Legal Responsibility for Passenger Injured or Killed in Motorcycle Accident

In the last few weeks San Diego has seen multiple fatal motorcycle accidents where the passenger on the motorcycle was killed.  First, in late August, NBC San Diego reported a female motorcycle passenger lost her life during a ride near Julian. The motorcycle accident occurred on State Route 79 when the motorcycle attempted to pass a car on a blind left-hand curve and the motorcycle swerved to avoid an oncoming car causing the driver and passenger to fly off the road down an embankment.

Additionally, on September 6, 2014, in the early morning hour, another passenger died in a motorcycle crash in Chula Vista near Interstate 5 and E Street. The cause of the accident is unknown at this time, however the motor cycle drifted off the road causing serious injury to the driver and the woman passenger died at the scene.

There are many intricacies in the law governing carrying passengers on motorcycles. We examine a number of legal issues relating to analyzing responsibility for injury to passengers in a motorcycle accident.

When Can I Carry a Passenger on a Bike or Motorcycle?:

California Vehicle Code permits a person to ride a motorcycle as a passenger only if: 1) the motorcycle has either i) a seat and foot rest that the passenger can reach or ii) a sidecar. This law does not specifically address the age of a passenger*, but requires the passenger to have the ability to keep his or her feet on the foot pegs at all times.  If their feet cannot reach, it is illegal to carry them as a passenger on the bike.

California law also requires both the driver of the motorcycle and their passenger to wear a helmet.

Who is Responsible for Injury to Passenger on a Motorcycle?

Determining who is responsible for a motorcycle passengers injury or death as a result of a motorcycle accident requires an analysis of many factors by a qualified accident attorney.

Was there negligence on the part of the driver or another vehicle on the road?  If the driver was speeding with a passenger and lost control of the motorcycle the drive would bear responsibility.  There may be liability on the part of another vehicle on the road, where for instance, a car negligently forces a motorcycle off the road resulting in a crash.

The accident may often be the result of dangerous road conditions or overgrowth of trees that obstruct a driver’s view.  These circumstances may result in liability on the part of a property owner or City or County that maintains the road.

Another consideration is whether all California state laws and requirements for carrying a passenger were followed. Liability would also fall on the driver if they choose to carry a passenger in violation of the above discussed laws.  The issue of comparative fault may also come in to play if a passenger elects to not wear a helmet while riding on a motorcycle especially where the passenger sustains a head injury.

Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer:

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident as a driver or passenger, please contact the attorneys at Martinez & Schill LLP for a free legal consultation. Our motorcycle injury attorneys can be reached in our San Diego office at (619) 512-5995 or Riverside office at (951) 200-4630.

*California Vehicle Code sections requiring children to sit in a car seat or child safety seat apply; therefore it is a violation to carry small children as a passenger on a motorcycle.

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