If you are a passenger on a motorcycle that gets into an accident, you can recover personal injury damages against the motorcycle operator, the other car involved (if there is one), or both, depending on the circumstances. You might also be able to bring a products liability (defective product) claim against the motorcycle manufacturer if some defect or fault in the motorcycle caused the accident. Motor vehicle passenger injury cases are generally easier to prosecute than other types of personal injury cases because there is rarely any possibility of finding the injured passenger to be at fault. Read on the learn more about these kinds of cases.
If the motorcycle is the only vehicle involved in the accident (meaning that it was a one vehicle accident), your claim will be against the motorcycle operator. As in any negligence case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to win the case: liability (who was at fault) and damages (how badly the plaintiff was injured). If you can prove that the motorcyclist was negligent, you will win the case.
There are two main causes of one vehicle motorcycle accidents: 1) the motorcyclist negligently crashes (wipes out) or hits something, like a tree or a parked car, or 2) the motorcycle crashes or hits something because of a mechanical defect or fault in the motorcycle. If a motorcycle crashes in a one vehicle accident, there is almost always going to be negligence or a defect somewhere. Either the motorcyclist was negligent, or the motorcycle was defective.
If you are a passenger on a motorcycle that gets into an accident with another vehicle, you will generally file claims against both the motorcycle operator and the other car involved unless it is completely clear that only one of the operators was at fault.
It is important to realize that a two vehicle motorcycle accident can occur even when the motorcycle does not actually hit the other car. If, for example, a car negligently cuts off the motorcycle in traffic and causes the motorcyclist to wipe out, the driver of that car will be liable to the motorcyclist and his/her passenger for any damages they suffer.
But if the negligent driver flees the scene and is never found, you would of course not be able to make a claim against that driver. You might be able to make a claim for a hit and run accident under your and/or the motorcyclist's uninsured driver insurance policy, if the policies allow for such a claim.
The first thing that you should do after any accident is get the names and contact information of all of the witnesses to the accident. Witnesses can be critical in a motorcycle accident claim.
The second thing that you should do is take pictures immediately. If you are able to take pictures and have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles involved in the accident as you can from as many angles as you can before you leave the scene. If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, ask if anyone else has a camera and is willing to email you the pictures. Otherwise, have a friend or relative take pictures as soon as possible.
You should also call the police from the accident scene. If you were injured, you will want the accident to be officially recorded as soon as possible. Insist that all drivers stay around until the police arrive.
Again, a motorcycle accident claim proceeds just like a passenger injury claim in a car accident. You would file claims with the insurers of all of the operators involved unless one of the operators was obviously not negligent.
If you or the motorcycle operator believe that the accident occurred due to a defect with the motorcycle, you will want to talk to a knowledgeable products liability attorney immediately. In such a case, you should ask the operator not to have the motorcycle repaired until you are able to speak with a lawyer. Repairing the motorcycle will usually destroy the evidence of any defective condition.
If the accident took place in a no fault state, you would file a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or No Fault claim for your medical bills and lost earnings against the motorcyclist's insurer. However, you should be aware that not all states allow PIP claims in motorcycle accident cases. For more information on PIP claims, see PIP (Personal Injury Protection) Claims.