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Posted in Motorcycle collision on October 31, 2022
Learning the law is a must before you ride a motorcycle in West Virginia. Knowing the rules of the road as they apply specifically to motorcyclists will not only keep you on the right side of the law, but also protect you from potential liability in the event of a collision. The more you know about riding safely in the state, the better you can defend your rights. A free consultation with our West Virginia motorcycle accident lawyers can clear up any questions or concerns you might have about the state and local motorcycle laws.
A motorist with a standard state-issued driver’s license in West Virginia cannot operate a motorcycle. To legally operate a motorcycle on public roads, an individual must obtain a motorcycle endorsement (F) on a standard driver’s license or a special Class F motorcycle only license.
Obtaining a motorcycle license requires passing a skills test on a motorcycle. A rider can also take a Rider Course through a Motorcycle Safety Program to waive the skills test. If an applicant is under the age of 18, he or she must complete a Level II Graduated Driver’s Licensing (GDL) Program to get a motorcycle license or endorsement in West Virginia.
All motorcycle operators and their passengers must wear appropriate head protection in West Virginia. Motorcycle helmets must fasten to the head via a neck or chin strap. Helmets must also meet all criteria according to federal law, Snell Safety Standards, or the American National Standards Institute. Look for a certified sticker on your helmet to see if it adheres to Snell or ANSI qualifications. The age, experience, and insurance of the rider will not exempt him or her from wearing a helmet.
In addition to helmets, motorcyclists in West Virginia must also wear eye protection if their vehicles do not have windshields or windscreens that comply with federal performance specifications. Eye protection refers to shatter-resistant safety eyeglasses, eye goggles, or a face shield that complies with ANSI standards. Failing to adhere to eye-protection requirements could result in motorcyclist liability if a vision impairment (such as small debris getting into the eyes) causes the wreck.
To operate a motorcycle in West Virginia, you must carry up-to-date vehicle insurance with at least the required minimums. You must carry $20,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $40,000 for all persons injured in any one accident, and $10,000 for property damage coverage. Uninsured and underinsured motorcyclist insurance is optional in West Virginia. Failing to ride with adequate insurance is a crime that could result in fines and other legal trouble in the state. If you cause an accident without proper insurance, you may have to pay for others’ damages out of pocket.
West Virginia’s automobile insurance requirements go hand-in-hand with its fault law for motor vehicle accidents. In West Virginia, crash victims have the right to hold someone else responsible for their accidents. If the other driver is at fault for causing your motorcycle accident, such as from speeding or distracted driving, you can file a claim with that driver’s insurance company. It is your responsibility, however, to prove that the other driver is at fault for your accident with clear and convincing evidence.
There is another fault law in West Virginia known as the comparative fault law. Under West Virginia Code Section 55-7-13A, the courts can reduce an injured motorcyclist’s payout if he or she is found to be partially liable, or responsible, for the accident. The state uses a modified version of this law, meaning that a motorcyclist cannot be more than 50 percent at fault to qualify for compensation. The motorcyclist’s financial recovery will be reduced directly in proportion to his or her percentage of fault.
A motorcycle must contain certain equipment to deem it roadworthy in West Virginia. State law requires a motorcycle to have a windshield or windscreen that is shatter resistant, for example. Motorcycles must also have one or more headlamps and a tail lamp, as well as a red brake light. By law, motorcyclists in the state must use running lights or headlights during the day. Daytime lights can help optimize motorcycle visibility for other drivers on the road. If carrying a passenger, the motorcycle must have a passenger seat and passenger footrests designed for this purpose. There is no passenger age restriction in West Virginia. The law also requires motorcycles to have turn signals, left and right mirrors, and handlebars no more than 15 inches above the seat.
It is against the law to carry a passenger on a motorcycle that is not designed to do so. If carrying a passenger, the motorcycle must have a passenger seat and passenger footrests designed for this purpose. Like riders, motorcycle passengers are also legally required to wear helmets in West Virginia. A passenger of any age can legally ride as a passenger on a motorcycle in West Virginia, as the state does not have any passenger age restrictions.
Motorcycles have all the same rights and responsibilities as other motor vehicles in West Virginia. They can travel on all the same roads and highways and must also comply with all the same rules. Motorcyclists must follow all traffic signs, lights and signals. They must drive in the same direction as the flow of traffic and obey all speed limits. They must also yield other motorists the right-of-way at intersections, when applicable, such as when making a left-hand turn.
Motorcyclists also have special laws that only apply to them in West Virginia. For example, two motorcyclists may ride abreast (next to each other) in a single lane. However, a motorcycle cannot travel in the same lane as a motor vehicle.Drivers should respect motorcyclists and share the road safely with them, such as by keeping an appropriate distance when following and passing.
Lane-splitting means riding a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. In 2016, California lifted its regulations against lane splitting, leading to attempts at similar laws in other states. West Virginia, like many other states, does not allow lane splitting but also does not have a law specifically prohibiting it.
West Virginia Code Section 17C-7-9, however, states that a vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane. If a motorcyclist is caught riding on the line between two lanes, he or she can get pulled over and receive a traffic ticket from law enforcement. If illegal lane-splitting causes a traffic accident, the motorcyclist will be held responsible.
If you get injured in a motorcycle accident, it is important to contact an attorney about a potential lawsuit as soon as possible. In West Virginia, a law known as the statute of limitations gives you no more than two years from the date of your crash to bring a claim against the responsible party. If you wait too long and try to file after two years have passed, the courts will most likely refuse to hear your case and bar you from making a financial recovery.
Now that you know the rules and requirements of riding a motorcycle in West Virginia, you might have a better idea of who might be liable for a recent motorcycle accident. Even if you were partially responsible for the wreck or your injuries because you broke one of the state’s motorcycle laws, you could still be eligible to recover damages. Working with one of our experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyers can help you limit your own liability. Contact us today to learn more.