Riding a motorcycle around Washington DC and the surrounding communities can be a fun and economical way to get around. However, when an accident occurs, riding a motorcycle can be costly.
Unlike motor vehicles, motorcyclists aren’t safeguarded by reinforced steel cages, airbags, and seat belts. As such, motorcyclists often sustain the majority of the injuries during an accident – and these injuries are often severe and life-threatening.
In 2016, 5,286 motorcyclists lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes across the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This represented a 5.1% increase from the previous year and was more than double the number of motorcycle deaths in 1997. In Washington DC, 6 motorcyclists were killed that same year.
While a motorcycle accident can happen at any time and to anyone, there are ways you can reduce your chances of being involved in a serious or fatal motorcycle accident. One of the best ways you can stay safe while on your motorcycle is to understand all Washington DC motorcycle laws.
Washington DC Motorcycle Law Basics
Riding your motorcycle in Washington DC means obeying all posted speed limit signs and observing all traffic laws. In addition to the routine traffic laws that all drivers must abide by, motorcyclists must also follow specific laws when it comes to riding and sharing lanes.
Some of the most common motorcycle laws in Washington DC include:
- Motorcyclists in DC must have a valid driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement
- Motorcycle endorsements can be obtained only if:
- You are 18 years of age
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Pass the DC motorcycle knowledge test
- Pass the DC DMV motorcycle demonstration skills test or a comparable one in Maryland or Virginia
- Washington DC motorcyclists are required to insure and register their motorcycle
- All motorcyclists are required to wear DOT-approved helmets
- Eye protection is required – either goggles or windshield
- An operable left-side rear-view mirror is required
- Daytime headlights or modulating headlights are required
- Mufflers cannot be modified to amplify sound over 86 decibels
- Lane splitting is illegal
- Passengers must have both footrest and seats
Motorcycle Helmets & Liability Claims
It is the law in Washington DC that all motorcyclists wear a DOT approved helmet while riding. Failure to wear a helmet could cause serious and life-threatening injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries or neck injuries. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcycle helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatalities and 67% effective in preventing serious head injuries.
While the law requires you to wear a helmet, the law in both the District of Columbia and Maryland also makes non-use of a helmet inadmissible in any lawsuit for injuries after a motorcycle crash. Defendants cannot legally argue that failure to use a helmet made the injuries worse (even if it really did).
Insurance companies may try to take unfair advantage of motorcycle riders who don’t know this law to pressure them into smaller settlements because of the non-use of a helmet. But the law is clear that not using a helmet cannot be used to reduce the damages that a responsible defendant owes.
But still, fault is an issue about who caused the collision. In Washington DC, if you are found to be even a little bit responsible for your accident and injuries, you can be prevented from collecting compensation. This is due to the fact that the District of Columbia operates under a contributory negligence law.
Because of this, injured motorcyclists who were arguably somewhat at fault for the accident may find that they are unable to collect the money they need after the crash. At-fault drivers and their lawyers play into the prejudices of many jurors who may be quick to blame motorcyclists even though the fault should be 100% on the other driver. That is another reason motorcyclists need skilled legal representation.
Contact Our Experienced Washington DC Motorcycle Accident Lawyers
After a motorcycle accident in Washington DC, you may run into trouble trying to collect the money you need. After all, insurance companies don’t always play fair with motorcycle accident victims and they usually only offer them a fraction of what they need.
At Patrick Malone & Associates, our Washington DC motorcycle accident attorneys know that you need money to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and car damages. To learn more about your legal rights after a motorcycle accident, contact our law firm by calling (202) 742-1500 or (888) 625-6635 or filling out our confidential contact form. We offer a free initial consultation for all injured accident victims and can help you choose the legal path that is best for you. Call today!