Being involved in an accident can be traumatic. The aftermath of dealing with the claims process can turn very stressful. You are likely worried about all the bills piling up and wondering who will reimburse you for your injuries and damages. Some accident claims become even more challenging because you know the person who is the at-fault party. In fact, they may even be a good friend. But can you sue someone personally after a motorcycle accident?
Every accident is different, and the circumstances vary. It’s best to reach out to an experienced California motorcycle collision lawyer at Henderson Law. We can help you determine your legal rights in these types of personal injury claims.
California Motorcycle Insurance Laws
California requires that all motorcycle owners have liability insurance. The requirements are the same as for motor vehicles. The minimum requirements in California for liability insurance are:
- $15,000 for bodily injury incurred by one person,
- $30,000 for bodily injury for all parties injured in an accident, and
- $5,000 for property damage.
Typically, liability insurance follows the vehicle or motorcycle in this situation. Not all insurance companies allow someone else to drive your covered car or motorcycle. Suppose the friend driving your motorcycle was using it one time. In that case, it is more likely that your insurance company will cover the damages than if someone else is riding it regularly.
Even in situations where your friend has applicable coverage, your insurance will likely be primary in the event of an accident. However, the person riding the motorcycle must be found legally liable first.
Permissive Use in California
Under California Vehicle Code 17150, there is a general rule regarding permissive vehicle or motorcycle use in California. If your friend was operating your motorcycle with your express or implied permission, you as the owner are generally liable for the accident. That means your insurance would likely pay the other injured party.
If your friend did not have your permission to ride the motorcycle and took it without authorization, the driver would be solely responsible for damages. This situation doesn’t necessarily mean they stole your motorcycle. Perhaps you loaned it to them for a specific purpose, and the accident occurred while they were somewhere else. For example, you may have loaned them your motorcycle to go pick something up at the store. However, the accident occurred somewhere else while they were visiting a friend in another city. If the accident occurred while riding to or from visiting the friend, you would not be responsible.
Permissive use can become even more complicated if your friend was riding under the influence, did not have a valid motorcycle license, or is classified as a high-risk driver. Insurance companies all have their own guidelines and policy language on what determines permissive use and what your policy covers.
Can I Sue My Friend for a Motorcycle Accident?
In many cases, you may be able to pursue a claim against your friend if they caused the collision. However, it’s crucial to understand motorcycle insurance laws in California to establish whether you have a potential personal injury claim or not. If you were also on your motorcycle when your friend was driving, it could become more complicated.
You cannot make a liability claim for your injuries against your own policy in California. If your insurance company is primary and covers damages caused by your friend, your medical expenses would need to be reimbursed or covered by your health insurance or medical payments coverage. The other option is to sue someone personally after a motorcycle accident.
Under California insurance laws, liability coverage pays only for injuries or damage to other people when you are legally responsible. If your insurance company extends primary coverage to your friend, you cannot make a claim for damages. Liability coverage does not pay for injuries to you or anyone in your family covered by your insurance. That is why California offers a medical payments option on auto insurance policies.
Is It Worth the Hassle to Sue My Friend for a Motorcycle Accident?
The decision to sue someone personally after a motorcycle accident is a personal one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from potentially losing this person as your friend, you must look at the economic aspect of pursuing a claim against them. Do they have any assets that would cover the loss? You can sue them and even win in trial, but if they have no assets you can attach, then you won’t collect any money. If your friend will not, or cannot, pay you on their own, California offers several options for collecting on a court judgment. They include:
- Garnishing wages,
- Placing a lien on their home should they decide to sell it in the future, and
- Attaching a lien on allowable business assets or income.
With some court awards, you can also apply to have the judgment debtor’s driver’s license suspended until the judgment is paid. Unfortunately, this option may hinder your ability to recover funds or cause further dissension and unwillingness to pay.
Your friend may argue that you don’t have the right to sue them because your medical bills or your health insurance or medical payments coverage paid your bills. However, California law provides that the defendant cannot avoid liability simply because another source has paid your bills.
Contact a California Motorcycle Collision Attorney
The rules surrounding whether you can sue someone personally after a motorcycle accident become far more complex when you own the motorcycle involved in the collision. You should not attempt to pursue a claim independently. It is best to speak with an experienced California motorcycle collision lawyer who understands the laws and regulations that apply to this unique situation.
At Henderson Law, we have over two decades of experience representing injured California victims. We’ve recovered over ten million dollars in compensation for our clients. If you are asking yourself, Should I sue my friend for a motorcycle accident? contact our motorcycle collision attorney to schedule an appointment. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so you have nothing to lose by meeting with us. We will review all the facts of your case and help you determine whether it’s worth pursuing a lawsuit against your friend.