle operator in New Jersey is required to carry at least $10,000 in liability insurance for property damage and $15,000 per person, or $30,000 per accident, for injury coverage. The minimum insurance requirements for motorcyclists are the same for drivers of cars and other personal vehicles.
Liability insurance will cover any damage a motorcyclist causes to another. The purpose of liability insurance protects the insured financially against the claims of another up to the limits of coverage.
This coverage is not for damage to the insured’s motorcycle by the negligent act of another. Without collision and comprehensive coverages in place, any damage suffered by the motorcycle owner will need to be paid through the insurance of the other motorist, assuming established fault and sufficient coverage limits.
No Medical Benefits
New Jersey is a no-fault state, and any injury to a motorist resulting from a crash is typically covered by the motorist’s insurance policy under the personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. However, PIP coverage does not extend to accidents involving motorcycles.
A vehicle driver may have up to $250,000 in PIP coverage for medical-related expenses resulting from an accident, but this coverage cannot be accessed if the policyholder was on a motorcycle. There are very few cases where PIP coverage extends to medical benefits in a motorcycle accident. The circumstances of these cases are specific and have extended benefits within the policy.
The coverages under a health insurance policy are also very narrow regarding injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident.
The Modified Comparative Negligence Rule
The laws of New Jersey require the investigation of negligence claims to be viewed as a whole with the potential for fault to be assessed to all drivers involved in an accident. An injured party could be held partially responsible for an accident.
The ability of an injured party to seek relief of damages is affected by the percentage of fault assessed. Any damage award will be reduced by the percentage of fault.
The allocation of fault is not exact; however, the behaviors of both drivers are considered. A driver’s irrational or reckless behavior and the obeying of traffic laws at the time immediately prior to an accident are important factors when fault is being determined.
If a motorcycle operator has the unfortunate experience of being involved in an accident without wearing a helmet, it is very likely that the injured motorcyclist could be held responsible for the severity of the injuries by violating the helmet law.
Regardless of actual fault for the accident and the sufficient coverages carried by the other driver, the right to seek relief will be significantly reduced if the motorcyclist violated the helmet law.
The purpose of this blog is not to sway a personal stance on New Jersey’s helmet law one way or the other. The purpose is to set forth information not otherwise considered.