Motorcycles are common sights throughout California. Some people like the fact that they are small and efficient. Others enjoy motorcycles for leisure and recreation. Whatever the case may be, the reality is that any motorcycle is inherently dangerous due to the simple fact that these vehicles offer no physical protection to their operators and passengers when motorcycle accidents occur.
A typical passenger car has an enclosed metal shell and frame designed to not only absorb crash impact forces but also shield the vehicle’s occupants from harm. A motorcycle has no such safety features, nor does it have any of the basic safety features found in most commercial passenger vehicles such as safety belts or airbags. All motorcycle operators must acknowledge this clear safety risk, especially those who wish to take their children for motorcycle rides as passengers.
Is It Legal for Kids to Ride on the back of Motorcycles in California?
Surprisingly, there is no minimum age requirement for children to ride motorcycles in California, but the state upholds several requirements for eligibility to ride. As long as a child meets these criteria, they are legally permitted to ride on motorcycles. Some of these requirements apply to motorcycle operators and the features their bikes must include. These are:
- The motorcycle must have both operator and passenger footrests. It is essential that motorcycle owners ensure their footrests are both properly installed and acceptable under state law.
- The child must be tall enough to reach the motorcycle’s passenger footrests. While the state does not set an exact minimum age to ride, any child who rides a motorcycle must be able to comfortably reach the passenger footrests while seated in the motorcycle’s passenger seat. The accepted minimum height for a child motorcycle passenger is typically four feet and nine inches.
- Children who ride motorcycles must wear appropriately fitted safety helmets. The US Department of Transportation sets guidelines for appropriate safety helmets, and parents should consider these guidelines carefully when choosing head protection for their children.
- The motorcycle owner must install an appropriate child restraint system on their bike to provide additional security to a child passenger.
- Child passengers on motorcycles must wear appropriate motorcycle gear, including a heavy leather jacket, safety gloves, closed-toe footwear, and long pants.
As long as a motorcycle operator ensures these criteria are met, it is technically legal for a child to ride on a motorcycle as a passenger. However, experts across multiple fields agree that it is always safest to refrain from taking children as passengers on motorcycles whenever possible. Despite the fact that motorcycles can be very fun to ride, the fact remains that they are some of the most inherently dangerous vehicles on the roads, especially for small children.
Potential Injuries From Motorcycle Accidents
Parents must understand the risks of a motorcycle accident when it comes to child passengers. A motorcycle accident can cause severe or even deadly injuries to an adult rider, so a child will likely suffer even more catastrophic injuries. Motorcycle accidents commonly cause severe injuries, including:
- Bone fractures, including compound fractures that must be treated surgically and often result in long-term or permanent nerve damage. Even mild bone fractures can be incredibly painful and require long recovery times. While children are generally better able to recover from bone fractures, severe fractures can potentially cause long-term medical complications.
- Spinal injuries. The human spinal cord cannot repair itself after sustaining severe damage. Some spinal injuries result in limited mobility or loss of sensation, while more severe spinal injuries can lead to paralysis and complete loss of control over bodily functions. Children who suffer spinal injuries could face lifelong disability as a result.
- Traumatic head injuries, which are far more likely to be deadly when riders do not wear appropriate helmets. A traumatic brain injury can be fatal in some cases or cause long-term medical complications in others. Even a concussion can potentially cause a host of symptoms that may not immediately appear after the injury.
- Friction burns, scrapes, cuts, and bruises. Falling from a motorcycle in an accident, even at low to moderate speed, will likely result in the riders sustaining multiple injuries from striking and sliding along the road surface. Some of these injuries may not be life-threatening but still cause massive damage and permanent disfigurement.
It is easy to see how any of these injuries could easily be devastating to an adult motorcyclist, so a child riding as a passenger is even more vulnerable to severe or fatal injuries in a motorcycle accident.
What Happens If My Child Is Injured by Another Driver as a Motorcycle Passenger?
In the event another driver causes an accident with your motorcycle while your child is riding as a passenger, any and all injuries resulting from the incident would be grounds to take legal action against the at-fault driver. When your child has suffered severe injuries, it is essential to know your rights when it comes to the damages you could claim through a motorcycle accident lawsuit.
First, personal injury plaintiffs in California have the right to claim compensation for any and all medical expenses incurred as the result of another party’s negligence. This includes both immediate medical expenses and anticipated future medical bills. A child who suffers severe injuries in a motorcycle accident is very likely to experience long-term damage on some level.
Lost income is another commonly cited loss in personal injury claims. If a motorcycle accident victim cannot work due to their injuries, they can sue for wages lost while they recover or lost future earnings if they are left unable to work. If a child suffers catastrophic injuries and requires constant in-home care following the accident, a parent may need to give up their job to provide this care, and they would likely have grounds to claim their lost earnings as damages.
A personal injury claim can also allow a plaintiff to recover property damages such as the cost of replacing a destroyed motorcycle. Property damages, lost income, and medical expenses generally form the economic damages available in a personal injury claim. It is also possible to secure additional damages under California state law.
Pain and Suffering and Punitive Damages in Motorcycle Accident Claims
California state law acknowledges that personal injury victims’ experiences are worth compensation when they have suffered physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional suffering due to the actions of other parties. While “pain and suffering” sound like it would be difficult to assign a monetary value, courts use various methods to determine the best way to compensate a plaintiff’s pain and suffering. In most cases, the court awards an amount that reflects the plaintiff’s total economic damages, the potential for permanent damage, and the severity of their experience.
When a child suffers catastrophic injuries in a motorcycle accident, the child’s parents will likely be emotionally devastated while also reeling from the incident’s financial impact. If another driver caused the accident in question due to gross negligence, driving under the influence, or some other type of dangerous behavior, the plaintiff should expect substantial compensation if they succeed with their claim. Additionally, if the defendant’s behavior was far outside the realm of typical negligence or criminal in any way, the court may award punitive damages. These damages would be in addition to their other damages.
Avoiding Accidents With Children as Passengers on Motorcycles
The potential consequences of a motorcycle accident with a child passenger can easily be nothing short of devastating for the victims and their loved ones. If you own a motorcycle in California and want to take your child for a ride, you must acknowledge the serious risks you face, even when you drive as safely as possible. No one can anticipate all the actions other drivers can possibly take at any given time.
If you want to take your child for a ride on a motorcycle, it is first necessary to ensure your motorcycle and the child meet the state’s requirements for children riding as motorcycle passengers. Next, ensure you have all the appropriate safety gear for the child passenger and that everything fits correctly.
When it comes to taking your child for a ride, try your best to stick to quieter streets and avoid busy roads and highways as much as possible. It is generally not a good idea to take a child as a motorcycle passenger for a long-distance trip. The safest option is ultimately to refrain from taking young children as passengers on a motorcycle whenever possible.
Taking Legal Action for a Motorcycle Accident
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident while a child was riding as your passenger, it’s likely the child suffered injuries as well. If another party caused your accident, it is essential to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. An experienced motorcycle accident injury attorney can help you determine your best avenue for legal recourse that is most likely to secure the compensation your family needs to recover as wholly as possible. The sooner you connect with a reliable motorcycle accident attorney, the better your chances will be of securing a recovery for your losses.