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Written by: Bill McCaslin
| Read Time: 4 minutes

Owning a motorcycle is a fun and exciting experience. California’s beautiful landscapes provide an avid motorcyclist with gorgeous views and adventure.

Many riders hope to bring family or friends along on a ride but aren’t sure what the motorcycle passenger laws are in California.

Before you take someone along with you on a ride, read on to learn more about California motorcycle passenger laws and if they are protected in the event of an accident. 

If you have questions, or would like to speak with a California motorcycle attorney, please contact us today.

What Are California Motorcycle Passenger Laws? 

California law provides that you may take a passenger along on your motorcycle if the following two criteria are met: 

  • The motorcycle has a secure seat and footrest, or a sidecar is attached and designed specifically to carry passengers; and 
  • The passenger must always keep their feet on the foot pegs while riding on the back of the bike. 

Although these laws appear simplistic on their face, there are several other considerations an experienced rider should take into consideration before bringing a passenger along with them.

While motorcycle passenger laws in California do not expressly state the precautions a rider should take to avoid an accident, it’s wise to follow the following: 

  • Ride slower. A passenger adds extra weight to your motorcycle, changing how it handles curves, corners, or bumps. 
  • Slow sooner. Begin reducing speed sooner when approaching a stop to avoid rear-ending the vehicle in front of you. 
  • Allow space. Allow more distance between you and other vehicles on the road. 
  • Be cautious. When entering the traffic flow, cautiously wait for plenty of space and larger spaces between cars to enter, cross, or merge with traffic. 

Before you take a passenger out on the open road with you, you should practice with that passenger on less heavily trafficked roads so you and your passenger become more comfortable. 

What Happens If My Passenger Gets Injured? 

The fault for injury to a passenger on a motorcycle is determined in the same way as when a passenger suffers injuries in a car. If your passenger is injured in a collision, your attorney carefully analyzes the circumstances of the accident to hold the right person responsible for their injuries.

For example, if a motorcycle rider and their passenger are hit by a vehicle that has run a red light, the negligent driver that ran the red light will likely be held responsible for the injuries of both the motorcycle rider and the passenger. 

Even if there is no collision with the at-fault driver, they may still be held responsible. For example, if a driver negligently cuts off a motorcycle rider and their passenger, causing the motorcyclist to swerve and slide out, any injuries suffered by the motorcyclist and their passenger would be the driver’s responsibility. 

What is Comparative Negligence?

California utilizes the pure comparative negligence standard in personal injury cases. Pure comparative negligence permits an injured person to recover after an accident, even if they were up to 99% at fault for their accident. However, the injured person’s recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault.

While the injured party may always have the option to recover damages, the amount they recover can be significantly reduced if it’s determined that they were responsible for the accident. An attorney works to establish the liability of other parties and limit your responsibility, so you can recover the total value of your losses.

Are Kids Legally Able to Ride as a Passenger on a Motorcycle? 

California does not have a minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers. However, child passenger motorcycle laws provide that any passenger must have their seat, footrests, and feet must reach the footrests. 

Additionally, children may only ride as passengers on motorcycles if they are no longer required to sit in a child safety seat. A child must be 4’9” to travel in a car without a child safety seat. All motorcyclists and passengers are also required to wear a helmet in California. 

What Are Insurance Requirements for Motorcyclists? 

California requires all motorists to be insured. While minimums are required, paying for more coverage is often recommended in the unexpected event of a collision. The minimum requirements for motorcyclists include the following coverage limits: 

  • $15,000 for bodily injury liability coverage for a single-person injury,
  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability coverage for total injuries, and
  • $5,000 for property damage liability coverage. 

Other insurance options, besides these minimum requirements, include purchasing underinsured/uninsured motor policies. These policies protect motorcyclists if an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage reaches its limits and fails to adequately cover a motorcyclist’s damages or if the at-fault driver has no insurance at all. 

What Can an Injured Motorcycle Passenger Recover in Damages? 

Victims injured in a motorcycle accident may recover compensatory damages through economic and noneconomic damages. Compensatory damages seek to make a victim whole after an accident. Economic damages include calculable losses stemming from the accident, including:

  • Medical expenses, 
  • Lost wages, 
  • Loss of future earnings, and
  • Property damage.

Your attorney uses documentation to support a demand for economic damages through pay stubs, invoices, bills, and other similar evidence. 

Noneconomic damages represent subjective losses, usually tied to the physical pain and emotional suffering experienced due to a victim’s injuries. These losses include the following: 

  • Pain and suffering, 
  • Emotional distress, 
  • Loss of consortium,
  • Permanent disability or disfigurement, and
  • Loss of enjoyment of life. 

Testimony from family members, friends, and colleagues, in addition to the victims themselves, can be used to support a demand for noneconomic damages. These losses are challenging to prove without the help of a qualified attorney.

Contact an Experienced California Motorcycle Lawyer Today 

Clients across California and the Western U.S. count on the expertise of Wells Call Injury Lawyers to achieve justice even in the most unique and challenging personal injury and wrongful death matters.

We have a strong record of success in past cases, with hundreds of millions of dollars recovered for past clients when they need it most. We are ready to assist you with your needs. Let us put our decades of legal experience to work for you. If you suffered injuries in an accident, we are here to help.

Contact us by phone or email to learn how we can help you.

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