According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were roughly 109,000 motorcycle accidents nationwide in 2018 alone. Of these:
- 25,000 resulted in property damage,
- 79,000 resulted in injury, and
- 5,115 were fatal.
Unfortunately, the State of Tennessee is no exception to the widespread occurrence of motorcycle accidents. In 2018, there were 168 motorcycle-accident-related fatalities in Tennessee, accounting for more than 3% of the nationwide total.
Motorcycle laws in Tennessee are put in place to keep riders safe and prevent motorcycle accidents from occurring on TN roads. However, accidents inevitably do occur.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a Tennessee motorcycle accident, contact Flora Templeton Stuart today. Our office is passionate about protecting riders throughout the State of Tennessee, and we will fight to do the same for you.
Motorcycle Laws in TN: An Overview
According to Tennessee law, a “motorcycle” is defined as any motor vehicle that has:
- A seat or saddle for the rider; and
- No more than 3 wheels.
As with other types of vehicles, all motorcycles on Tennessee roadways must comply with certain safety standards.
To meet the basic equipment standards in Tennessee, a motorcycle must have:
- At least one red tail lamp and one red stoplight;
- At least one brake, which may be operated by either hand or foot;
- A rear-view mirror and securely attached footrests; and
- A functional horn capable of emitting sound from a distance of at least 200 feet.
Make sure that your motorcycle meets these minimum requirements before riding on Tennessee roadways.
Additionally, Tennessee law includes multiple safety requirements for motorcycles and their riders to assist in keeping them out of harm’s way:
- A motorcyclist must wear eye protection or have a motorcycle with a windshield;
- Only a single rider is permitted on a motorcycle unless the motorcycle is designed for two people or there is an additional seat firmly attached to the rear or side of the driver’s seat;
- A motorcyclist must have an illuminated headlamp when operating a motorcycle, even in the daytime; and
- Motorcyclists may not carry packages, bundles, or other articles while riding that would prevent the driver from keeping both of his or her hands on the handlebars.
Failure to comply with these rules is not only against the law, it also increases the likelihood of involvement in an accident.
If you have questions about how these TN motorcycle laws may apply to you, or if you were injured in an accident due to another rider’s failure to comply with these provisions, contact Flora Templeton Stuart today.
TN Motorcycle Helmet Law
The driver of a motorcycle, as well as the passenger, must wear a helmet.
However, this law does not apply to passengers who are riding in an enclosed cab, to motorcyclists participating in a parade, or to motorcyclists engaged in a funeral procession.
Tennessee Code section 55-9-302 requires that motorcyclists wear a helmet that meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218.
Per FMVSS 218, a helmet must have:
- An inner liner, usually one inch thick of firm polystyrene foam;
- Sturdy chin straps and rivets;
- Substantial weight, generally around 3 pounds; and
- A design that does not allow anything to extend further than two-tenths of an inch from the surface of the helmet.
Additionally, your helmet should be free from cracks, loose padding, frayed straps, and other obvious defects. It should also be snug and fit securely on your head.
A violation of Tennessee’s helmet law is a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $50 fine. Thus, it is extremely important, not only for your safety, that you comply with Tennessee motorcycle laws at all times.
Tips for Motorists
It is important for drivers of passenger vehicles and trucks to remember that they share the road with motorcycle riders.
Motorcycles are smaller than vehicles and can easily be missed on the roadway. Thus, make sure to always check your mirrors and your blind spots before attempting to change lanes.
Additionally, always use your signals when turning or changing lanes. Be sure to give other motorists plenty of warning when signaling so riders can anticipate your next move and take action to avoid a collision if necessary.
Lastly, make sure to allow plenty of distance between your vehicle and a motorcycle in front of you. This provides you and the motorcyclist more time to react in case of an emergency.
Tips for Riders
Nothing beats the feeling of riding a motorcycle. However, the fact remains that riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. If you are a motorcyclist in Tennessee, make sure to follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of involvement in an accident:
- Follow all safety requirements outlined by Tennessee motorcycle laws;
- Never ride your motorcycle while distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- Make sure your motorcycle license is current and valid;
- Wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet; and
- Always conduct a pre-trip inspection to make sure all of your motorcycle’s equipment is working properly.
The best thing you can do to ensure your safety is to comply with all applicable Tennessee motorcycle laws. But in some scenarios, an accident may occur even if you have done nothing illegal. The above tips can help reduce your liability and prevent potential accidents from occurring.
Tennessee At-Fault Laws
Tennessee is an at-fault state. This means that if another party’s actions caused your accident, you may seek compensation from them for your expenses arising out of the accident.
However, it is also important to note that Tennessee operates under a comparative negligence theory of law.
This means that where two or more parties are responsible for causing an accident, each party will be assessed a percentage of the fault, and damages will be reduced accordingly.
In short, even if another party was more at fault, if you were at least partially responsible, your damages will be reduced according to your percentage of fault in causing the accident.
For example, if you are involved in a motorcycle accident where a passenger car hit you and caused substantial injuries, you may be entitled to recovery. However, if you were not wearing a helmet, you may be partially responsible. Due to your failure to comply with required safety precautions, it could be determined that you were 20% responsible for your injuries. Thus, your own actions would result in a reduction of 20% of the damages you may have otherwise been entitled to. If you are 50% or more responsible for the collision, you may be barred from recovering damages.
Tennessee at-fault laws can be difficult to understand and apply. Flora Templeton Stuart’s motorcycle accident attorneys can help you understand the rules and determine whether and to what extent you can recover.
Should I Hire a Lawyer After a Motorcycle Accident
Hiring a motorcycle accident lawyer has many advantages and ultimately may increase your compensation against the at-fault party. A motorcycle accident attorney can help you:
- Connect with investigators who can determine who may have been at fault in causing the accident;
- Assess and analyze the strength of your legal claims;
- Calculate your available damages;
- Negotiate with opposing parties, attorneys, and insurance companies;
- Draft and file court paperwork; and
- Take your case to trial, if necessary.
So while an attorney isn’t necessarily a requirement in pursuing your claims, hiring one is definitely something you should at least consider.
Flora Templeton Stuart can help you do all these things and more. We have extensive resources and experience that enable us to provide our motorcycle accident clients with high-quality legal representation.
Get Answers to Your Questions
If you or a loved one has been involved in a Tennessee motorcycle accident, now is the time to act.
We continue to maintain a small firm environment while still recovering compensation in over 90% of our personal injury cases. No matter what your case requires, we will fight at each step along the way to get you the compensation you need and deserve.