In 2020, 82 motorcyclists passed away from crashes on Louisiana's roads, according to the state’s Highway Safety Commission. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that of the total fatalities recorded in 2020, 35 involved drunk drivers and 15 involved riders without helmets.
In recent years, several parishes have been identified as some of the most dangerous locations for motorcyclists in Louisiana. These include Orleans, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, and St. Tammany.
In an effort to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries among all road users, including motorcycle riders and passengers, the state of Louisiana launched the Destination Zero Deaths program. This initiative was put together by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the Louisiana State Police, and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission to support Vision Zero, a nationwide strategy to keep U.S. roads safe.
On top of these initiatives are the motorcycle laws that riders must follow to avoid causing injury to themselves and others. This article goes through some of those laws and other information—like insurance requirements and the personal injury claims process—to help riders protect themselves financially and legally in the event of an accident.
Louisiana Universal Helmet Laws
Louisiana motorcycle riders are required to wear three-quarter or full-face coverage helmets that meet U.S. Department of Transportation and state standards. State law dictates that helmets must have appropriate padding to protect the head from harm, eye protection, a chin strap to secure the helmet, and an internal lining to guarantee comfort when in contact with the head.
Louisiana’s helmet requirement aims to protect riders from head injuries, which are the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. According to the NHTSA, wearing a helmet reduces the chance of a rider suffering from a catastrophic brain injury from a collision by 67%.
However, in 1999, Louisiana repealed its helmet law. The result proved costly because, as helmet use declined by 50%, serious injury accidents and fatalities rose by 40% and 75%, respectively. In 2020 alone, 19% of motorcycle fatalities were unhelmeted in the state. In the following year, 18% of those involved in motorcycle accidents did not wear appropriate head protection gear. In the wake of these statistics, the state government reinstated the helmet law in 2004.
As motorcycle accidents remain common in the state, legal professionals strongly advise riders to wear helmets anytime they are on the road, as failure to do so may affect the damages they can recover in the event of an accident. Defendants in a personal injury case may claim that the injured rider is to blame for their injuries because they did not wear the legally required helmet.
Louisiana Motorcycle Licensing and Inspection Laws
Louisiana motorcycle riders must have an "M" endorsement on their existing driver’s license to legally operate on the state’s roadways.
To obtain a motorcycle endorsement from the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, applicants must first pass a motorcycle knowledge and skills test. However, those who have completed the Department of Public Safety and Corrections' Louisiana Motorcycle Safety, Awareness, and Operator Training Program on or after October 28, 2011, are exempt from taking this exam.
Riders who are caught operating a motorcycle without a valid endorsement could face severe penalties, including a fine of up to $500 and jail time of up to six months.
In addition to the mandatory licensing rule, bike safety inspections are also enforced in Louisiana. Motorcycle owners must get their vehicles tested within 40 days of purchase to ensure that they are mechanically safe to drive on public roads. If they pass the inspection, they may get an inspection sticker. On top of this, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections also requires riders to inspect their motorcycles on a regular basis to avoid road accidents.
Louisiana Traffic Lane and Lane Splitting Laws
Lane splitting, or driving between two lanes of traffic, is illegal in Louisiana under state law. Motorcycle riders are prohibited from overtaking a vehicle by passing in the same lane. Police officers performing official duties are exempt from this rule.
Lane splitting forces motorcycles into very tight spaces, especially in heavy traffic, making it much tougher to navigate out without causing an accident. Motorcyclists who disregard the regulation tend to go faster than the vehicles surrounding them, raising the likelihood and severity of road accidents.
Louisiana Motorcycle Speeding Laws
Motorcyclists in Louisiana must follow the same speed limits as other vehicle drivers. They must also comply with the state's basic speeding rule, which requires them to slow down for bad weather, slopes, curves, and potential hazards such as pedestrians. Riders who exceed the absolute speed limits listed in the table below can face a fine of up to $300.
Posted Speed Limits
Multi-lane divided highways
Residential and business districts
According to NHTSA, one-third of all motorcycle fatalities in 2017 occurred while the rider was speeding. Meanwhile, the Hurt Report revealed that one of every 1,000 accidents involved a motorcycle moving faster than 86 mph.
Speeding is considered reckless conduct. In Louisiana, reckless driving is considered a crime, and those found guilty face steep penalties, including jail time.
Louisiana Driving Under the Influence Laws
Louisiana prohibits motorcycle operators from driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, as they have a reduced ability to think clearly and to ride safely. The state's "per se" limit, or the blood alcohol content limit at which a rider is lawfully considered impaired, is 0.08%. Underage riders driving with a BAC of 0.02% but less than 0.08% may be punished under the underage driving under the influence legislation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, motorcyclists are more likely to be impaired than other types of vehicle drivers. The Louisiana Motorcycle Operator Manual cites studies showing that nearly 40% of all fatalities in motorcycle accidents are related to drinking.
This appears to be consistent with NHTSA data from 2020, which revealed that, of the people killed in motorcycle crashes during that year, 31% tested with a BAC of 0.08%, while 17% returned a BAC of 0.15%. Because of the danger that DUI poses to public safety, motorcycle riders caught driving while impaired can get their license suspended. They also face hefty fines and stringent jail sentences.
Louisiana Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
The Louisiana government requires motorcycle riders to get liability insurance before they can operate their bikes. They must also carry proof of insurance — either a physical or a digital insurance card listing their insurance policy details — in case they are pulled over by a law enforcement officer. Driving without insurance may result in penalties such as fines and jail sentences.
The state's required minimum coverage for liability is $15,000 for death or bodily injury to one person, $30,000 for death or bodily injury to two or more persons and $25,000 for damage or destruction of property.
Motorcycle riders can also purchase additional coverage. Below are some of the optional products a motorcycle owner may sign up for:
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage — This allows motorcycle riders who get into a crash with another person who lacks or does not have enough coverage to recover their damages.
Collision coverage — This coverage helps a motorcyclist pay for the repairs to their damaged motorcycle after a collision with another motorcycle or a motor vehicle.
Comprehensive coverage — This covers the cost of repairs or replacement when a person's motorcycle is damaged by something other than an accident, like fire, wind, flood, hailstorm, theft, or vandalism.
Custom parts and equipment coverage — Those who ride a custom bike are encouraged to consider adding this coverage to their insurance plans. This covers the cost of repairing or replacing the items used in the custom modification of the motorcycle instead of their factory-standard equivalents.
Louisiana Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
The Pelican State is not a no-fault state, which means it implements a fault-based structure when it comes to traffic accident claims. In tort states, motorcycle accident victims must bring personal injury claims against at-fault drivers and/or their insurance provider. They need to establish proof that the defendants are liable for the accident to receive compensation for their damages.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Louisiana
Motorcycle crash victims may file personal injury claims against the liable party to obtain compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are specific types of damages intended to compensate victims for their actual losses. Current and future medical expenses, missed pay, and property repair costs are examples of economic damages.
General damages that cannot be calculated by adding up documented invoices and receipts constitute non-economic damages. These include pain and suffering, mental agony, permanent disability, disfigurement, and loss of consortium.
The amount of compensation accident victims are entitled to is determined by the circumstances surrounding the accident and the extent of their injuries. The amounts will vary depending on the injuries they sustain, which may include:
Cuts and scrapes
Road rash abrasions
Head and brain injuries
Spinal cord damage and paralysis
Louisiana Is a Pure Comparative Fault State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
Louisiana follows a pure comparative fault system, which means the amount of damages a plaintiff can obtain in a motorcycle accident-related case is reduced by the same proportion as their degree of fault in the collision. For example, if a judge decides that the total damages award for a plaintiff who was found 30% at fault in an accident is $150,000, the injured person will only receive 70% of that amount, or $105,000.
Louisiana Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
According to Louisiana Civil Code Section 3492, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases like motorcycle accidents is one year from the date of injury. Those who fail to meet the deadline risk losing their right to negotiate or receive reasonable compensation.
The statute of limitations exempts minors. This means the one-year time limit does not begin to run until the date on which the injured child turns 18. Also, families or relatives of persons who died in a motorcycle accident have one year to launch a wrongful death action. Victims should seek the assistance of accident attorneys to make sure they file claims on time.
Legal Resources for Louisiana Motorcycle Accident Victims
There is no lawyer referral service managed by the Louisiana State Bar Association; instead, these services are managed by a number of local bar organizations. The following nonprofit community-based services assist citizens in locating lawyers who can give legal advice and support:
Baton Rouge Bar Association LRISLafayette Bar Association LRIS
People involved in motorcycle accidents may request or purchase copies of crash reports online by filling out the crash report request form. Applicants may also obtain a report in person at any Louisiana State Police Troop. For a list of Louisiana State Police Troop locations and addresses, please visit their official website at www.lsp.org.
State Police Troops
Citizens of the state can access court records by visiting Louisiana.StateRecords.org. It allows site visitors to search for important court documents relating to criminal records, driving violations, felonies, misdemeanors, arrests, and warrants. The website adheres to the Louisiana Public Records Act, which has been designed to ensure that people get access to public records while also protecting privacy rights and the interests of governmental bodies.
The Louisiana Department of Insurance enforces insurance regulations to safeguard all policyholders. It informs consumers about their insurance and examines complaints filed against insurance agents, adjusters, and firms. Individuals can use the consumer complaint form to get the help they need with their insurance issues.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections have collaborated to design and distribute a handbook for motorcyclists to help them lower their risk of a crash. The guidebook also teaches those seeking a state license to be safe drivers.
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