Woman riding on the back of a motorcycle

I do a lot of talking and soapboxing about insurance for motorcycle riders because it is incredibly important and a lot of work on motorcycle safety. But it recently occurred to me that I haven’t properly addressed the rights and needs of motorcycle passengers, who are just as at risk of serious physical injury if their motorcycle goes down. Sadly, I have seen a lot of critically injured passengers from motorcycle crashes and too many times they do not have adequate insurance to cover their medical bills and other needs.

For example, I recently sat down with a biker and his girlfriend who had been in a crash on Colorado Boulevard. The girlfriend was riding as a passenger when the crash occurred and they both suffered serious injuries. Their situation was complicated by the fact that they were not married.

Insurance is always complicated, but in the case of motorcycle crashes and unmarried couples, everything gets much, much harder. For example, would the motorcycle rider’s insurance cover his girlfriend’s injuries? Did he carry enough to cover both of their needs? Did she have insurance that would help her with medical bills and lost wages while she was in treatment?

So, with this in mind, I want to offer guidance tailored specifically to motorcycle riders and their passengers. I will also share some real-life stories to illustrate the importance of understanding your rights and insurance coverage. Always remember, it costs nothing to consult a motorcycle injury attorney about your motorcycle accident in Colorado to explore the possibilities of an insurance claim. You can reach me at 877-562-9425.

Motorcyclists having discussion before a ride

Motorcycle Riders: Know Your Rights

There are four common scenarios involving motorcycle riders and accidents. Although I’ve framed these scenarios with the man as the rider and his wife or girlfriend as the passenger, I fully understand that riders can be paired differently. The important thing is that everyone consider their risks when getting on a motorcycle.

Four Scenarios with Motorcycle Passengers
  1. The accident is the rider’s fault, and you’re not married: If you’re not legally married and are riding on the back of your boyfriend’s bike when he’s at fault in an accident, you have the right to file a claim for liability against his insurance. This doesn’t mean you’re ending your relationship; you’re simply making a claim against his insurance company. (Make sure he has adequate insurance coverage before hopping on that bike!)
  2. The accident is the rider’s fault, and you are married: If you’re married and riding pillion with your husband, and he’s responsible for a motorcycle accident, remember that you cannot sue your spouse for insurance coverage. Having comprehensive healthcare coverage and disability insurance becomes crucial in such cases.
  3. The accident is someone else’s fault, and you’re not married: When you’re riding on your boyfriend’s bike and someone else causes an accident that injures you, you have three potential sources for making claims:
    • a) the at-fault driver,
    • b) your boyfriend’s Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM), and
    • c) your own UIM.
  1. The accident is someone else’s fault, and you are married: If you’re riding on your husband’s bike and someone else hits you, you have at least three potential sources of insurance: a) the at-fault driver, b) your own motorcycle policy, and c) your own UIM.

A Real-Life Example of Why UIM Coverage Matters

Rider Justice truck with many motorcycle riders

Last year, an unmarried couple was riding a motorcycle when they were hit by an oncoming vehicle, resulting in both of them being hospitalized with injuries. Here’s how their coverage worked:

  • Both victims could make separate claims against the at-fault driver, who had policy limits of $100,000.
  • The boyfriend could also make a claim against his UIM, with policy limits of $50,000.
  • The girlfriend could make a claim against both her boyfriend’s UIM and her own, with policy limits of $250,000.

This means the boyfriend received $150,000, and the girlfriend received $400,000! This case underscores the value of having ample UIM coverage (I recommend a minimum of $250,000).

Please remember, this is not about ruining or straining your relationship with your partner. It’s about utilizing the insurance available to you to protect yourself in the event of a motorcycle accident, which can bring significant financial challenges.

If you find this all confusing, you’re not alone! Just give me a call (877-562-9425) or email me. I’m happy to take a look at your insurance coverage and recommend anything that I think might be missing. (I don’t sell insurance. You can take my recommendations back to your agent.)

Never, ever get on the back of a motorcycle without checking the biker’s insurance and making sure you’re covered with UIM!

Couple riding a motorcycle

Couples on Motorcycles: Real-Life Stories

Let me share a couple of stories that emphasize the importance of insurance coverage:

In two heart-wrenching cases from a few summers back, women who had just met motorcyclists ended up in accidents caused by the riders. In both cases, the girls were wearing shorts and the accidents “degloved” their legs and arms. (That is as gruesome as it sounds.) Because the bikers caused the accidents, the girls made claims against the bikers’ insurance companies. Sadly, the women did not also have their own UIM insurance, which would have provided them with significant financial support as they healed from their injuries.

Never, ever get on the back of a motorcycle without checking the biker’s insurance and making sure you’re covered with UIM!

In another case, a friend of mine and her common-law husband embarked on a motorcycle journey to witness the 2017 eclipse in Wyoming. Tragically, he lost his life in an accident that was not his fault, and she was not on the bike at the time. I was able to prove their common-law marriage, so she was able to use her UIM coverage to help cover accident-related costs, as well as the emotional and financial burdens she faced after his passing.

You Don’t Have to Get on the Bike

You don't have to get on the motorcycleFinally, you always have the right to refuse that ride on the back of a motorcycle. Even if the rider is someone you know and have even ridden with before, remember that you always have the ability and right to opt out.

When would it be prudent to skip the motorcycle ride? Here are some tips from a site called Pillioness.

  1. How well do you know the rider? If you just met this person, you probably shouldn’t accept a ride on his motorcycle. Even if he seems responsible, sober, wears the right gear and has a helmet for you, he may be a terrible motorcycle rider! Get his number instead.
  2. How much experience does the rider have? If you read our article written by Kandi Spangler, you know that riding is a skill that requires practice and persistence. Never get on a bike ridden by someone with minimum experience.
  3. Is the rider experienced with passengers? Maneuvering a motorcycle with one person is hard enough. Adding a passenger changes the process significantly. You don’t want to be this rider’s trial run at transporting a motorcycle passenger!
  4. Is the rider drunk or high? Drinking and riding is an insane combination. Don’t get on the back of a bike with a rider who’s intoxicated in any way.
  5. What are YOU wearing? As you read earlier in this story, people who don’t normally ride a motorcycle often aren’t prepared to spontaneously jump on the back of a bike. If you’re wearing shorts, a sleeveless shirt, flip flops and a ball cap, you should not get on a motorcycle. You need proper gear, like a helmet, sturdy jacket, jeans or thick pants, boots that cover your ankles, and gloves. Think that takes the “sexy” out of riding on the back? Get over it. Remember those two girls I mentioned earlier who got “degloved?” Don’t let that be you.
  6. Does the rider talk about his “need for speed?” If the rider is a macho big mouth who only wants to talk about how fast he likes to ride, suggesting he could scare you with his mad speed, get away from his bike. He will not be thinking about your safety when you’re sitting behind him.
  7. Are you comfortable with the riding conditions? If you’ve never ridden pillion before, then your first ride needs to be conducted in a safe environment. You don’t want to ride in rush hour, in the snow, during a windy day, or in the black of night. Your first ride should be slow, safe and short. You can always head out again another day if you love it… and trust your rider.
  8. Are you insured? Is the rider insured? Already covered above.

If you’re a frequent motorcycle passenger, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for a complimentary insurance review. I can swiftly assess your coverage to ensure you’re adequately protected. Feel free to call or text me at 877-562-9425. Your safety and well-being are paramount.