Although the rainy state of Washington isn't known for its motorcycle-friendly weather conditions, there are still more than 220,000 registered motorcycles in the Evergreen State—that amounts to roughly 1 motorcycle for every 33 residents.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists are far more likely than passenger-vehicle drivers to die or become seriously injured in a crash.
In this article, we'll take a look at Washington motorcycle accidents, including the laws motorcyclists should know, how liability is established after a motorcycle accident, and what damages can typically be recovered.
Although motorcycles comprise only about 3% of all motor vehicles on Washington roads, they account for roughly 15% of all fatal collisions and 19% of all serious-injury collisions in the Evergreen State.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), speeding, lack of experience, losing control in corners and curves, and riding under the influence of alcohol and other drugs are the main contributing factors in motorcycle crashes.
86% of motorcycle fatalities on sport bikes were caused by the rider
57% of motorcycle fatalities involve rider impaired by drugs &/or alcohol
51% of motorcycle fatalities involve a rider speeding
91% of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes are male
Just like other road users, motorcyclists must follow the rules of the road.
For example, motorcyclists must obey all traffic signals and posted speed limits. What's more, motorcyclists, like all other road users, must exercise "reasonable care" to avoid harming others on the road.
In addition, there are some motorcycle-specific laws that riders in Washington must follow.
All of Washington's motorcycle laws can be found in Title 46 of the Revised Code of Washington, but here are a few of the highlights riders should keep in mind:
A license endorsement is required in Washington to ride a motorcycle. To apply for an endorsement, you must:
Once you've completed the steps listed above, you can apply for your endorsement online.
The Revised Code of Washington § 46.30 requires anyone who drives a motorcycle in the state to carry liability insurance with the following minimums:
Washington requires motorcyclists to provide proof of insurance upon request from a law enforcement officer. Riders who do not have insurance are subject to a fine of up to $550. What's more, riders may have their license suspended.
The most severe consequence of operating a motorcycle without insurance, however, is that uninsured riders who cause an accident are personally liable for all of the damages that result.
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 most often used to hold the at-fault party liable is negligence and it requires the plaintiff to establish 3 elements:
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:
Washington law allows motorcycle accident victims to recover the following damages:
Still have questions about motorcycle accidents in Washington?
Let's see if we can answer some of them:
All states limit the amount of time crash victims have to file a lawsuit (this time limit is called the statute of limitations). In Washington, crash victims have 3 years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. If crash victims fail to file their lawsuit within this time period, their case will be forever barred (with a few narrow exceptions).
All drivers are required to carry liability insurance. If you get into an accident and the accident is some other driver's fault, their liability insurance will typically cover your injuries up to the policy limits. If your injuries exceed the policy limits, then you'll need to sue the driver for the excess damages.
If you get into a motorcycle accident that's your fault, your liability insurance won't cover your injuries. However, certain optional coverage may cover your injuries.
In Washington, small claims courts limit the amount of damages you can seek to recover to $10,000. In other words, if your damages are $10,000 or less, you can sue in small claims court. If your damages are more than $10,000, you'll need to sue in superior court.
In some cases, motorcyclists may be partially at fault for their accident (for example, when a motorcyclist driving without headlights at night is hit by a driver who ran a stop sign).
Washington follows the pure comparative fault rule, meaning a plaintiff's damages are reduced by their percentage of fault.
You can find an experienced Washington motorcycle injury attorney near you using our free online directory. Most initial consultations are free.
If you think you qualify for free or reduced-cost legal services, contact the Washington State Bar.
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