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The laws you need to know and the steps you need to take following a motorcycle crash in the Buckeye State
Motorcycle accidents are much more likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities than car accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcyclist fatalities occur roughly 27 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists face more than just the risk of physical harm. There is evidence that motorcyclists also face bias from police officers, insurance investigators, and even jurors that may impact their ability to recover the damages they deserve.
Despite these obstacles, motorcyclists continue to take to the roads in Ohio. For the sake of these dedicated riders, we answer some common questions about motorcycle accidents in the Buckeye State—including what steps motorcyclists should take after an accident to make sure they’re compensated fairly.
How common are motorcycle crashes?
According to the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), roughly 90,000 motorcyclists are injured in crashes throughout the U.S. every year.
Fatal motorcycle crashes had been declining since the 1980s, but began to rise rapidly in 1998. In 2018, 4,985 motorcyclists were killed in crashes in the US.
|Ohio motorcycle fatality statistics (2014-2018)|
Source: Ohio State Highway Patrol
What causes motorcycle crashes?
The majority of motorcycle accidents are between a motorcycle and a car. Unfortunately, many people (including some insurance investigators and jurors) wrongly believe that all bikers are reckless outlaws and are always to blame for motorcycle accidents.
Common causes of motorcycle accidents that aren’t the fault of the motorcyclist include:
- Being struck by flying objects (such as cigarettes, pebbles, and insects)
- Windblast from larger vehicles
- Being struck by a vehicle following too closely
- Being struck by a vehicle’s extended mirror
- Being struck by a merging vehicle
- Being struck by a drunk driver
- Poor road conditions
- Mechanical failures
Of course, there are times when a motorcyclist does cause an accident. Common causes of accidents that are the fault of the motorcyclist include:
- Lane splitting
- Unsafe lane changes
- Sudden stopping
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
What are the motorcycle helmet laws in Ohio?
The following people are required to wear a protective safety helmet that meets USDOT standards when riding a motorcycle in Ohio:
- All motorcycle operators and passengers who are under 18 years of age
- All motorcycle operators regardless of age who have less than 1 year of experience as a licensed motorcycle operator
- All motorcycle passengers regardless of age when they are riding with a driver who is legally required to wear a helmet
Helmets that meet USDOT standards have a sticker on the back of the helmet with the letters “DOT.” Additionally, labels located inside the helmet showing that a helmet meets the standards of non-profit organizations (such as Snell or the American National Standards Institute) are good indicators that the helmet also meets the federal standard.
Is lane splitting illegal in Ohio?
Ohio law does NOT expressly prohibit lane splitting, which occurs when a motorcycle moves between 2 lanes of stopped or slowly moving traffic. However, you could still be cited for failing to drive in a marked lane or engaging in unsafe driving. Ohio law requires that motorcyclists exercise due care when passing a vehicle.
Are there any other laws motorcyclists should know about?
Motorcyclists, just like other drivers, must follow all Ohio traffic laws. In addition, Ohio has some motorcycle-specific laws that can be found in Chapter 4511 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Here are some of the most important laws that you should know about if you plan to operate a motorcycle in the Buckeye State:
- Motorcyclists are prohibited from riding more than 2 abreast (side by side) in a single lane
- All motorcycle operators and passengers must wear safety glasses/goggles
- All motorcycles must be equipped with the following:
- At least 1 (but not more than 2) headlights
- At least 1 tail light and brake light
- A white license plate
- A horn which can be heard from at least 200 feet
- At least 1 rearview mirror positioned so the rider has a clear view of the road behind the motorcycle
- Handlebars that don’t rise higher than the shoulders of the operator when seated on the operator’s seat or saddle
- Turn signals (for all motorcycles manufactured after January 1, 1968)
Do I need a license to operate a motorcycle in Ohio?
In order to legally operate a motorcycle in the state of Ohio, you must have a motorcycle license or motorcycle endorsement on your driver's license.
In either case, you’ll need to pass a written test and a driving test. However, the specific requirements for obtaining a license or endorsement vary depending on whether you are over or under the age of 18.
Do I need insurance to operate a motorcycle in Ohio?
Yes! It’s illegal to operate a motorcycle without insurance. The minimum insurance requirements for motorcycles are the same as they are for other motor vehicles:
- $25,000 for bodily injury or death of another person in an accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury or death of 2 or more individuals in an accident
- $25,000 for property damage suffered by someone else in an accident
Who’s liable for a motorcycle accident?
In order to recover damages after a motorcycle crash, you have to prove that someone else caused the accident. Usually, this “someone else” is a motor vehicle driver or another motorcyclist.
Examples of actions that might result in a motorcyclist or motor vehicle driver being liable for an accident include:
- Driving under the influence
- Distracted driving
- Running a red light
- Lane splitting
- Changing lanes without looking first
- Weaving through traffic
In some cases, a motorcycle crash isn’t caused by a motor vehicle driver or motorcyclist, but is instead caused by:
- Poor road conditions. Property owners are generally required to keep their land free of dangerous conditions. If you crash because the road you were driving on was dangerous (for example, there was a large pothole or loose sewer grate), you might be able to sue the government (if the road is public) or the landowner (if the road is private).
- Mechanical failure or defective component. If you’re injured in a crash due to a mechanical failure or defective component (for example, the brakes on your motorcycle fail or one of the wheels suddenly locks), you may be able to sue the manufacturer for negligence. This type of negligence claim is called a product liability claim.
What happens if I’m partially responsible for the motorcycle crash?
Ohio follows the modified comparative fault theory. This means that the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover is reduced by a percentage that reflects the plaintiff’s degree of fault. However, if a plaintiff is determined to have been 51% or more at fault, then they will not be able to receive any compensation from the defendant.
What should I do after a motorcycle accident?
If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident, there are a few actions you should take immediately following the accident that will help your case:
- Get a medical evaluation. Your first priority should be your health. If you’re injured in a motorcycle accident, call an ambulance or have someone call an ambulance for you. Even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured, it’s important to be seen by a medical professional. Some symptoms don’t appear for days or even weeks after an injury. If you put off seeing the doctor, it might be difficult to prove that the symptoms are related to the crash.
- Call the police. A police report can be used to support your insurance claim or lawsuit. Additionally, the police can help you collect the necessary information from the other drivers.
- Obtain information from all drivers involved. In Ohio, every driver who is involved in an accident that results in damage is required to exchange the following information with other drivers: name and address, registration number, and driver’s license. This information will be important when you’re dealing with the insurance company.
- Gather information from witnesses. Be sure to gather the contact information for everyone at or near the scene. Even if the person didn’t see the actual accident, they might have seen the events leading up to the accident or they might have overheard incriminating statements made by the at-fault party immediately after the accident.
- Take photos at the scene. Take photographs of the vehicles involved in the crash, the damages, and the surrounding area (weather conditions, road conditions, etc.). The more pictures, the better.
- Keep records of everything. Be sure to keep track of your medical expenses, as well as how the motorcycle crash impacts your day-to-day life. This information will go a long way in ensuring that you receive the damages you deserve.
- Consult a motorcycle crash attorney near you. If you have questions about your injury claim or believe you are being treated unfairly by insurers, don’t hesitate to contact a law firm in your local area that specializes in these types of cases. Generally, the initial consultation is free, so it costs you nothing to learn about your legal right to compensation.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, you don’t have to fight for the compensation you deserve alone. Use our free online directory to locate an experienced personal injury attorney in your area today.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.