Determining Liability After a Car Wreck in Georgia: Motorcycle Driving

Road Rules for Motorcycle Drivers in Georgia


Welcome back to our ongoing discussion of negligence per se, and how this powerful legal concept can combine with the rules of the road to make civil liability simpler and easier to determine.

Normally, establishing liability means proving not only that your opponent hurt you, but that they did so as a result of behaving in a way a reasonable person wouldn’t. Negligence per se is the idea that reasonable people don’t break safety rules, and therefore, if someone hurts you as a result of breaking a safety rule, that person is automatically liable for the damages. In cases where negligence per se applies, it removes the subjective question of what “reasonableness” is, making the issues at hand more clear-cut.

All traffic laws count as safety rules, so breaking any one of them is a basis for negligence per se. Last week, we talked about how negligence per se applies to the traffic statutes surrounding intoxicated driving, OCGA 40-6-253 and OCGA 40-6-391. This week, we’ll go into the statutes governing the use of motorcycles, OCGA 40-6-310 and OCGA 40-6-311.


Motorcycle Seating

Firstly, the driver and any passengers of a motorcycle must be sitting in the motorcycle’s built-in seats, with the driver in front.


(a) A person operating a motorcycle shall ride only upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto; and such operator shall not carry any other person nor shall any other person ride on a motorcycle unless such motorcycle is designed to carry more than one person, in which event a passenger may ride upon the permanent and regular seat if designed for two persons or upon another seat firmly attached to the motorcycle at the rear or side of the operator.


Some motorcycles have one long seat designed for multiple people, some have multiple separate seats, and some have only a one-person seat for the driver. Carrying more people than the motorcycle was designed for, or carrying them in a different way than was intended, is dangerous and illegal.


Steering and Control of a Motorcycle

Most motorcycles have handlebars for steering. In order to drive safely, the driver must be able to hold and operate these comfortably, which is why they’re not allowed to ride backwards, standing up, sidesaddle, or in any other position besides the intended one: astride the seat and facing forward.


(b) A person shall ride upon a motorcycle equipped with handlebars for directional control only by sitting astride the seat, facing forward, and with one leg on either side of the motorcycle.


The driver is also not allowed to carry any cargo in a position that could interfere with their control of the handlebars.


(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle while carrying any package, bundle, or other article which prevents him from keeping both hands on the handlebars.


And in case the above requirement for passengers to sit in designated seats behind the driver wasn’t clear enough, it’s also specifically illegal for a passenger to ride on top of the handlebars or in any other position that could make them harder to use.


(d) No operator shall carry any person, nor shall any person ride, in a position that will interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.


Other Requirements for Motorcycle Drivers

Although the law against driving barefoot is a myth for most motorists, it’s actually true for motorcyclists. Statute 40-6-311 specifically forbids operating a motorcycle barefoot or while wearing only socks.


(e) No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he shall wear some type of footwear in addition to or other than socks.


That’s where the special rules for motorcycles end, however. The related statute, 40-6-310, makes it clear that motorcycle drivers are subject to all the same traffic laws as the drivers of other vehicles.


Every person operating a motorcycle shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this chapter except as to special regulations in this part and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.


This includes traffic laws concerning maintaining a lane. Although common, the practice of “lane splitting” — driving a motorcycle between lanes of traffic along the dotted white line — is illegal in Georgia, and any motorcyclist who causes and accident this way is liable for the damages under negligence per se.


What Damages Can You Recover from a Negligent Motorcycle Driver?

If you’ve been in an accident caused by a motorcyclist who was seated incorrectly, carrying passengers or cargo incorrectly, driving barefoot, lane splitting, or otherwise breaking the law, you’re entitled to compensation for your injuries. This includes your literal, physical injuries, as well as psychological and financial harm. Though the kinds of damage a traffic accident can cause are varied and complex, for the purposes of reaching a settlement, they will be sorted into “special” and “general” damages.


A Special Damages Settlement Protects Your Finances

On a purely monetary level, trying to put your life back in order after an accident can be downright impossible without assistance. The disruption of even a few days without reliable transportation or the ability to work can be disastrous for a family living paycheck to paycheck, and medical debt can quickly annihilate even a hefty savings account. The special damages portion of your settlement is intended to completely stop the downward spiral the accident may have pushed your finances into, and restore you to the position you would have been in had the accident never happened. To make sure your special damages settlement is complete enough to do this, you’ll need to keep a thorough record of every expense and material loss related to the accident. You’ll also need to prove that these losses were the direct or proximate result of the motorcyclist’s negligence. To learn about the difference between direct and proximate cause and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help you establish them in court, click here.


A General Damages Settlement Compensates You for Your Pain

Surviving a serious traffic accident and its aftermath is a traumatic experience, physically and emotionally. Counteracting the financial damage doesn’t make up for that trauma, or for everything you’ll miss out on during recovery, or for the ways in which your life may never be the same again. Of course, a general damages settlement can’t truly make up for these things either, nothing can, but it’s the best tool the law has for honoring your pain and making it as right as it can be. General damages settlements vary widely, even when the survivors’ injuries are nearly identical, because the values of these non-financial losses are so subjective. Having a good lawyer to explain the scope of what you’ve been through can make a big difference in getting you the compensation you deserve.


What If the Motorcyclist Has Killed Someone?

If the accident caused by the negligent motorcyclist was fatal, your legal recourse will take the form of a wrongful death lawsuit instead of a personal injury one. The death of a loved one is the most irreparable loss of all, and the law recognizes the seriousness of this kind of case. To learn about the different rules that come with wrongful death cases and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help, click here.


Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Following your accident with an at-fault motorcyclist, you’ve probably been contacted by that motorcyclist’s insurance company. Maybe the insurance representative tried to convince you to take the blame, or asked you a lot of questions about the accident that made you feel like you had to guess at the answers. Maybe they seemed friendly and helpful and offered you a quick payout to cover your immediate expenses. The good news is, if you’re here, it means you knew enough to worry about agreeing to anything too quickly. Insurance companies exist to take in as much in the form of premiums, and pay out as little in the form of settlements, as possible. They use many techniques to make this happen, including asking trick questions, taking advantage of survivors’ urgent financial needs, and maintaining large legal departments to tear apart legitimate cases. To get the fair compensation you’re legally owed, you need an experienced advocate on your side to the handle insurance representatives for you and argue your case with the same level of expertise the insurance company will be employing against you. Justice can prevail for you and your family, but only if the playing field is even.


How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta

No matter how tight a financial position you’re in after your accident, the Wetherington Law Firm welcomes you to share your story and learn about your options in a free consultation. We believe every case should be decided according to who’s right, not who has the most money, so that’s how we make our decisions about the clients we take.


In order to keep helping the people who need and deserve representation the most, we operate on a contingency basis. That means our only payment comes from the settlements we win for our clients. If we can’t help you safeguard your financial future from the effects of your accident, you don’t owe us a thing.


To get started, just give us a call at 404-888-4444, or reach out through the contact form on the right.



The Wetherington Law Firm Supports Survivors Who Want to Change the World

Are you looking for more than just compensation? Have you chosen litigation as a way of making sure what happened to you never happens to anyone else? We want to help. Maybe your neighborhood isn’t enforcing Georgia’s lane-splitting laws, or maybe a particular make and model of motorcycle has been designed with a dangerously vague capacity limit. Whatever kind of public hazard you’ve identified, we’ll help you leverage your case to solve the problem and protect others from future harm. To learn more about how we’ve done this in the past, reach out and ask any time.








Have you been in an accident caused by a motorcyclist?

The Wetherington Law Firm works on a contingency basis only, which means the only payment we accept is a percentage of the settlements we win for our clients.