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Passenger Rights in a Motorcycle Crash

By Jason Bottlinger on December 4, 2020

Motorcyclists are one of the most exposed groups on the road, often suffering traumatic injuries after a collision with a larger vehicle. But anyone riding tandem on a motorcycle is also at risk, as passengers have little to no control over the nature of the collision. If a biker or car driver acts negligently, it can drastically change the life of a motorcycle passenger.

Who Is Liable in for a Passenger’s Injuries?

Following a car-motorcycle crash, much of the focus is placed upon the motorcycle operator and the driver, while passengers are typically left by the wayside. However, passengers have the exact same right to file a claim and should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to ensure this right is upheld. Oftentimes, they have more options than drivers and motorcycle operators.

In the state of Nebraska, auto accident claims are subject to comparative negligence laws. This means that multiple parties can be found “at fault” for a collision and be limited in the amount of compensation they can receive based on their actions. For passengers, this means they can find both a car driver and their motorcyclist at fault for their injuries.

Even in the case of a single-vehicle crash, such as if the motorcycle ran off the road or collided with a fixed object, the passenger could file a claim against the operator’s insurance company if they caused the collision. This is because anyone operating a motorcycle has a duty to keep passengers safe from injuries, whether they are riding tandem or in a sidecar.

But comparative negligence can, sometimes, also apply to passengers and impact the amount of money they can receive in a claim.

Comparative Negligence and Motorcycle Passengers

It is important to note that comparative negligence only applies to accident claims that go to trial. During settlement negotiations, insurance companies and attorneys are not required to abide by these laws, although they can influence negotiations, as there is always the looming possibility that the case will go to trial. If it eventually does, accident victims should be aware of how it can impact their claim.

During a motorcycle accident trial, the jury will be asked to assign a certain percentage of fault to everyone involved in the crash. If you are assigned more fault than other people involved in the crash, then you can be legally barred from receiving compensation. In addition, even if you do not have the majority of fault, you can be limited in the amount of compensation you do receive.

For example, let us say there are three parties in a case: one driver, one motorcycle operator, and one motorcycle passenger. The jury may determine that the driver had 60% of fault because he was texting while driving and sideswiped the motorcycle. However, if the motorcyclist was lane-splitting, then she may be assigned 30% of the fault. In addition, if the passenger was moving around and made the motorcycle unstable, she could be found 10% at fault. If the passenger was awarded $100,000 for her injuries, she would only receive 90% of the award: $90,000.

There are several ways a jury can find motorcycle passengers at fault for their injuries, including if they were:

  • Not wearing DOT-certified protective gear
  • Distracting the lead rider
  • Moving around and making the motorcycle unstable
  • Riding while intoxicated

It is important to note that motorcycle passengers are considered “second active riders” and are subject to many of the same laws as lead riders. However, even if you think you are partially at fault for the accident, that does not mean you are completely barred from filing a claim. Your first step should be to speak to an Omaha motorcycle accident attorney to discuss all of your options. You may not only be able to hold the other driver at fault for your injuries, but also receive compensation through your own insurance company. To discuss your case in a free consultation, reach out to Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234.

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