What Are Washington State's Motorcycle Helmet & Insurance Laws?

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In 2019, the Washington state legislature passed a new law regarding motorcycle insurance requirements for riders in the Evergreen State. Effective July 28, 2019, motorcyclists are now required to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance coverage as well as proof of that insurance coverage whenever they are on the road. 

Once upon a time, motorcyclists were exempted from Washington state insurance laws requiring all motorists to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance coverage. Regardless of the recent changes to these laws, it is always a good idea to have insurance coverage to protect yourself or someone else in the event of a motorcycle accident.

Liability insurance coverage is especially important if you own a home or have other assets that you wish to protect. If you cause an accident and you don’t have insurance, the injured party may seek compensation which could put you and your loved ones at financial risk.

Aside from purchasing auto liability insurance, other ways to prove financial responsibility include certificate of deposit of $60,000 or liability bond of $60,000 (RCW 46.30.020). If you purchase the motorcycle on loan, the lender might require that you have liability insurance. 

What Are The Types Of Motorcycle Insurance Coverage?

Now that it is mandatory to purchase motorcycle insurance, motorcyclists should consider purchasing at least the minimum amount of liability insurance coverage (which covers damages you cause to other people or property) required for automobiles:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury of one person per accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury for two or more people per accident
  • $10,000 for injury to or destruction of  property of others per accident

Typically, $25,000 does not go very far in a personal injury case that involves serious injuries. If the accident is severe, half of this amount may go towards the first ambulance ride and medical stay in the emergency room. Since $25,000 usually is not adequate in a severe auto or motorcycle accident, it is important to consider purchasing higher policy limits.

As mentioned earlier, liability coverage only provides coverage to other people in the event you are responsible for causing an accident that results in bodily injury or property damage. You may also purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to help cover your own medical costs and wage lost after an accident.

Similarly, if you are hit by a driver who is uninsured or underinsured, it is imperative to have UIM/UM coverage. Typically, motorcyclists are injured severally in an accident and the state’s minimum policy limit of $25,000 will not cover the injuries, wage lose, and non-economic damages. Without having insurance, you put you and your loved ones in financial risk. It is also crucial to be aware that insurers are permitted to exclude losses from those operating motorcycles from their insurance policies. 

What About Your Proof Of Insurance?

In order to comply with Washington state law, all motorcyclists must carry proof of insurance card while riding. This way, if you are involved in an accident, you have all of the information that you need to exchange with the other party involved in the accident.

Typically, proof of insurance cards are mailed to policyholders by the insurer. However, you may also download copies of these cards and print them out or save them on your smartphone or other devices. Just be sure you have some form of proof of your insurance policy on your person while you ride.

What Are Motorcycle Endorsements In Washington State?

As is now the case with liability insurance, having a motorcycle endorsement is a requirement for all of those who wish to ride in Washington state. The endorsement demonstrates that the rider has at least minimal skills and knowledge regarding safe motorcycle operation. In 2007, Washington State adjusted its vehicle code to allow law enforcement officers to impound motorcycles of unendorsed riders. This was enacted to mandate riders get their endorsements as well as penalize the drivers who are unendorsed.

There are two ways that a motorcyclist can get their endorsement:

  • Pass the knowledge and riding skills test at an approved motorcycle training school. Once you pass the knowledge test, you may apply for an instruction permit. After you pass the knowledge and riding tests, you may bring your score sheet to any driver licensing office within one year of passing the test to get your motorcycle endorsement.
  • Complete and pass a motorcycle safety course at an approved motorcycle training school.

Motorcyclists have more strict regulations to comply with than drivers do. These regulations include: motorcycle endorsement, required eye protection and helmet use, maximum handle height, maximum volume, and random, periodic safety inspections. Riders are allowed to side two abreast, however lane splitting with a motor vehicle is prohibited. 

Call For A Free Consultation

If you or a loved one are ever injured a motorcycle accident, it is important to understand your legal rights before you try to negotiate a settlement with the insurance companies. In fact, it may be in your best interests to consult with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer before you speak to any insurance adjusters to make sure your rights are protected. 

The attorneys at Davis Law Group have decades of experience handling serious motorcycle accident claims and can help you better understand your legal rights, as well as whether you may benefit from hiring a lawyer. Call our office in Seattle at (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page to request a free legal consultation. 

Chris Davis
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Christopher M. Davis is principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.