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California Motorcycle Accident Laws

Motorcycle Accident Attorney Los Angeles

California Motorcycle Laws You Might Not Know

California offers stunning landscapes perfect for motorcycle exploration. But whether you’re a seasoned rider or a weekend enthusiast, California has specific laws for motorcycle riders. And knowing them can be crucial after an accident.  Our motorcycle accident attorney in Los Angeles is here to guide and enable you to handle any unforeseen situations.

Motorcycle laws are rules made to keep motorcycle riders and everyone else safe on the road. They cover getting a motorcycle license, wearing helmets and other safety gear, and other important matters to keep the road safe. 

Key Summary: 

  • Riding a motorcycle in California comes with its own set of rules and regulations designed to ensure safety on the roads and highways.
  • Understanding and adhering to these laws is essential for every rider.
  • California requires all motorcycle riders and passengers to wear helmets meeting DOT safety standards to protect against head injuries.
  • To legally operate a motorcycle in California, you need a special motorcycle license or an endorsement on your regular driver’s license.
  • Lane splitting is legal in California but must be done safely and prudently, considering factors such as speed and traffic flow.
  • Eye protection, proper handlebar height, headlights, mufflers, and passenger rules are among other important motorcycle laws in California.
  • Violating these laws can result in fines, penalties, and increased risks on the road.
  • Liability in motorcycle accidents is determined based on principles of negligence. Factors such as duty of care and comparative fault are considered.
  • The statute of limitations for filing a motorcycle accident claim in California is generally two years from the date of the accident.

Understanding the law is essential for your safety and others. This guide explores key California motorcycle accident laws, from mandatory safety gear to headlight regulations. By familiarizing yourself with these regulations, you can reduce risks and ensure you’re prepared.

What are California Motorcycle Laws? 

Riding a motorcycle in California means following certain rules. These rules keep everyone safe on the roads. Every rider must know and obey these laws, whether they’re cruising on the Pacific Coast Highway or navigating city streets.

Helmet Law

California says all motorcycle riders and passengers must wear helmets that meet safety standards set by the Department of Transportation (DOT). Helmets protect riders’ heads in accidents, making injuries less severe.


To legally ride a motorcycle in California, you need a special license or an endorsement on your regular driver’s license. You get this by passing written and skills tests showing you can ride safely.

Lane Splitting

California allows lane splitting, where motorcycles can ride between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. But it must be done safely, considering things like speed and traffic.

Safety Gear

Besides helmets, California law says motorcycle riders must wear eye protection, like goggles or a face shield, unless the motorcycle has a windshield. This protects eyes from things like bugs or wind.

Handlebar Height

California has rules about how high motorcycle handlebars can be. They can’t be higher than the rider’s shoulders when sitting on the motorcycle. This helps with control and safety.


Motorcycles in California must have headlights on at all times, even during the day. This helps other drivers see motorcycles better, reducing the chance of accidents.

Lane Sharing

Unlike lane splitting, where motorcycles move between lanes, lane sharing means two motorcycles can ride next to each other in the same lane. It’s okay in California as long as both riders agree and there’s enough space.

Muffler Requirement

California says motorcycles must have working mufflers to reduce noise. They also need to follow noise standards to keep noise levels low and not disturb the community.

Passenger Rules

If carrying passengers, motorcycles must have a separate seat for them. Passengers must sit behind the rider and use footrests while the motorcycle is moving.


Like cars, motorcycles in California must have insurance. This protects riders financially if there’s an accident, injury, or property damage.

It’s important to know and follow these laws for safe and legal riding in California. Breaking them can lead to fines, penalties, and more risks on the road.

Will I Be Penalized For Violating California Motorcycle Laws?

Yes, if you break California’s motorcycle laws, there can be consequences. These consequences are meant to make sure people follow traffic rules, keep the roads safe, and stop dangerous behavior. How bad the penalty is depends on what rule you broke, the situation, and if you’ve broken rules before.

Here’s a breakdown of potential penalties for violating California motorcycle laws:

General Violations (minor infractions)

These typically involve violations like not having a motorcycle endorsement on your license or failing to equip your motorcycle with a proper headlight. Penalties usually involve a ticket and a fine depending on the violation.

Safety Equipment Violations

Riding without a helmet is against the law in California. The first time you get caught, you might get a fine and a mark on your driving record. If it happens again, the fine gets bigger, and you might have to go to court. Forgetting to wear the right eye protection can also get you a ticket and a fine.

Lane Splitting Violations

Lane splitting is okay in California if you do it safely. But if you do it wrong, like going too fast or breaking other rules, you might get a ticket. If you’re speeding while lane splitting, the penalty is even worse than regular speeding.

Serious Violations

If you ride a motorcycle after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, you’re in big trouble. And acting dangerously on a motorcycle, risking your life or others, could mean you end up with misdemeanor charges. That means losing your license, going to jail, and paying fines.

Breaking motorcycle laws isn’t just about getting in trouble with the law. Ignoring safety rules can lead to accidents, hurting you or others on the road. So, it’s super important to follow the rules for everyone’s safety.

How is Liability Determined in California? 

Who’s at fault in motorcycle accidents is determined out based on negligence. Negligence is when someone doesn’t act with enough care and ends up hurting someone else. In motorcycle accidents, the person who didn’t take enough care and caused the crash is usually the one held responsible.

Here are some key factors that may affect liability in motorcycle accidents in California:

  • Duty of Care: Everyone driving, including motorcyclists, has to drive safely and carefully.
  • Violation of Traffic Laws: If a motorcyclist breaks traffic laws, such as speeding or running a red light, and causes a crash, they might be seen careless.
  • Comparative Fault: In California, they look at how much each person involved in an accident is to blame. Even if a motorcyclist is partly to blame, they might still get some money for damages.
  • Negligence of Others: Other drivers, people walking, or groups responsible for road upkeep might also be responsible if they acted carelessly.
  • Insurance Coverage: All drivers in California, including motorcyclists, need insurance. This helps figure out who’s responsible and pays for damages in an accident.

How Long Do I Have to File a Motorcycle Accident Claim? 

The statute of limitations for filing a motorcycle accident claim is generally two years from the date of the accident. This time limit applies to most personal injury claims arising from motorcycle accidents. It also includes claims for bodily injury and property damage.

It’s crucial to be aware of this deadline. Failing to file a claim within the specified time frame can result in the loss of your right to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. However, there are some exceptions and nuances to consider:

  • Discovery Rule: In some cases, the discovery of an injury or damage may occur after the accident date. In such situations, the statute of limitations may begin from the date the injury or damage was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
  • Government Entities:  If the motorcycle accident involves a government entity or employee, such as a city or county, there may be specific notice requirements. There may also be shorter time limits for filing a claim. These deadlines can be as short as six months from the date of the accident.
  • Minors: If a minor (under 18 years old) is injured in a motorcycle accident, the statute of limitations may be tolled (paused) until they reach the age of 18. Once they turn 18, they generally have two years to file a claim.
  • Wrongful Death Claims: In cases where a motorcycle accident results in a fatality, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is two years

Given the complexities involved in personal injury claims and the importance of meeting deadlines, it’s advisable to consult with legal professionals as soon as possible after a motorcycle accident. They can assess your case, advise you on your legal rights, and make sure your claim meets the deadline set by the law.

Understanding Motorcycle Accident Laws With Our Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Los Angeles

Knowing California’s motorcycle accident laws goes beyond safety – it enables you. Understanding your rights as a rider allows you to make informed decisions and protects you in unfortunate circumstances. 

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel from our Los Angeles motorcycle accidents attorney at Conlogue Law LLP. We can ensure your rights are protected and fight for the compensation you deserve. We can also represent you in trials and protect your rights in cases of police shooting, malicious prosecution, and more. 

Ride informed, ride prepared. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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