Although motorcycles account for only four percent of registered vehicles in Washington, motorcycle fatalities made up 15 percent of Washington’s traffic fatalities in 2014 alone; in fact, motorcyclists are approximately 26 times more likely to be killed in a traffic crash than someone in a car.
At Lehmbecker Law, we have seen numerous personal injury cases that have been caused by motorcycle accidents. While motorcyclists follow most of the same laws as other drivers do, there are a few specific laws that apply only to motorcyclists. If you or a loved one followed these laws and still suffered an injury on the road, our team of experts can help you determine if another party can be held accountable for your injuries.
Washington Laws Specific to Motorcyclists
Aside from normal traffic laws, motorcyclists in Washington have specific laws that they must abide by:
- Obtaining a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.
- After obtaining an endorsement, it is required that you register your motorcycle with the Washington State Department of Licensing.
- Additionally, you must display a valid, registered license plate on your motorcycle at all times.
- Washington law requires all motorcyclists to wear helmets while riding. If you fail to wear a safety helmet and get into an accident, you may be considered negligent and may not be able to recover full compensation from the other party.
- While motorcyclists are subject to Washington traffic laws, they may be able to ride through red lights so long as they first come to a complete stop, wait for at least one traffic cycle, and make sure no other vehicles or pedestrians have the right of way if a vehicle detection device fails to notice their presence and function as intended.
- Motorcyclists may ride in a full traffic lane without impediment from other vehicles, and two motorcycles ride abreast in a single lane.
In 2015, the Senate passed a bill that would allow “lane splitting” (riding a motorcycle between traffic lanes). However, the bill failed to pass in the House, which means lane splitting is still illegal in Washington.
Negligence and Liability
As with any other kind of traffic accident, motorcycle accident claims usually revolve around proving negligence; in other words, whose careless or reckless behavior caused the accident. If the vehicle driver is at fault in a motorcycle-vehicle collision, then he or she may be required to pay the motorcyclist money in damages—including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages related to the accident.
On the other hand, if the motorcyclist is at fault—even partially—he or she may be unable to recover damages from the driver of the vehicle. This is known as contributory or comparative negligence. If this type of negligence applies, the court may decide damages based on how much each party is to blame for the accident.
In rare cases, neither party may be to blame. Instead, the accident may have been caused by a defect in the motorcycle, which can be attributed to the company that designed, planned, or built the motorcycle. A design defect means that the motorcycle company planned or designed the bike in a faulty manner, causing injury as a result. A manufacturing defect means that the manufacturing company made a mistake in putting the motorcycle together, or intentionally failed to follow the design for the motorcycle, making the bike unsafe for use. For example, a defect in alignment may cause the front end of a motorcycle to wobble at high speeds, potentially resulting in an accident.
Companies have a legal duty to issue recalls when a product defect is discovered. Motorcycle companies are also supposed to notify owners of recalls and issue a refund or exchange without further cost to the motorcycle’s owner. If the motorcycle design or manufacturing company is at fault in an accident, then they may be responsible for compensating the injured motorcyclist.
- In two thirds of accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle caused the accident by violating the motorcyclist’s right of way.
- Motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to be killed and five times more likely to be injured in a crash than someone in a car.
- Helmets are 37% effective for preventing death in motorcycle accidents, and 67% effective for preventing severe brain injuries.
- In 2013, 1,630 motorcyclists survived because they were wearing helmets.
- In 2013, the average age of motorcyclists that died in accidents was 42.
- 91% of all motorcyclists who died in 2013 accidents were male.
Preventing Accidents and Serious Injury
As a motorcyclist, there are several things you can do to minimize your chances of getting into an accident, and to protect yourself in the event of an accident. This includes making sure your motorcycle is safe and in good working order before taking it out, wearing a helmet while riding, following traffic laws, and riding sober.
When an accident of any kind occurs, it is critical to take appropriate action as soon as possible. Never accept a settlement or give a statement without first consulting an experienced attorney and discussing your case to determine your claim.
At Lehmbecker Law, we have over 30 years of experience in assessing and winning personal injury cases on behalf of our clients. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and to learn more about seeking compensation for your injuries from a motorcycle accident.