Motorcycle Passenger Injuries Attorneys in Boston

Almost all motorcycle injury statistics fail to draw the distinction between operators and passengers. So while we know, for example, from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation that motorcycle accident deaths were up 15 percent in a recent two-year span, we don’t know how many of those were passengers and how many were drivers.

We know that everyone on a motorcycle is at higher risk of injury and death in a crash comparative to people in passenger vehicles because those on bikes lack the protection of seat belts, airbags and structural support. But the physics of a motorcycle crash make it logical that passengers would be more prone to certain injuries compared to operators.

Research published in JAMA Surgery supports this, concluding motorcycle passengers are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries than motorcycle drivers, and they are more likely to be non-compliant with helmet laws. Study authors examined three years’-worth of data from the National Trauma Bank. They identified more than 85,000 motorcycle accident patients and then divided them into drivers and passengers. For both groups, traumatic brain injury was the most frequently cited among those not wearing helmets. Passengers had significantly higher rates of injury and lower helmet use.

At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, our motorcycle passenger injury attorneys can explain that while MGL ch. 90 section 7 compels all drivers and passenger to wear helmets (and instructs drivers not to allow passengers on their bike if they won’t wear one), this law does not prohibit you from recovering damages from an at-fault party in a collision. A passenger’s failure to wear a helmet does not automatically erase anyone else’s negligent acts that led to the crash in the first place.

In some ways, motorcycle passenger injury lawsuits are more straightforward than those pursued by drivers because there is usually little dispute about fault. Passengers can’t be at-fault because they aren’t controlling the vehicle. Most litigation in passenger injury cases centers on how much the plaintiff should receive for their injuries, with defense arguing for lower damages or trying to shift blame onto other defendants or third-parties.

Our motorcycle accident lawyers know how to formulate a strong legal strategy to help injured passengers recover all of the damages to which they are entitled.

Motorcyclists With Passengers Need More Skill

Responsible riders recognize that carrying a passenger means they will need additional skill and experience. Having the extra weight on the bike is going to cause it to handle differently. Passengers will affect the balance, acceleration and stopping distance of a motorcycle. Riding downgrade with a passenger will mean more time is needed to brake. More time will be needed for passing. The effects of wind (especially side wind) will be more pronounced. That’s why drivers are encouraged to practice with lighter loads first before taking on a passenger.

Massachusetts law does not identify a minimum age for motorcycle passengers. However, many other states require passengers to at least be able to securely fit in a DOT-approved helmet and have legs long enough to place their feet on the pegs. The Commonwealth does stipulate that bikes need to be equipped with a seat and a footrest to legally carry a passenger.

Who Does Motorcycle Passenger Sue for Injuries?

Injured motorcycle passengers have similar rights to the passenger of any other vehicle, meaning that depending on the circumstances that led to the crash, they could potentially file claims against:

  • The driver of the motorcycle;
  • The driver of the other vehicle;
  • The employer of the other driver’s vehicle (if he/she was acting in the course and scope of employment);
  • The manufacturer of the motorcycle or equipment (if evidence of a defect is proven causal in the crash or in exacerbating one’s injuries);
  • The local/ state government (if evidence a negligent failure to maintain roads led to crash).

In most of these cases, you must prove negligence. That is, the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached that duty and that breach resulted in your injuries.

If the party responsible for your injuries does not have auto insurance or lacks enough coverage to sufficiently cover your damages, you may claim uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage from your own auto insurer, if you have it, or from motorcyclist’s UM/UIM carrier (assuming he or she was not at-fault). As a passenger, you aren’t required to have this coverage, as outlined in MGL ch. 175 section 113L, but it’s likely if you have a plan that covers you, that plan has UM/UIM coverage.

In some instances, you won’t even have to sue. Sometimes when you initially file a claim for coverage, insurers will agree early on to a reasonable settlement and you’re spared the time and expense of a trial. However, if your injuries are serious, you should never sign off on such an agreement without having your injury lawyer help you negotiate.

Recovering Damages in Single-Vehicle Crashes

Just because a single vehicle was involved doesn’t mean injuries won’t be severe. Anytime a motorcycle crashes and passengers are ejected, odds are there will be a serious injury.

Unfortunately, Massachusetts law does not require personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, as outlined in MGL ch. 90, section 34M, for motorcycles. This is coverage that must be carried by pretty much every other licensed driver and is also extended to passengers in that vehicle. Motorcycle insurance plans often don’t have it.

In many cases, passengers seriously injured in a single-vehicle motorcycle crash must take legal action against the motorcyclist to make a financial recovery for extensive medical bills, loss of wages from forced time off work and other compensable damages.

Sometimes passengers are reluctant to pursue claims against a driver because he or she is a friend or loved one. But here’s the thing: Although the claim will name your loved one as the defendant, they aren’t the ones who pay. That’s why we all carry auto insurance. Insurers can’t be sued directly for a crash (unless they engage in bad faith insurance), but they can be compelled to pay per the terms of the policy if their insured is deemed negligent and liable. The insurer is also usually responsible for paying for your loved one’s legal expenses throughout the process. The reality is those injured in a crash with a friend or loved one still need adequate compensation to make a financial and physical recovery.

Our injury attorneys also don’t overlook the possibility that defective design/ manufacture of the bike or negligent repair may have played a role in a single-vehicle motorcycle accident. We’ll fully consider all possible at-fault parties and make sure you know all your legal options.

Recovering Damages in Multiple-Vehicle Crashes

If you’re a passenger on a motorcycle involved in an accident with one or more other vehicles, many times you will file a claim against both the driver of the motorcycle as well as the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s). The reason is because there is usually some dispute about which driver was at-fault. You need to be sure you have named all possible defendants because if any one of them succeeds in alleging a non-party was responsible, it will be too late by then to assert additional damages or identify other at-fault parties.

Defendants are responsible to pay damages proportionate to their role in causing the crash.

Contact Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation.
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