Biker Down! Understanding Your Rights When Injured In a Motorcycle Wreck

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 5,337 motorcyclists died in motorcycle crashes in 2017.

Motorcyclists are 27 times as likely to die as car drivers as they are more difficult to see, and they are more exposed to road and weather conditions.

Because motorcyclists are more vulnerable than car drivers, there are federal and state laws that require them to take extra safety precautions.

Your rights are most robustly protected if you ride defensively, wear adequate protection, maintain your motorcycle, and have a comprehensive insurance policy in place.


In most states, you must obtain a separate authorization on their driver’s license to legally own and drive a motorcycle. If you drive without this endorsement, you will be considered to be partially responsible for the accident, even if the other driver is completely at fault.

To gain the extra endorsement on your driver’s license you must undertake a mandatory safety course in most states. These courses cover topics such as correct riding techniques, safety awareness, and motorcycle law.

Safety Equipment

Requirements for safety equipment vary from state to state. In some states you must wear a helmet while others also require you to wear safety goggles.


All helmets sold in the US must meet specific safety standards. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) conducts safety testing of all helmets to ensure that they provide adequate protection of the head in the case of an accident.

When you buy or wear a helmet, it must have FMVSS218 written on it; this stands for Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218.

Riders are not required to wear a helmet in New Hampshire, Illinois, or Iowa. In other states, all riders must wear helmets.

Protective Eyewear

Eye protection can be a helmet visor, goggles, or glasses, but not sunglasses. Wearing protective eyewear increases safety as it prevents dust, dirt, or bugs from getting in your eyes.

Riders are required by law to wear eye protection in:

  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Minnesota
  • Arkansas
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Kentucky
  • Indiana
  • Florida
  • Louisiana

In other states, riders don’t need to wear eye protection in certain circumstances.

Depending on the state where you live, you may also need to wear the following:

  • Reflective vest
  • Special footwear
  • Padded clothing

Concerning your motorcycle, most states require it to be equipped with turn signals, brake lights, and headlights.

If you or your motorcycle are not properly equipped, you may have a hard time claiming full compensation in the event of an accident.

Legislation for Cars

To increase safety awareness, some laws impose extra penalties on car drivers who cause an accident with a motorcycle.

Interestingly, however, motorcycle rider error tends to be the main cause of a motorcycle accident rather than car driver error.

If someone hits you on your bike, you can file a civil lawsuit and claim for collision-related losses. Your claim will be based on the other driver’s negligence and that they should cover your losses as long as you have not complied with the state’s safety legislation

Your Rights as a Passenger

If you have an accident as a passenger on your friend or family member’s bike you may be reluctant to contact an attorney.

If you have insurance, you can still claim and you won’t have to worry about getting the rider into trouble.

If you don’t have insurance, you may need to file a claim through the other party’s insurance policy. This might increase their premium, but you must cover yourself against otherwise costly medical bills.

It’s advisable to purchase an insurance policy if you ride as a passenger on a motorcycle. Know your rights and be prepared for any outcome.

If You Carry Passengers On Your Bike

If you take passengers on your motorcycle, it’s vital to check that your insurance policy covers them in the event of an accident.

In Washington, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, motorcycles are not permitted to carry passengers under 5 to 8 years old. There are no restrictions in other states.

Lane Splitting

Some drivers carry out the questionable practice of lane splitting. Lane splitting is where motorcycles ride in between two lanes. It’s important to be aware of how dangerous this can be as it is difficult for cars to see motorcycles approaching from behind.

California is the only state that permits lane splitting, but it is illegal in most states. It’s not mentioned in some states including:

  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Oklahoma
  • Missouri
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Kentucky
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia
  • North Carolina

If you’re riding across different states, it’s a good idea to be clear on which states permit lane splitting. If you end up in a motorcycle wreck where lane splitting is not permitted it could affect your ability to make a claim.

Insurance Coverage

No-fault insurance policies are where drivers or passengers must claim on their own insurance company, even if they didn’t cause the accident. The No-Fault Act does not include motorcycles because they don’t have more than 2 wheels.

This means that motorcycle riders are not legally obliged to purchase PIP (personal injury protection).

No-fault insurance providers are not required to pay for benefits to a motorcycle rider unless there is another vehicle involved.

What If You Don’t Have Insurance And Have An Accident?

You must contact a lawyer immediately if you don’t have insurance and have an accident. You must collect as much evidence as you can that proves the accident wasn’t your fault.

Legal representation is critical. You may be sued for damages or you may need to claim from the other party. Your liability for the accident will be affected by not having insurance.

If your state is a no-fault state, then you may not need to do this as the other driver will claim on their insurance.

States with a fault insurance policy require the person who caused the accident to pay damages to the injured person.

If the accident was the fault of the other driver, you could still be convicted of driving without insurance, although you will not be liable for any compensation.

Ultimately, if you end up in a motorcycle wreck, make sure you contact a reputable motorcycle attorney immediately. Rather than worrying about how much are motorcycle lawyers, think instead about how they could help you to maximize your settlement at a challenging time.