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    Motorcycle Accident Passenger Injury Attorney | Greater Los Angeles

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Date Modified: August 18, 2023
Having a passenger with you on your motorcycle is more enjoyable than riding it alone. Whether it is your partner as you cruise through the Californian landscapes, your friend as you ride to the nearest cafe, or even your colleague as you hurry to your client’s meeting, having a passenger accompany you on your motorcycle is always enjoyable.

However, that said, having someone join you on your motorcycle also doubles the injury rate in the event of an accident. Each year, on average, 666 people suffer from motorcycle accident fatalities in California. The accidents put the motorcyclist at risk and the unsuspecting passenger.

You might be eligible for compensation if you received injuries as a passenger during a motorcycle accident. Ehline Law and our Los Angeles motorcycle passenger injury lawyers will aggressively and tenaciously pursue the compensation you deserve.

Are Motorcycle Accidents Common in California?

Although more than 15 million cars are registered in California, the number of motorcycle registrations is on the rise. In 2020, there were over 950,000 motorcycles registered, the highest number registered in any state across the country. Californians have started to take a liking to drive motorcycles, whether cruising through beautiful landscapes or as an easy way to beat traffic.

With an increasing number of motorcycles, the state experiences more fatal motorcycle accidents yearly. Unlike cars, motorcycles are small vehicles, and car drivers often “overlook” them, resulting in a motorcycle crashes. Because lane splitting is legal in the state, motorcycle accidents are more common in California than you would think.

According to SafeTREC, in 2015, there were 12,844 riders injured due to traffic accidents. During four years, from 2014 to 2018, there were 2,655 fatalities involving motorcycles, an average of 666 fatalities each year.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) records report that 61% of all motorcycle accidents occur in urban areas, and 66% of the accidents happen at locations that are not intersections.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Passenger Injuries

When it comes to riding a motorcycle with a passenger, there are a lot of challenges that the motorcyclist should be able to handle properly. For one, the additional weight of a passenger affects the motorcycle’s handling, requiring the motorcyclist to allocate sufficient time for braking, riding over steep hills, or even overtaking other vehicles. It would help if you practiced riding a motorcycle with a passenger in a safe space before taking it to the open roads.

As a passenger, you have the right to file claims against the motorcyclist for an accident if they were speeding, lane splitting, driving under the influence, driving without a license, and driving recklessly, among many others.

The five leading causes of motorcycle accidents in California, according to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, are:

  • Overspeeding (29.5%)
  • Right of way confusion (18.7%)
  • Illegal turns (17.4%)
  • Drunk driving (9.6%)
  • Unsafe lane changes (5.8%).

NHTSA reports that more than 40% of motorcycle accidents across the country involve a rider who does not have the proper license.

The statistics suggest that there are inexperienced riders on the road who do not have the skills to ride safely and practice defensive driving. As a passenger sitting with an amateur rider, the risk of suffering serious injuries increases exponentially if the motorcyclist loses control of their motorcycle.

Types of Motorcycle Passenger Injuries

The following are some of the most common injuries motorcycle passengers and riders suffer.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

One of the more devastating types of injuries, a traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can affect a person’s ability to live everyday life. A TBI can reduce or eliminate brain and body functions depending on the injury’s severity. Although helmet defense minimizes the risk of receiving a TBI, it does not entirely eliminate it.

The NHTSA conducted a study on 104,472 injured motorcyclists, and the findings suggested that 15% of all riders wearing helmets and 21% of those not wearing helmets suffered from TBI.

Treatment for TBI can cost up to $3 million over a patient’s lifetime, with some medical experts suggesting an even higher number depending on the severity of the injury.

Spinal Cord Injuries

The helmet protects the brain, but there is no protective gear for motorcycle passengers to wear to protect their spinal cord. A strong impact from an accident can eject the passenger onto the road, causing spinal cord damage. An injured spinal cord can lead to paralysis (paraplegia or quadriplegia), and these types of injuries usually cause the victim a permanent disability.

Lower Extremity Injuries

Crashing into a motor vehicle or ejecting from your bike can impact your head and neck region and your lower extremities, such as knees, calves, ankles, and feet. If the impact on the lower extremity is severe, the victim may experience broken bones and fractures. Lower extremity injuries are not as devastating as traumatic brain injuries, and with proper care, the victim can return to living everyday life. However, delaying medical treatment or care can prolong the injury period and even result in permanent disabilities.

Road Rash

This type of injury is not common among motorists, but for motorcyclists, it is the first thing they think of when it comes to motorcycle accident injuries. After getting ejected from a motorcycle, the accident victim either slides across the asphalt road or rolls on it until they come to a halt. The force with which the victim hits the pavement or road can scrape multiple layers of skin and even expose muscles underneath.

Protective gear such as gloves, jackets, pants, and boots can help cover exposed parts of the body to reduce the severity of road rash and, in some cases, even prevent it.

California Motorcycle Laws

California law prohibits motorcycle operators from transporting passengers with a learner’s permit. To transport passengers on a motorcycle, motorcycle operators must hold a valid Class M1 license.

The California Vehicle Code 27800 requires passengers to sit in a securely fitted seat behind the driver and motorcycle operators to have footrests available for passengers.

Do Motorcycle Passengers Have Any Responsibilities?

Many times, the driver’s actions can lead to a motorcycle accident rather than the actions of a passenger. Nevertheless, passengers have the responsibility to stay vigilant and act responsibly. A slight movement from the passenger can affect the handling of the motorcycle and cause it to swerve into objects, vehicles, or even pedestrians.

Since weight plays a huge role in how the motorcycle handles, passengers must mimic the motorcyclist’s actions to ensure synergy and a smooth ride. Passengers can hold onto the motorcyclist and lean towards the side during turns as the rider does. In the event of a brake, the rider tries not to move forward, which can cause the vehicle to tilt. Motorcycle passengers should also prevent themselves from sliding forward, shifting the weight towards the front.

As a motorcycle passenger, you must be active and ensure that you do not do anything that could cause the driver to lose control of their motorcycle. If a passenger’s conduct causes a motorcycle accident, the passenger may be responsible for the crash.

Here are some of the actions that are dangerous for motorcycle passengers and should be avoided at all times:

  • Causing any distraction
  • Failure to hold onto the safety rail or the motorcyclist
  • Moving around suddenly
  • Failing to be an active rider
  • Riding a motorcycle without a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet.

A Motorcycle Helmet Is Mandatory for Riders and Passengers

In California, a rider or passenger must wear a helmet while driving on the road. Not only that, but the helmet must be DOT-certified, meaning that the manufacturers must comply with the helmet regulations put forward by the state.

According to California Vehicle Code 27803, the helmet must fit the user’s head and straps for tightening to avoid any lateral movements. Passengers must also put their feet on the provided footrest when the vehicle is in motion.

Who Is Liable for Motorcycle Passenger Injuries?

Holding the Motorcyclist or Other Driver Responsible

A motorcycle passenger can have different parties responsible for any injuries resulting from an accident, depending on the unique circumstances of the crash. Drivers and motorcyclists owe a duty of care to prevent accidents that could harm their passengers and others around them.

If you’re a passenger on a motorcycle, and because of the right of way, the motorcyclist speeds down a busy intersection and crashes into a vehicle with a driver who did not yield the right of way. The accident causes severe injuries to you, and you decide to file a motorcycle accident claim. In this situation, both the driver and the motorcycle are liable for your injuries as they both breached their duty of care to you.

Holding Government Entity Responsible

There are incidences where poor road conditions cause motorcyclists to lose control and crash, resulting in serious injuries. In situations like this, the motorcyclist and the passenger could hold the county, state government, or federal government in charge of that road responsible for their injuries.

Holding Manufacturer’s Responsible

A manufacturer’s product defect in a vehicle or failing safety gear could potentially be the cause of injuries to a motorcycle passenger in the event of an accident. Companies like Ford, Toyota, and Honda are perfect examples of manufacturers recalling their vehicles due to product defects to avoid further harm to drivers or passengers.

If a failing brake or a manufacturer’s defect causes injuries to the motorcycle passenger, there may be grounds for a product liability claim. Injured motorcycle accident victims have the right to pursue legal action against the negligent manufacturer for any damage done to them as a result of their product.

The Passenger Could Partially Be Responsible

Since California is a fault-based state where compensation depends on the degree of fault, even the motorcycle passenger could be partially responsible for their injuries. Motorcycle passengers not wearing helmets at the time of the accident run the risk of traumatic brain injuries during accidents. Passengers without helmets may be partially responsible for their injuries since state law requires that motorcycle riders and passengers wear DOT-approved helmets to drive legally.

A motorcycle accident attorney can help identify liable parties and negotiate with the insurance company to help you obtain maximum financial compensation for your injuries.

Can Injured Motorcycle Passengers File Motorcycle Accident Claims?

Injured motorcycle passengers can file a personal injury claim against the liable parties. However, the most significant complication that arises in such motorcycle accident cases is when the liable party is the motorcyclist, who may be their spouse, a family member, or a close friend.

Some victims feel guilty and might be uncomfortable with bringing a personal injury claim against them. That’s why there is motorcycle insurance to cover these types of losses. As a motorcycle passenger, you can file a claim against the motorcyclist’s insurance policy.

The policy protects the policyholder from any financial harm and compensates the victim for their loss. A personal injury attorney can help protect your rights and recover maximum compensation without any expense to the motorcyclist.

Minimum Motorcycle Insurance Coverage in California

The financial responsibility law in California requires riders to have the following minimum coverage to drive their motorcycles in the state legally:

  • $15,000 – Injuries or death for a single person
  • $30,000 – Injuries or death for multiple people
  • $5,000 – Property damage.

Liability insurance protects other people from any financial harm caused by accidents caused by the policyholder. Motorcyclists can choose to have more extensive coverage, but that comes at a premium, and most motorcyclists tend to stick with the minimum coverage. In an accident, the insurance company will not pay above the policyholder’s policy limit.

$30,000 per accident for injuries and death may not be enough to cover the medical bills of a passenger with a traumatic brain injury or a spinal injury. The treatment costs for such injuries can exceed a million dollars over a patient’s lifetime, and they will have to pay the difference from their own pocket. But with the help of a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer, they can exhaust the other insurance policies the motorcyclist may have to cover the difference.

What To Do After A Motorcycle Passenger Accident: A Step-By-Step Guide

Accidents on the road happen so fast that they can cause confusion and even severe disorientation. Tending to yourself first before helping others in such a situation is important. If the accident occurred in the middle of the road where traffic is moving, you should move to a safe location before following our step-by-step guide.

Assess Your Injuries

You need to make sure you’re doing fine before making any moves. Take a deep breath and look around you for any signs of injury. Call 911 immediately if you or the motorcyclist have injuries from the accident and require medical assistance.

At times, after an accident, you may experience minor injuries or no injuries at all. However, this is not a sure sign that you’re unharmed, as some injuries can take time to manifest, while it can be difficult to determine any internal injuries since there are no surface signs.

Exchange Personal and Insurance Information

The majority of people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck, and any additional expenses, such as medical bills from an accident, can further deteriorate a household’s financial situation. You would want the negligent party’s insurer to compensate you for any damages.

Approach the parties involved in the accident and exchange personal and insurance information, particularly names, addresses, phone numbers, policy numbers, and driving license numbers. This information is particularly useful when filing a personal injury claim against the insurance company.

In the event of a hit-and-run, you won’t have any motorists to exchange information with, but don’t worry; a resourceful attorney can help secure CCTV footage and other evidence to identify the negligent party and build a motorcycle accident case against them.

Contact Police

There is no need to call the police when the parties involved do not have any injuries or significant property damage. However, many states require you to call law enforcement authorities if the damage exceeds the state’s threshold. If you’re unsure whether or not you should call the police, call them and ask them for information. They’ll be more than willing to guide you and provide relevant assistance.

Getting a police officer at the scene is helpful in building a strong case, as a police officer writes a police report where they mention relevant details about the accident and their own opinion. An attorney can use the police report in your favor and provide it as evidence when filing claims.

Gather Evidence

When contacting the local authorities, it may take a while for a police officer to reach the scene of the accident. In the meantime, take some pictures of the motor vehicles involved in the accident, the skid marks on the road, any nearby road or traffic signs, and the surroundings.

When seeking claims, victims must prove the fault of the negligent party. To do that, attorneys use pictures to “recreate the accident” and prove the negligent party’s fault. Every detail that may look minor at the time of the accident may prove to be strong evidence against the responsible party. Hence, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible while waiting for a police officer to arrive.

Head to the Hospital

If you’re seriously injured, you won’t be able to carry out any steps, and the ambulance will immediately take you to a medical center. But if there are no apparent injuries or only minor bruises, you must wait until you speak to a police officer.

After providing your side of the story to the police officer, head to a medical center to tend to your wounds, if there are any, and undergo a medical examination to identify any internal injuries. Keep all medical records, bills, and other critical medical documents safe, as you will need them later.

Ensure you also contact your insurance company and the negligent party’s insurance company to inform them about the accident. When talking about the incident, you must stick with the facts and avoid any unnecessary chatter, especially if you receive a call from the negligent party’s insurance claim adjuster. They’ll use whatever information they can against you to avoid paying out claims.

Call a Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Seeking legal guidance after an accident is one of the most crucial steps to increasing your chances of reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses or compensation. This may be one of your life’s most important calls, depending on your situation.

A qualified and resourceful attorney can help an injured motorcycle rider or passenger gather evidence, build a strong case, protect the victim’s rights, and recover the compensation they deserve.

Resourceful lawyers have a solid investigative team and specialists to recreate the accident, determine the value of damages (economic and non-economic damages), and negotiate with the insurance company for a fair settlement.

With so many motorcycle accident lawyers available in Los Angeles, here are the three things you should consider when selecting an attorney for your case:

  • Substantial experience, including trial experience
  • Superior track record
  • A wide array of resources.

Ehline Law – Los Angeles Motorcycle Passenger Injury Lawyers

Ehline Law and our Los Angeles motorcycle passenger injury lawyers have the knowledge, resources, and skills to help you file a strong claim. Our top Los Angeles motorcycle accident lawyers can help you recover the maximum settlement for all catastrophic injuries and common motorcycle accident injuries. With more than 30 years of collective experience, our Los Angeles motorcycle accident attorneys have helped over 3,000 injured victims, protecting their rights and recovering well over $150 million in damages for things like broken bones and motorcycle fatalities.

Our superior results are not the only trait that helps us stand out. But our attorneys also have trial experience, which is necessary when dealing with an insurer who won’t agree to a fair settlement. We’re not afraid to drag insurers who indulge in unfair practices to court.

At Ehline Law, the best, most experienced motorcycle accident lawyer understands the implications of an accident on the victim and their family. To those who do not have the financial resources to pay for their medical bills, our attorneys will help locate a lien doctor to provide you with a world-class medical service without any upfront charges or medical expenses.

Not only does our injury lawyer provide a free consultation, but our attorneys also work on a contingency fee basis. This attorney-client relationship helps injured victims avoid the financial burden of hiring legal services for a motorcycle wreck.

Los Angeles Motorcycle Accidents Are Our Speciality

When you’re injured, give us a call or visit any of our law offices across California. If you cannot drop by, don’t worry; we will come to you. Whether you’re injured and can’t get out of bed or are busy with your schedule, our motorcycle accident attorneys will go to you and listen to your case. Contact us now for more information about help with recovering compensation for lost wages and medical bills for your catastrophic injury in Los Angeles County.

We understand that in these challenging times, the financial burden from motorcycle crashes shouldn’t be something injured victims should concern themselves with. Our motorcycle accident attorneys do not get paid until they win your case so that you can focus on your health while we take care of the legal process in Los Angeles for motorcycle riders.

If you were a passenger on a motorcycle and received injuries due to someone else’s negligence, contact us at (213) 596 9642 for a free consultation with our legal experts. In these dark times, our attorneys are here to lend you an ear, listen to your case, and provide you with the legal options you have to secure yourself financially when a motorcycle accident occurs.

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients.
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Michael Ehline

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