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Injured motorcyclists face an uphill battle after an accident
Oregon has some of the nation's most thrilling and beautiful roads for motorcycling.
A motorcyclist traveling across Oregon can take in the beautiful shores of the Pacific Ocean, the majestic peaks of the Cascade Mountains, the awe-inspiring Columbia River Basin, and the desert plains of eastern Oregon.
In 2020, there were 118,345 registered motorcycles in Oregon.
Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents tend to be more catastrophic than car accidents—and getting compensated fairly for your injury can be more difficult for a number of reasons.
Motorcycle accident statistics
Motorcycle crashes almost always result in injuries or death.
|Oregon motorcycle accidents (2019)|
|Fatal accidents||Injury accidents||Property-damage only accidents||Total accidents|
|Source: Oregon Department of Transportation|
As you might expect, the vast majority of motorcycle crashes involve other motor vehicles on the road. There are, however, accidents with fixed objects (such as a tree or utility pole).
Across the country, motorcyclists are nearly 29 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle miles traveled, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
|Oregon motorcycle accidents by type (2019)|
|Type of crash||Fatal||Injury||Property-damage only||Total accidents|
|Parked motor vehicle||0||6||4||10|
|Source: Oregon Department of Transportation|
Motorcycle license and insurance requirements in Oregon
Operating a motorcycle without a "motorcycle endorsement" is a Class A traffic violation, which carries a presumptive fine of $440 ($875 if ticketed in a "special zone," such as a school zone) and a maximum fine of $4,000.
In order to be issued a motorcycle endorsement in Oregon, you must:
- Have a valid Oregon driver's license,
- Be at least 16 years of age,
- Have parental or guardian consent (if you're under the age of 18), and
- Complete a Team Oregon motorcycle rider education course.
Depending on the Team Oregon course you complete, you may also have to take and pass a DMV motorcycle knowledge test.
In addition to obtaining a proper endorsement, you must carry the same minimum auto liability insurance as Oregon drivers if you plan to take your motorcycle out on the road. The basic required motorcycle insurance includes:
- Bodily injury and property damage liability coverage
- $25,000 per person
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury to others
- $25,000 per crash for damage to another's property
- Personal injury protection (PIP)
- $15,000 per person
- Uninsured motorist (UM)
- $25,000 per person
- $50,000 per crash for bodily injury
If you don't have this required insurance, the following penalties apply:
- A fine between $130 and $1,000, and
- A 1-year license suspension.
Motorcycle rules of the road in Oregon
Although you may feel like you're completely free while tearing down the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway on your 1968 Triumph Bonneville, there are a whole bunch of laws that you must follow when operating a motorcycle on Oregon's roads.
The majority of these laws can be found in Chapter 814 of the Oregon Revised Statutes.
To simplify things, Oregon's motorcycle laws can largely be broken down into 2 categories: motorcycle equipment laws and motorcycle operation laws.
Let's take a look at the highlights:
Motorcycle equipment laws
- Oregon requires ALL motorcyclists and their passengers to wear helmets that comply with United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) standards.
- All motorcycles must be equipped with the following:
- At least 1 white headlight (which must be on at all times)
- At least 1 red taillight
- 1 white license plate light
- 1 rear license plate
- 1 red brake light
- Front turn signal lights (white or amber)
- Rear turn signal lights (red or amber)
- Red rear reflector
- At least 1 rearview mirror
- 1 horn
Although wearing a helmet does not guarantee that you won't suffer a head injury or die in a motorcycle crash, it does significantly decrease your risks.
Motorcycle operation laws
- Lane splitting is strictly prohibited in Oregon.
- Motorcyclists may not transport or carry any object that interferes with their ability to hold the handlebars.
- Passengers are only permitted to ride on a passenger seat behind the operator or in a sidecar.
- There are no requirements for passenger age or size in Oregon.
- A motorcyclist will be considered legally drunk if their blood alcohol level is 0.08% or more.
To put it another way, approximately 7,000 lives would have been saved between 1999 and 2019 if the helmet laws had been in place in the states without helmet laws.
Recovering damages after a motorcycle accident
To recover damages after a motorcycle wreck in Oregon, you need to prove that someone else is legally liable for your accident.
The legal theory most often used to hold a party liable is negligence and it requires the plaintiff to establish 3 elements:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care,
- The defendant breached their duty of care, and
- The breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries.
The vast majority of motorcycle crashes are caused by other motor vehicles. Motor vehicle drivers owe all others on the road a duty to exercise "reasonable care" to avoid harming them. As a result, if you're involved in a motorcycle accident with another motor vehicle, you'll need to prove that the driver breached their duty to exercise reasonable care.
Here are some examples of actions that are likely negligent:
- Running a red light
- Following too closely
Of course, not all motorcycle accidents involve other motor vehicles. Other potentially liable parties include:
- Property owners. Oregon premises liability laws require property owners to maintain their property free of dangerous conditions. If a motorcyclist is injured as a result of a dangerous condition on someone's property (such as a pothole or visual obstruction), the property owner may be liable.
- 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 defective brake system), the manufacturer of the product may be held liable.
What is motorcycle bias?
It's well documented that the general public has a negative bias against motorcyclists. Maybe it's the heavy black biker boots or the riding leathers, but the stereotype of motorcyclists as law-breaking rebels has persisted for decades.
Unfortunately, motorcycle bias among jurors and insurance companies can have serious consequences for injured motorcyclists.
There are steps you can take to combat motorcycle bias. Being a responsible rider (wearing a helmet, carrying the required insurance, keeping a clean driving record) can help. In addition, hiring an experienced motorcycle attorney who knows how to gather evidence and persuade jurors and insurance companies is wise.
Types of damages available in a motorcycle accident case
Motorcycle accidents often result in serious injuries like:
Oregon allows motorcycle accident survivors to recover 3 types of damages:
- Economic damages represent the monetary losses caused by an accident (medical expenses, lost wages, property damage).
- Non-economic damages represent the non-monetary losses caused by an accident (pain and suffering, loss of consortium)
- Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant and are typically only available if the defendant acted "with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm."
Motorcycle accident statute of limitations in Oregon
Oregon limits the amount of time an injured motorcyclist has to file a lawsuit following a motorcycle accident. In most cases, this time limit (known as the statute of limitations) is 2 years.
If you fail to file your lawsuit within the 2-year statute of limitations, you will be forever barred from filing a lawsuit based on the accident.
Ready to talk to an attorney about your motorcycle accident claim? Find an Oregon motorcycle accident attorney near you using our free online directory.
Did you know that motorcycle accident law varies by state?
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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