The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles require motorcycle operators to carry accident insurance coverage of at least $25,000 for bodily injury or death of one person, $50,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people, and $20,000 for property damage.
Under Nevada motorcycle accident law, a driver who causes an accident that injures a biker can be sued for damages. As with other auto accident cases, there is a two-year statute of limitations to bring a lawsuit and courts will apply Nevada’s modified comparative negligence standard.
Depending on the circumstances of the motorcycle collision, plaintiffs may have viable claims for:
- negligence (if the other driver was being careless),
- strict products liability (if the motorcycle was defective), and/or
- wrongful death (if the victim passed away, and his/her family files suit)
Most personal injury claims resolve through negotiation and without a trial. Either way, victims are far more likely to recover high financial settlements if they are represented by competent attorneys who are experienced in dealing with stubborn insurance defense firms.
In this article, our Nevada personal injury lawyers discuss the legal process of how to file a motorcycle lawsuit in Nevada. Scroll down to learn:
- 1. How do I file a motorcycle accident lawsuit in Nevada?
- 2. Who is at fault in most motorcycle accidents?
- 3. How long do I have to sue?
- 4. What elements do I have to prove?
- 5. What damages can I get?
- 6. How do defendants fight the case?
- 7. What if I was partially to blame?
- 8. What are the requirements for motorcyclists in Nevada?
- 9. How common are motorcycle accidents?
- 10. What are common causes of motorcycle accidents?
- 11. What should you not do after a motorcycle accident?
1. How do I file a motorcycle accident lawsuit in Nevada?
Before filing a lawsuit, accident victims (through their attorneys) would contact the liable parties in an effort to settle the matter outside of court. Most cases settle through negotiation alone since neither side is anxious to commit to the time and expense of a trial.
But should negotiations fail, the accident victim would then file a civil lawsuit in the relevant court. Typically, lawsuits can be filed in the jurisdiction where:
- the collision actually occurred, or
- the motorcycle manufacturer is incorporated (if the victim is suing the manufacturer).
Even after a lawsuit is filed, chances are the case will still settle out of court. But as negotiations are ongoing, the parties would engage in various litigation practices such as:
- producing and requesting discovery (“evidence”);
- attending depositions (giving sworn testimony); and/or
- answering interrogatories (answering questions in writing under oath)
In the rare event that the case proceeds to trial, then both parties would present arguments and witnesses. Typical evidence includes:
- video surveillance footage of the incident and road and driving conditions
- expert medical testimony
- medical records
- eyewitness accounts
- accident reconstruction expert testimony
- weather reports
Ultimately, the jury would decide whether the defendant is liable and — if so — what the damages would be.
Trial verdicts can be appealed to a higher court. But if the case settles out of court, then the resolution may not be appealed (in most situations).
People who were injured in a motorcycle collision in Nevada are always advised to seek out experienced legal counsel right away. Insurance companies and defense lawyers are always more willing to play ball with plaintiffs who are represented by an attorney.
2. Who is at fault in most motorcycle accidents?
Depending on the case, Nevada motorcycle accident victims may be able to sue the following parties:
- the driver who caused the accident
- the manufacturer of the motorcycle (if it was defective)1
- any mechanics who worked on the motorcycle (if their actions caused the motorcycle to malfunction)
- the manufacturer of the motorcycle helmet (if it was defective)
- the city or county (such as if poor road maintenance contributed to the crash)
- the at-fault motorist’s parents, if the driver was a minor2
- anyone else who may have contributed to the accident
Often, defendants with the deepest pockets are motorcycle manufacturers, such as Yamaha and Honda.
3. How long do I have to sue?
In general, plaintiffs have two (2) years after they discover their accident injuries to bring a personal injury negligence action against the at-fault driver(s).3 (Though some other claims may have a four (4) year statute of limitations after the incident.4)
In any case, contact an attorney as soon as possible following the motor vehicle accident. The attorney can calculate how much time you have to file a motorcycle accident claim and whether any special circumstances might apply which extend your statute of limitations in Nevada.
4. What elements do I have to prove?
One of the most common claims in Las Vegas motorcycle collision lawsuits is negligence. In order to prove that the defendant was negligent towards the plaintiff (victim), the plaintiff would need to show the following four things:
- the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care (such as driving carefully);
- the defendant breached that duty of care (such as by not driving distractedly);
- the defendant’s breach of duty proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries; and
- the plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages.5
If the accident was caused by a defective motorcycle, the plaintiff could also sue for strict products liability. In order to prove the manufacturer is liable, the plaintiff would need to show the following four things:
- The motorcycle was defective as the result of a design, manufacturing, or warning defect;
- The defect existed when the product left the defendant’s possession (like when the plaintiff bought it);
- The product was used in a manner which was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant (such as by driving on the roadway); and
- The defect was a cause of the damage or injury to the plaintiff.6
Note that if the motorcycle crash results in a fatality, the victim’s family can bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible parties.
There are several other possible causes-of-action that plaintiffs may have grounds to sue for as well:
One common claim is negligence per se in Nevada, which may apply if the accident was caused by the defendant violating a Nevada traffic law. For example, a defendant could be liable for negligence per se if the crash occurred because they were driving intoxicated7 or speeding (NRS 484B.600).
Another possible claim is negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). And not only can crash victims sue for NIED…the victims’ family can sue as well as long as they witnessed the accident.
An attorney can help an auto accident plaintiff decide which claims to sue for and which have the best chances of yielding a settlement.
See our related article on suing DUI drivers following an accident in Nevada.
5. What damages can I get?
People harmed in a motorcycle collision may be entitled to recover money to pay for their:
- Medical bills,
- Lost wages,
- Physical and occupational rehabilitation,
- Pain and suffering (non-economic damages),
- Vehicle-repair service bills,
- Counseling for physical or emotional distress, and/or
- Funeral expenses and loss of probable support (in wrongful death cases)
If the case goes to trial, the plaintiff can also ask for punitive damages if the defendant may have acted in a malicious or particularly reckless way. Punitive damages are often much larger than compensatory damages.8
6. How do defendants fight the case?
There are many possible defenses the other side may raise when they are facing a lawsuit for causing a motorcycle collision. Five typical defenses include the following:
- the plaintiff (victim) caused the crash, not the other way around
- a third party other than the plaintiff and defendant caused the crash
- any defects in the vehicle were caused by the plaintiff, not the manufacturer (if the manufacturer is named as the defendant)
- the defendant was not currently on duty when the accident took place (if the defendant’s employer is named as the defendant)
- the road conditions were safe (if the city or county is named as the defendant)
Note that defendants may still be liable to pay damages even if the plaintiff was partially at fault. Scroll down to the next section to learn more about how “comparative negligence” works.
7. What if I was partially to blame?
Under Nevada’s comparative negligence laws, plaintiffs who may have been partly at fault in causing a motorcycle crash may still recover damages. In fact, plaintiffs may have a valid legal claim as long as the defendant was at least 50% at fault.9
Example: Ed is driving his motorcycle in Reno when Harry slams into him by accident with his truck after failing to yield right of way. Ed falls off the bike and sustains a cerebral hemorrhage head injury and spinal cord injury requiring extensive medical care (and medical expenses). Ed was not wearing a helmet.
If Ed’s motorcycle accident case goes to trial, the court may find that Ed was partly to blame for his motorcycle accident injuries because he did not wear a helmet as motorcycle riders are to required by law. As long as the court finds that Harry was at least 50% responsible, the injured motorcyclist should get a financial reward. But the judge will reduce this amount in proportion to his percentage of blame.
Accident victims should never presume that they are to blame for an accident until they consult with an experienced attorney. In many cases, an attorney can show that victims had little or no part to play in causing their injuries despite their initial impressions.
Vehicle drivers know that they are in the position of power on the road. So when they hit a motorcycle, they will always try to shift blame by accusing the biker of swerving or speeding. An accident reconstruction expert can help invalidate these claims.
Vehicle drivers may also try to argue that the motorcycle did not meet state standards (such as by the seat being too high or the handlebars being too low). But an equipment violation alone should not shift fault over to the biker unless the violation played a part in the accident (like a broken tail light might).
8. What are the requirements for motorcyclists in Nevada?
To operate a motorcycle in Nevada, bikers must:
- have a current and valid motorcycle license (which requires completing a motorcycle safety course), and
- wear a helmet that meets NHTSA and U.S. Department of Transportation standards, and
- wear goggles or a face shield if there is no windscreen on the motorcycle.
In addition, the motorcycle itself must be equipped with the following:
- Wheel fenders (front and fear);
- Turn signals (front and back);
- Brakes (front and back);
- One to two headlights;
- Rear-view mirrors on the handlebars (with the handgrips below shoulder-level);
- Passenger footrests that are adjustable;
- A rear-mounted reflector visible in low beam lights from no less than 300 feet away;
- Brake lights visible from no less than 300 feet away at any time of day; and
- Taillight that is visible from no less than 500 feet away at any time of day
In Nevada, motorcycle owners are required to carry the following insurance coverage at a minimum:
- $25,000 for bodily harm or fatality for one person in any one incident;
- $50,000 for bodily harm or fatality for at least two people in any one incident; and
- $20,000 for property damage in any one accident.
(This 25/50/20 minimum is the same amount of insurance coverage Nevada law requires for cars.)
Finally, Nevada motorcyclists must abide by the same rules of the road as automobile drivers. Lane splitting is illegal, but motorcycles can ride side-by-side in the same lane.10
Learn more about Nevada motorcycle laws and motorcycle helmet laws (NRS 486.231).
9. How common are motorcycle accidents?
Although accidents involving cars are near all-time lows according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths from motorcycle accidents have never been higher.
In 2013 alone, motorcycle accidents accounted for 30 deaths in Nevada. And in 2016, 5,286 people were killed in motorcycle collisions in the U.S: That is up 5.1% from 5,029 in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to the Nevada Department of Transportation, there were 268 fatal motorcycle crashes in the state between 2014 and 2018. 193 of them occurred in Clark County. And fatal motorcycle crashes represent 19.2% of Nevada’s total fatalities on the roadway.11
Common serious injuries from motorcycle accidents include:
- broken bones
- burn injuries
- organ damage
- traumatic brain injury
- spinal injuries
- other catastrophic injuries
10. What are common causes of motorcycle accidents?
A motorcycle accident may result from one or multiple circumstances. A personal injury attorney’s job is to investigate the matter and uncover all the possible causes and liable parties.
Five common situations that may cause a motorcycle crash include:
- Poorly maintained roads, such as bad traction, loose manhole covers, uneven surfaces, ruts and holes, dips and bumps
- Obstacles on the road, such as mud, debris, water, oil, ice, trash, leaves, gravel, animals, road kills, and pedestrians, etc.
- Inclement weather, especially dust storms, rain, winds, fog, or snow
- Defective vehicles
- Human error, such as being distracted or inexperienced
Meanwhile, ten common traffic violations that result in motorcycles crashes include:
- driving under the influence of alcohol/drunk driving (DUI)
- driving while texting (NRS 484B.165)
- running a red light (NRS 484B.307)
- running a stop sign (NRS 484B.257)
- unsafe passing (NRS 484B.203)
- failure to signal (NRS 484B.413)
- reckless driving (NRS 484B.653)
- failing to use headlights (NRS 484D.100)
- making an improper turn (NRS 484B.400)
11. What should you not do after a motorcycle accident?
Do not admit fault following a motorcycle accident. And do not claim you are uninjured. You could be wrong, and your words could come back to haunt you in a lawsuit.
Instead, take these five steps following a motorcycle crash:
- If possible, move the vehicle out of traffic. Exchange names and insurance information with the other drivers. Call the police if someone was injured or killed.
- Write down all your recollections and photograph your injuries before your memories fade.
- Seek medical treatment, and try never to miss an appointment. Keep a journal of any treatments and how you are feeling.
- Never provide statements to insurance adjusters.
- Contact a personal injury attorney right away.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle or car accident in the state of Nevada, we invite you to call us for a consultation on your personal injury case. Our Las Vegas motorcycle accident attorneys understand how hard it can be to cope after an accident.
Having an experienced Nevada personal injury lawyer at your side can make all the difference. Best of all, our motorcycle accident lawyers take no payment unless and until you receive compensation.
To speak to one of our lawyers, call us or fill out the form on this page. If your case is in California, please see our page on how to file a motorcycle accident lawsuit in California.
Also see our articles on Nevada bike laws, Go-Kart injuries in Nevada, crosswalk laws in Nevada, and pedestrian knockdowns in Nevada.
- Andrews v. Harley Davidson, Inc., (1990) 106 Nev. 533, 537, 796 P.2d 1092, 1095 (“A manufacturer has a duty to design a reasonably crashworthy vehicle. Huddell v. Levine, 537 F.2d 726, 737 (3d. Cir. 1976). In regard to the crashworthiness of a vehicle, once a court or jury determines that a design defect exists misuse precludes recovery only when the plaintiff misuses the product in a manner in which the defendant could not reasonably foresee. See Hughes v. Magic Chief, Inc., 288 N.W.2d 542, 545 (Iowa 1980). Negligent driving of a vehicle is a foreseeable risk against which a manufacturer is required to take precautions. Ford Motor Co. v. Hill, 404 So.2d 1049, 1052 (Fla. 1981). Specifically, it is foreseeable that a plaintiff, who is intoxicated, will drive negligently and get in an accident since intoxication leads to a significant number of accidents yearly. Therefore, evidence of Andrews’ intoxication is not relevant to whether a design defect in his motorcycle was the proximate cause of his injuries.”).
- Zugel v. Miller, (1984) 100 Nev. 525, 527, 688 P.2d 310, 312 (“A second possible theory of liability in this case is that of ‘negligent entrustment’ of a motor vehicle. Under this doctrine, a person who knowingly entrusts a vehicle to an inexperienced or incompetent person, such as a minor child unlicensed to drive a motor vehicle, may be found liable for damages resulting thereby.”).
- NRS 11.190(4)(e).
- NRS 11.220.
- Turner v. Mandalay Sports Entm’t, LLC, (2008) 124 Nev. 213, 180 P.3d 1172.
- Valentine v. Pioneer Chlor Alkali, (1993) 109 Nev. 1107, 864 P.2d 295, 297.
- Yoscovitch v. Wasson, (1992) 98 Nev. 250, 251, 645 P.2d 975, 976 (“In Hamm v. Carson City Nugget, Inc., 85 Nev. 99, 450 P.2d 358 (1969), we held that a liquor vendor cannot be held responsible to third persons for injury or death due to an inebriated driver’s conduct. The proximate cause of the injury is deemed to be the purchaser’s consumption of liquor, rather than its sale.”).
- NRS 42.005.
- NRS 41.141
- NRS 486.231. NRS 486.331; NRS 486.341.
- Motorcycle Crash Facts, ZeroFatalitiesNV.com