What are my rights as a motorcycle passenger if I’m injured?

November 1, 2021 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
What are my rights as a motorcycle passenger if I’m injured?

What to do if You are a Passenger in a Motorcycle Accident

Because of our sunny and temperate weather, Florida is one of the most popular places to ride motorcycles. People come from all over the country, or even specifically move here, just to ride in the beautiful Florida sunshine. We are also home to two of the biggest biker events in the US, Daytona Bike Week and Biketoberfest, which draw tens of thousands of people to our streets.

Click here to learn more about Florida's motorcycle laws

Motorcycle passengers are often injured, although most people only focus on the possibility of getting into an accident as the motorcycle operator. Just look around, carrying a rider on the back of the bike is common practice. In situations where a passenger is injured, there are different things that must be considered than the average single rider case.

As a motorcycle passenger, you have less control over what happens and no control over the bike itself. This puts passengers in a vulnerable position. Because of this, motorcycle passengers deserve the utmost protection when it comes to seeking compensation for their injuries.

Passengers should wear protective gear

When riding as passengers on the back of someone's motorcycle, you should assure they take specific precautions to protect your safety. After all, you are trusting them to know what they're doing, otherwise, you would be driving and not riding.

Motorcycles can be dangerous. Make sure that you have proper riding gear and safety equipment before you consider going for a cruise.

If the two of you are involved in an accident, it is likely that the operator will be responsible for your injuries and damages. For this reason, it is in both people's best interest for the rider to be protected.

The operator should always provide you with a full-face helmet. You will most likely not own one since you don't have a bike. It is their responsibility to provide one for you; otherwise, no helmet should equal no passenger. Similarly, be sure you are wearing a quality pair of riding boots, heavy jeans, gloves, and a long-sleeved leather or protective jacket.

Who can a motorcycle passenger recover damages from?

If you are injured while a passenger on a motorcycle, you could potentially recover damages from:

  • the motorcycle operator
  • the other car/truck/motorcycle involved if there is one
  • both the operator and the other vehicle
  • motorcycle or parts manufacturer, if something was defective

Any case involving passenger injuries is generally easier to try because rarely is the accident the passenger's fault. Depending on the type of case, passengers have different rights. The following will break down each type of case.

Only the motorcycle was involved in the crash

When most people think about being involved in a crash, they think about two vehicles hitting each other. However, since motorcycle riders are generally unprotected, hitting even the simplest thing like a parked car or speed bump could send someone flying. Because of this, single-vehicle motorcycle crashes are quite common.  If there are no other vehicles involved in the accident and nothing was defective, then a passenger's only case is against the operator. To do this, the passenger must be able to prove negligence.

Proving negligence means that the person bringing the claim must be able to prove liability and damages. Liability references the need to prove the driver was at fault. Damages reference the injuries and cost the passenger incurred. If you can prove that the motorcyclist was negligent and that you have legitimate damages, your case will be successful.

The two most common reasons that motorcycle operators crash without another vehicle involved are:

  • The motorcyclist negligently crashes; hits something, like a tree or a parked car; or lays the bike down recklessly.
  • The motorcycle crashed because of a mechanical defect or failure. This means the wreck was out of the operator's control.
In situations where a motorcycle crash is a one-vehicle accident, there is almost always going to be either negligence or a defect.

More than one vehicle was involved in the crash

If you are a passenger on a motorcycle that is involved in an accident with another vehicle, you will commonly file a claim against both the motorcycle driver and any other vehicle drivers involved. The only way that you would want to hold only one party responsible is if it's abundantly clear who was at fault.

Two vehicles do not necessarily have to collide for it to be a two-vehicle crash. For example, when another vehicle cuts off a motorcycle causing them to wipe out, the driver of the vehicle could be held negligent. However, the most common types of two-vehicle crashes do involve the collision of a motorcycle and at least one other vehicle.

In this case, you can hold both the operator liable for whatever their part was for your injuries, as well as the other driver liable for their part. As mentioned, it is rare for the passenger to be the cause of the accident.

Defective or Failed Part Caused Motorcycle Crash

A defective or failed motorcycle part can cause a rider to lose control and crash, injuring the passenger in the process. Although many different parts can be defective, the most common are:

Brake failure: Brake failure is one of the most common causes of a motorcycle crash related to a defective part. This is because faulty brakes obviously prevent the driver from stopping or slowing down enough to avoid a collision. If this is the case, the manufacturer of the brake parts, or even the mechanic who last worked on the brakes, can be held liable for your damages.

Faulty tires: A defective tire is dangerous for obvious reasons. When a tire fails—by coming apart or from faulty tread—it is easy for the driver to lose control, injuring the passenger.

Fuel system malfunction: If the fuel system on the bike you're riding on fails, it may cause a fire. This can result in serious burns to both the operator and the passenger.

Dangerous/faulty design issues: Without any failures or broken parts, some motorcycles are dangerous straight from the factory. The injured party could seek damages from the maker if a motorcycle's design is found to be unsafe.

General manufacturing defects: Most people assume that parts made for a motorcycle would be tested for strength and safety. Although this is generally the case, it is not always so. Some parts are weak or vulnerable straight from the factory. Likewise, a custom builder may be at fault for designing ineffective parts for a motorcycle.

What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident

After a motorcycle—or any type of—accident, you should do as much as you can to collect evidence for you future case. The more evidence you have, the less likely you will be stuck paying thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages out-of-pocket.

Contact Emergency Services

The first thing that you should do after an accident is to contact the police or local authorities. You want to do this if for no other reason than to have a trusted account of what happened. Naturally, insurance companies and juries put more emphasis on what a person of authority has to say. Similarly, you should gather the information (name, phone number, etc.) of all the people that witnessed the accident. Witnesses are extremely important to any personal injury case. Also, take note if there are cameras in the area, like a business's security camera or a traffic camera.

Gather Evidence at the Accident Scene

Next, you should begin taking as many photos of the scene as possible. Use your smartphone for this. Capture every vehicle, many different angles, and the conditions around the area. Also, capture anything else that may be pertinent, like potholes or street signs. Have a trusted friend or family member take the pictures if you cannot. It's essential that someone takes photos.

Keep Communication to a Minimum

In the aftermath of a motorcycle accident, it is imperative that you do not say any more than you need to. The reason for this is your statements in the aftermath of an accident can potentially be used against you when you file a claim. For example, one of the most common mistakes that people make in the aftermath of motorcycle and car accidents is accidentally admitting fault for the accident. You do not need to have actually been at fault to do this. Simply apologizing, saying you didn't see the other vehicle, or something else along those lines can potentially be construed by the insurance company as an admission of fault. So it's best to keep what you say to a minimum and only state facts and exchange relevant information.

Filing a Claim in a Motorcycle Accident

Filing a claim as an injured motorcycle passenger is similar to that of being a passenger in a car. You will want to file a claim against the motorcycle operator, the other driver(s), and the manufacturer—or whichever of the three apply. If you or the motorcycle operator believe that the accident occurred because of a defect, you should immediately contact an attorney who has experience with motorcycle claims and defective products.

Ask the operator not to repair the motorcycle until your attorney analyzes the bike. Likewise, ask the operator to not allow the insurance company to inspect the bike. Repairing the bike could destroy vital evidence. Florida is considered a no-fault state, however, PIP claims do not apply to motorcyclists. Check out this article for more information on PIP's relationship to motorcycles.

Call a Clearwater Motorcycle Accident Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been hurt in a motorcycle accident, you should immediately contact a skilled attorney who has experienced representing the rights of individuals hurt in accidents. The insurance company will waste no time trying to save money at your expense. You should waste no time getting protection.

In many instances, victims are legally entitled to compensation for the injuries they have sustained, including their medical bills, lost income, physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and property damage. 

To learn more about how we can help you, call the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today at (727) 451-6900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900



Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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