If you drive a motorcycle — or just want to — then you know firsthand that there are few things that compare to the experience. Riding a motorcycle is a unique experience, perfectly suited to Southern California’s mild weather. Yet riding a motorcycle can also be dangerous, which is why it is so important to both know and follow California motorcycle laws.
Generally, California motorcyclists have to follow the same rules as other drivers. There are certain exceptions and special requirements for motorcycles that don’t apply to other vehicles — from the obvious (helmets) to the not-so-obvious (lane splitting). Understanding the laws that apply to motorcycles can help you make safe choices as a driver.
If you are involved in an accident with your motorcycle, a California motorcycle accident lawyer can help you file a claim against the responsible party. In doing so, your attorney can help you get a settlement or verdict at trial that will compensate you for your losses.
What Laws Apply to California Motorcyclists?
Motorcyclists in California are required to follow the same rules of the road as other drivers: stop at red lights, give pedestrians the right of way, follow the speed limit, and more. Yet because of the nature of motorcycles, there are different rules that apply to motorcyclists in certain situations.
This starts with getting a motorcycle license. You cannot operate a motorcycle in California unless you have a special license to do so. The following rules apply to motorcycle licenses:
- Riders under the age of 21 must have a learner’s permit for a minimum of 6 months before they can apply for a license.
- To obtain a license, applicants must pass a vision exam, skills test, and a knowledge test.
- Applicants who are under the age of 21 must also pass a California motorcycle rider training course through the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
- Permits are valid for a period of 12 months.
- When driving with a permit, motorcyclists are prohibited from carrying passengers, driving on the freeway, and driving at night.
If you are over the age of 21, you can choose to take a motorcycle rider training course in lieu of the driver’s test.
Once you have a motorcycle license, there are additional rules that apply to motorcyclists and their bikes. First, both drivers and riders must wear a helmet at all times. Second, motorcycles must be equipped with side mirrors as well as working turn signals. Handlebars cannot be installed in a way that puts the hands more than 6 inches above shoulder height when sitting.
Third, California motorcyclists are permitted to engage in lane splitting. This is a maneuver that motorcyclists can do to zip through traffic, allowing drivers to go between two lanes. This law was enacted in 2016, making California the first state to officially legalize lane splitting. Motorcyclists who split lanes are advised to watch their speed, avoid blind spots, and assume that people in cars do not see them when they are going between lanes.
Getting Compensation for a California Motorcycle Accident
Even if you follow all road safety rules, motorcycles accidents can and do happen. In 2017 alone, there were 16,505 motorcycle accidents in California, which resulted in 15,527 injuries and 541 deaths. If you are hurt in a motorcycle crash, you may be able to recover compensation through a legal claim.
The at-fault driver in a motorcycle accident may be held responsible for all of your losses. This includes property damage, past and future medical treatment, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and even intangible losses like pain and suffering.
Filing a personal injury claim can be daunting. A California motorcycle accident lawyer can help you through the process, starting with a thorough investigation of your case to determine who was at fault. In many cases, that may be another driver on the road, but other entities could also be responsible, such as local governments that failed to maintain roads properly or even a manufacturer that produced a dangerous or defective product.
Once the investigation is complete, your attorney will typically send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. This letter outlines your case and makes a demand for payment of your losses. After the insurance company receives the letter, a negotiation process usually begins.
Although most personal injury cases are resolved by settlement, if the parties cannot come to an agreement, the next step may be to file a lawsuit. Then the pretrial process begins, which includes discovery, which is when the parties exchange information about the case. Settlement negotiations will typically continue throughout this time, right up to the eve of trial.
If your case goes to trial, then a jury will make a decision about who was at fault for the accident as well as the damages that should be awarded. If you are unsatisfied with the outcome, your attorney may be able to file an appeal.
Hurt in a California Motorcycle Accident? We Can Help.
Even the safest motorcyclists may end up in a crash. Too often, this happens because other drivers don’t pay attention to or respect the right of motorcycles to be on the road with them. If you have been in a motorcycle accident that was caused by another person or entity, you may be able to file a claim to recover for your losses.
With offices throughout Southern California, Megeredchian Law represents clients who have been hurt in all types of accidents, including motorcycle crashes. We aggressively advocate for our clients and work hard to get them the best possible outcome for their case. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 818-530-1300.