According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the vast majority of motorcycle injuries occur to the operator of the motorcycle. However, a small but significant number of serious and fatal injuries occur to passengers who may also be riding on the motorcycle at the moment of impact. Just as injuries that a motorcyclist may suffer can forever alter the motorcyclist’s quality of life, so too injuries sustained by motorcycle passengers can be life-altering. Thankfully for these injury victims, passengers of motorcyclists who are injured in a motorcycle wreck may be able to recover compensation for their injuries just like the injured motorcyclist.
When a Child Suffers Passenger Injuries
Some parents enjoy spending time with their children while riding a motorcycle. When these children are injured in motorcycle collisions, sometimes the severity of the injuries suffered by the child is greater than the severity of the motorcyclist’s own injuries because of the vulnerability and susceptibility of children to moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and other trauma. For this reason, it is crucial that parents who decide to take their kids for rides on a motorcycle insist that their children always wear protective equipment, including a properly-fitted and approved helmet.
A child who is injured does not have the legal capacity to bring his or her own suit for damages against an at-fault motorist. This type of suit must be filed by a “next friend” on behalf of the child. The “next friend” is usually one of the child’s parent but can be any adult over the age of 18 whom the court finds will act on the child’s behalf. If the court or a jury determines that an injured child passenger is entitled to compensation, this “next friend” will receive the compensation on behalf of the child and will be expected to use the funds to meet the child’s medical expenses.
When the Motorcyclist and His or Her Passenger are Not Related
If the motorcyclist and the injured motorcycle passenger are married to one another, the injured passenger may not be able to bring a suit for compensation against his or her spouse. In most every other situation, though, the injured motorcycle passenger may look to any at-fault party – including the motorcyclist on whose motorcycle the passenger was riding – for compensation. For example, suppose that a motorcycle collision occurs when a car makes a left-hand turn and cuts the motorcyclist off. Because the motorcyclist is traveling faster than the speed limit permits, the motorcyclist is not able to stop in time and thereby prevent the crash. An injured passenger would want to bring suit against both the motorist as well as the motorcyclist in order to have the best opportunity to recover full and fair compensation.
It is important to remember that the injuries and expenses suffered by the motorcycle passenger are separate and distinct from those suffered by the motorcyclist. The passenger should never accept any “joint settlement” proposed by an at-fault party or insurance company that purports to settle the claims of both the motorcyclist and the passenger without first seeking independent legal counsel. It is crucial that passengers seek their own attorney and legal advice so that there is no chance the attorney will unduly influence the passenger to accept a settlement that benefits the motorcyclist at the expense of the passenger. A settlement agreement may be the appropriate way to resolve a passenger’s claim for compensation, but passengers should be aware that settlement agreements usually restrict them from exercising certain legal rights – including the right to file a lawsuit and pursue compensation through that method.
Should an Injured Passenger Sue the Motorcyclist?
The decision by a passenger to sue a motorcyclist who may have contributed to the crash and the passenger’s injuries through negligent conduct is an intensely personal matter, especially if there is a relationship of some type between the motorcyclist and the passenger. Not only can suing the motorcyclist damage whatever relationship exists, but the decision to sue or not to sue the motorcyclist can impact the passenger’s suit against an at-fault motorist. For instance, if a court determines that the motorist was only 40 percent responsible for causing the passenger’s injuries, a decision not to pursue a claim against the motorcyclist will mean the passenger is only able to recover 40 percent of the costs and expenses associated with his or her injuries.
Stern Law, PLLC has been representing motorcycle passengers who have been injured in crashes for years. We are well aware of the challenges and difficulties associated with passenger injury claims and are available to assist you in making the best decision for you and your family. Your ability to recover and move forward after your passenger injury accident are our firm’s primary concern. Call us at (844) 808-7529 to discuss your injury claim today with experienced and dedicated attorney Ken Stern.