Riding a motorcycle through Utah is a great way to see its beautiful country up close and personal. Riders are able to see a different perspective of the Mighty 5 national parks (Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon), the canyons surrounding Salt Lake City, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and countless other natural wonders. Southern Utah is a gorgeous place to ride where your eyes are overwhelmed by the rich colors of the red rock landscape.
Motorcyclists in Utah face many more obstacles than other drivers. Besides the unforgiving weather and unpredictable road conditions, motorcycle riders are much more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a collision than drivers of cars or trucks. Thousands of riders are killed on U.S. roadways yearly, and many others are seriously injured. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident, you need a lawyer who understands the struggle riders have to recover what they deserve.
Getting a Utah Motorcycle License
You must have a special endorsement on your Utah driver’s license to legally operate a motorcycle in Utah. To get a Utah motorcycle permit, you must complete a 15-hour state-approved motorcycle riding course or take a skills test to demonstrate proficiency. You must also take a written exam to demonstrate your understanding of the rules of the road and pass a vision test.
Certain restrictions occur during the first two months after obtaining a Utah motorcycle endorsement. During this period, you are prohibited from:
- Riding with any passengers.
- Riding after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m.
- Traveling on any roads with speed limits of 60 mph or more.
Utah Motorcycle Laws and Restrictions
In addition to complying with the other rules of the road, Utah motorcycle riders must comply with some other laws. These include:
- A motorcycle must change lanes before passing a vehicle.
- No more than two motorcycles can ride side-by-side in a single traffic lane.
- Motorcyclists must keep both hands on the handlebars.
- Motorcyclists must use signals at least two seconds before turning.
- Motorcyclists may not ride with a passenger unless the motorcycle is intended for use by more than one person.
- Motorcyclists may not carry packages that inhibit driving safety.
Utah does not require riders 21 or older to wear a helmet or eye protection, although these safety measures dramatically reduce the risk of suffering fatal injuries in a collision.
“Lane filtering” (also known as “lane splitting”) is legal in Utah as of May 2019. Motorcyclists may ride between two lanes of vehicle traffic to pass vehicles that are stopped and moving in the same direction. Lane filtering is not permitted on freeways or other streets where the speed limit is more than 45 mph, and the motorcycle rider must not exceed 15 mph while traveling between lanes.
Motorcycle Accident Liability
Multiple parties can be legally liable, or “at fault,” for an accident, including the driver or drivers involved in the collision, a manufacturer of a defective vehicle or part, or a business or a public entity that failed to keep the roadways in a reasonably safe condition for motorcyclists. Shared liability is called “comparative negligence.”
Claims against other drivers are usually based on negligence. An injured rider must show the driver failed to use the reasonable care required of drivers to prove the driver’s legal liability. Sometimes, a rider’s own negligence contributes to a collision. In Utah, as long as the rider is less than 50% at fault, they can still recover damages for their injuries, although the amount of their recovery may be reduced.
Recovering Damages in Motorcycle Accident Cases
The damages a rider sustains in a motorcycle accident are often catastrophic and life-altering. Without the protection of a vehicle, riders struck by a vehicle or forced off the roadway can be catapulted into oncoming traffic or other hazardous conditions. Motorcycle accident victims frequently have broken bones, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), internal bleeding, organ damage, spinal cord injuries, and other severe trauma.
“Compensatory” damages compensate you for your losses related to an accident. These damages fall into two categories: “economic” and “non-economic.”
Economic damages are quantifiable expenses and costs related to the accident, including:
- Medical bills.
- Lost wages and reduction in earning capacity.
- Vehicle repairs.
- Rental of a replacement vehicle.
- Insurance deductible.
- Anticipated future expenses directly resulting from your accident (such as future medical treatment).
“Non-economic” damages attempt to compensate an injured rider for damages like pain and suffering, disability, loss of companionship, disfigurement, PTSD, and mental distress. The scope of these damages is often substantiated by the rider’s testimony and the opinions of medical and occupational health experts. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you fairly quantify these damages as part of your claim. Especially in motorcycle accident cases, non-economic damages can be substantial.
What If a Motorcycle Operator Is Partially at Fault for an Accident?
Don’t let bias against motorcycle riders discourage you from pursuing the compensation you deserve. Insurance companies and defendants try to intimidate motorcycle riders and bully them into accepting settlements below the value of their injuries by implying they were responsible for an accident. Even if a rider’s actions contributed to a collision, they could legally recover if they are less than 50% at fault.
If a court determines you are partially responsible for a collision, the amount of your recovery will be reduced by the same percentage. For example, if a court determines you were 20% at fault for a collision because you failed to signal before changing lanes, any damage award would be reduced by 20%. If the court finds you are equally (or more) liable than all the other parties combined, you will not be able to recover at all.
What Is No-Fault Insurance Coverage?
Utah’s “no-fault” law requires automobile drivers to carry a minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. Regardless of who is at fault for an accident, an injured person must first make a claim for their medical bills to their own PIP insurance provider. If medical bills exceed the amount of PIP coverage, an injured person can file a claim or lawsuit against an at-fault driver or another responsible party.
Motorcycle riders are not required to carry no-fault insurance coverage, although it is available and recommended. (If you also drive a car, you may be able to add it to your existing PIP policy at a reasonable cost.) This means if you are injured while riding a motorcycle, you may file a lawsuit for your injuries immediately rather than waiting for your own insurance to handle your claim.
Don’t Wait to Contact an Attorney After a Motorcycle Accident
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, you need to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Why?
- There are time limitations for filing legal claims; in Utah, most personal injury suits must be filed within four years, including those related to motorcycle accidents. However, some types of claims have shorter statutes of limitations. For example, if you have claims against a public entity, you must file a formal “Notice of Claim” within one year of the date of the occurrence. The requirement for a Notice of Claim are technical and be specifically followed or you will not be able to present your claim.
- An attorney can help you build your best case. After a motorcycle accident, the road ahead is often a long one, involving surgeries, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and other long-term medical treatment. An attorney can help you understand how to document your treatment and progress to be in the best possible position when you file your claims.
- An attorney can help you find medical providers and specialists with experience treating your injuries. Personal injury lawyers who have handled motorcycle injury cases for many years can recommend the physicians, therapists, and rehabilitation providers for your needs.
How Can I Afford an Attorney?
Many lawyers take motorcycle injury cases on a “contingency” basis. Rather than charging an hourly rate to provide legal services, they agree to take a percentage of any settlement or damage award. In most cases, a fee of 1/3 is common, although the rate can range from 25% to 50%. At Injury Smart Law we never charge more than 1/3, even if the case goes into litigation and goes to trial. In addition to the set percentage, the client will be required to pay other fees like court filing fees, fees to obtain documents and records, expert witnesses fees, and various additional costs and expenses. At Injury Smart Law we advance those costs and they are repaid at the end of the case. You will never get a call from us asking form money to move your case forward.
If a lawyer agrees to a contingency fee arrangement for your case, they will give you a summary of the terms in writing before they begin, which you must sign and authorize. When your case resolves, your attorney will provide you with an itemized accounting of fees and costs before disbursing the settlement proceeds or award. If you do not recover damages, your lawyer does not collect any fees.
Do I Really Need a Lawyer?
Motorcycle riders can be fiercely independent. You may be tempted to go it alone and accept what an insurance company offers without sharing the proceeds with an attorney. Why do you need an attorney for a motorcycle claim in Utah?
Many people injured in accidents significantly undervalue the amount of their claims. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to properly value your claim and include every type of damage compensation to which you are entitled. In certain limited circumstances (like accidents involving a drunk driver), an attorney may even be able to recover punitive damages.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact the attorneys at Injury Smart Law today. Our compassionate, dedicated team has many years of experience fighting for the rights of injured riders. Learn what you may be able to recover and how we can help you get back on the road. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.