How to receive compensation following a motorcycle crash in the Hoosier State
Motorcycles are an extremely popular mode of transportation. There are 822,844 registered motorcycles in the United States. Nevertheless, motorcyclists endure discrimination based on the stereotype that they're all reckless outlaws.
In Indiana, there are a number of motorcycle advocacy organizations, including Ride Safe Indiana (RSI) and Indiana Bikers Against Child Abuse (IBACA), but motorcyclists still face an uphill battle when filing an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Let's take a look at what you need to know to ensure that you're treated fairly following after a motorcycle accident in the Hoosier State.
Motorcycle laws in Indiana
Just like other motor vehicle drivers, motorcyclists have to follow the rules of the road. Additionally, there are some motorcycle-specific laws in Indiana that you should know about:
- Helmets. All motorcycle riders and passengers under the age of 18 are required to wear a motorcycle helmet.
- Lane splitting. Lane splitting is when a motorcyclist rides between 2 lanes of cars heading in the same direction (usually to pass slow traffic or filter to the front of traffic at a stoplight). In Indiana, lane splitting is prohibited by Indiana Code 9-21-10-6.
- Passengers. A passenger can only ride on a firmly attached and regular seat designed for passenger use. What's more, passengers are only permitted on Class A motorcycles (NOT on Class B motorcycles).
- Headlamps. Headlamps must be illuminated AT ALL TIMES when a motorcycle is in operation.
A violation of any of these laws is a Class C infraction, which results in a fine up to $500 and possible license suspension up to 1 year.
Motorcycle license and insurance requirements in Indiana
To operate a motorcycle in Indiana, you have to hold a valid Indiana driver's license with a motorcycle endorsement. To add a motorcycle endorsement to your Indiana driver's license you have 2 options:
- Be at least 16 years and 90 days old and successfully complete an approved Ride Safe Indiana motorcycle safety training course, or
- Be at least 16 years and 270 days old and pass a written knowledge and skills exam at an authorized Ride Safe Indiana training location.
Once you have an endorsement, you'll need to purchase the following minimum liability insurance before you can hit the open road:
- $25,000 for bodily injury to or the death of 1 person
- $50,000 for bodily injury to or the death of 2 or more people in any 1 accident
- $25,000 for damage to or the destruction of property in 1 accident
This is typically referred to as “25/50/25 coverage,” and it refers to the minimum amount of coverage you need to operate a motorcycle in Indiana. You can always purchase additional insurance.
If you're caught driving without the minimum motorcycle insurance, you'll have to pay a fee and your license could be suspended for up to 1 year. What's more, you'll be personally liable for any damages that you cause.
Establishing liability after a motorcycle accident
According to the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, there were 2,871 motorcycle accidents in 2018.
|Indiana motorcycle crashes (2014-2018)|
|Year||Fatal injury||Non-fatal Injury||Non-injury||Total|
Source: Indiana University Public Policy Institute
So who's liable when a motorcycle crashes?
All motorcyclists and motor vehicle drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid harming others on the road. If a motorcyclist or motor vehicle driver breaches this duty and an accident results, the at-fault party can be held liable.
The legal theory used to hold the at-fault party liable is negligence and it requires the plaintiff to establish 3 elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty. (Again, all motorcyclists and motor vehicle drivers owe all others on the road a duty to exercise reasonable care.)
- The defendant breached their duty of care.
- The breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries.
Though motorcycle accidents are usually caused by a motorcyclist or a motor vehicle driver, that's not always the case. There are a couple of other parties who may be liable for your accident:
- Property owners. Premises liability laws require that property owners maintain their property free of dangerous conditions. If a motorcyclist is injured as a result of a dangerous condition on someone's property, the property owner may be held liable. A common example of this is a motorcyclist suing the town due to an unsafe condition (such as a large pothole) that exists on a public road.
- Manufacturers. Product liability laws require that manufacturers avoid letting defective products hit the marketplace. If a motorcyclist crashes as a result of a defective product (such as a fractured frame), the manufacturer of the product may be held liable.
A motorcyclist was traveling northbound on Tibbs Avenue in Indianapolis. As he approached a curve in the road, he skidded in a large amount of gravel, lost control of his motorcycle, and collided with a guard rail. The motorcyclist sued the city for his injuries under the theory that the city has a duty to maintain safe roadways.
The court agreed that the city has a duty to keep the streets in good repair. The court further held that the presence of gravel in a roadway is a defect which a city is obliged to remove so long as the city receives adequate notice of the dangerous condition.
Sometimes the plaintiff is partially responsible for the accident. In these cases, the plaintiff's damages are reduced by their percentage of fault. Moreover, if the plaintiff is more than 50% at fault for the accident, the plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages. This is known as a modified comparative fault statute.
Types of damages available in a motorcycle accident case
Compensatory damages represent the money awarded to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit. In Indiana, there are 2 types of compensatory damages that an injured plaintiff can receive:
- Economic damages. Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident and include things like medical expenses, lost income, and property damage.
- Noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident and include things like pain and suffering and emotional distress.
Motorcycle accident frequently asked questions
We've covered a lot already in this article, but here are a few more commonly asked questions we want to address:
Do I need a motorcycle endorsement if I already received one in another state?
New Indiana residents who hold a valid motorcycle endorsement from another state can simply transfer their endorsement to their Indiana driver's license after passing a motorcycle knowledge exam.
Should I wear a motorcycle helmet?
If you're under the age of 18 in Indiana, you're required to wear a helmet. Nevertheless, every motorcyclist should wear a helmet. Statistics show that 1 out of 5 motorcycle crashes result in head injuries, and helmets reduce the risk of a head injury by 69% and reduce the risk of death by 42%.
When purchasing a motorcycle helmet, be sure it:
- Is designed to meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards (look for a “DOT” sticker on the helmet)
- Fits snugly all the way around your head
- Has no obvious defects, such as cracks, loose, padding, or frayed straps
How can I avoid a motorcycle accident while on the road?
Believe it or not, most accidents are avoidable. To reduce your chances of crashing:
- Be visible. Wear proper clothing and use your headlight at all times.
- Communicate your intentions. Use the proper signals and make sure your brake lights are working.
- Maintain an adequate space cushion when following, being followed, lane sharing, passing, and being passed.
- Search your path of travel at least 12 seconds ahead.
- Remain alert and know how to carry out proper crash-avoidance skills. An Indiana motorcycle safety course can help you learn the proper crash-avoidance techniques.
When are motorcycle crashes most likely to occur?
Statistics show that motorcycle collisions occur predominantly during clear weather conditions, and on straight and level roads. The belief is that motorcyclists are less alert (and more likely to drive fast) when the conditions are good. The probability of a fatal motorcycle collision is greatest on U.S. routes (as opposed to state roads and country roads), intersections, and curves.
Is alcohol often a factor in motorcycle crashes?
Just like other motor vehicle drivers, a motorcyclist is guilty of driving under the influence if their BAC is .08 or more. Statistics show that motorcyclists are more likely to be impaired by alcohol than other motor vehicle drivers when involved in an accident. In 2018, 60% of motorcycle operators in single-vehicle collisions and 34% in multi-vehicle crashes had a BAC of .08 or more.
Should I accept a settlement offer following a motorcycle accident?
If you're involved in a motorcycle accident caused by another driver, the driver's insurance company (or perhaps their lawyer) might make a quick settlement offer. You should be wary of accepting an initial settlement offer. In accepting an offer, you're giving up your right to bring a future claim or lawsuit if you later discover that your injuries are worse than you thought. Before accepting an offer, it's a good idea to talk to an attorney.
Do I need to hire an attorney after a motorcycle accident?
The general rule of thumb is that if you suffer physical injuries (rather than just property damage) in a crash, you should at least schedule an initial consultation with an attorney. Remember, initial consultations are generally free and can be used to determine whether you may need an attorney.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, help is out there waiting. Head over to our free online directory to locate an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney in your area.
Did you know that motorcycle accident law varies by state?
Need a lawyer?
What does an injury lawyer do?
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more