Motorcycle Helmet Laws and Liability

Previously, we discussed what the current Nevada statutes are regulating motorcycle riders, and how, in an accident, not following those laws may affect the outcome and amount of a potential settlement.  However, we did not cover the helmet law.  Let us do so now.

 

Does Nevada have a helmet law for motorcyclists?

Yes, indeed.  In fact, the law has been in effect for more than forty years.  Unlike other states, Nevada requires all passengers, of all ages, to wear a helmet. The statute is as follows:

 

   NRS486.231  Protective headgear and glasses: Standards; when use required.

      1.  The Department shall adopt standards for protective headgear and protective glasses, goggles or face shields to be worn by the drivers and passengers of motorcycles and transparent windscreens for motorcycles.

      2.  Except as provided in this section, when any motorcycle, except a trimobile or moped, is being driven on a highway, the driver and passenger shall wear protective headgear securely fastened on the head and protective glasses, goggles or face shields meeting those standards. Drivers and passengers of trimobiles shall wear protective glasses, goggles or face shields which meet those standards.

      3.  When a motorcycle or a trimobile is equipped with a transparent windscreen meeting those standards, the driver and passenger are not required to wear glasses, goggles or face shields.

      4.  When a motorcycle is being driven in a parade authorized by a local authority, the driver and passenger are not required to wear the protective devices provided for in this section.

      5.  When a three-wheel motorcycle on which the driver and passengers ride within an enclosed cab is being driven on a highway, the driver and passengers are not required to wear the protective devices required by this section.

      (Added to NRS by 1971, 1469; A 1973, 1194; 1975, 1083; 1979, 8571985, 1959)

 

As you can see, the only exception to the law is if the driver is authorized to appear in a parade.  Note also that the law requires “protective glasses” to be worn by all passengers.

 

How will not wearing a helmet affect a personal injury claim?

The answer to this inquiry depends upon the type of injuries that resulted from the accident.

No helmet, with a head injury: Because Nevada has a helmet law, and this is seen as a codification of a duties one has as a motorcyclist, not wearing a helmet might be seen by the law as the motorcyclist contributing toward his or her own injuries.

However, NRS 484D.495(4)(b) states that not wearing a seat-belt “[m]ay not be considered as negligence or as causation in any civil action or as negligent or reckless driving under NRS 484B.653.” Given that a seat-belt and a helmet function in a very similar manner1)as a preventative measure to protect the rider in the unlikely instance that there is an accident, it seems unreasonable to assign liability to the helmet-less victim of a motorcycle accident when the same assignment of liability is expressly prohibited for a seat-belt-less victim of an automobile accident.

No helmet, without a head injury: Even with the law requiring a helmet, if the injuries stemming from an accident do not include a head injury, then the fact the rider was not wearing a helmet is irrelevant2)Do not take this chance; please wear a helmet.

 

Will the legislature change the helmet law?

In the current 2015 legislative session, State Senator Don Gustavson, through Senate Bill 142, attempted to repeal Nevada’s requirement that motorcyclists wear a helmet at all times.  He proposed allowing motorcyclists the freedom to choose to wear a helmet if the rider is over twenty-one, and has at least one year of driving experience.  However, SB 142 was amended, deleting this provision, and the helmet law discussed above still stands in the version of the law signed by Governor Sandoval.  This no-helmet trend  is worth keeping an eye on.

 

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. as a preventative measure to protect the rider in the unlikely instance that there is an accident
2. Do not take this chance; please wear a helmet
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