What does a motorcycle endorsement mean in Washington State, and why do I need one?

A motorcycle endorsement is a legal requirement in Washington State.Motorcyclists are required to have a motorcycle endorsement to ride legally in Washington State. Getting that endorsement may be a hassle, but motorcyclists who ride without the endorsement put themselves at risk both on the road and off.

What Is an Endorsement?

A motorcycle endorsement is a special designation added to a Washington State driver’s license to certify that an individual has proven they understand how the rules of the road apply to motorcycle riders and that they are competent to ride their motorcycle on Washington’s roads and highways.

The motorcycle endorsement, also referred to as the 2W endorsement, requires a cyclist to pass four tests: two written exams covering motorcycle knowledge and two evaluations of motorcycle driving skills. If a motorcycle rider wants to use a side-car attachment, a stabilizing conversion kit, or a motorized trike, that rider needs to earn their 3W endorsement, which includes a single written exam followed by a single driving test.

Motorcyclists under the age of 18 must earn their endorsement by completing an approved motorcycle safety course and passing the tests at the end of that class. Riders who are older than 18 do not have to take the course and may sign up to take the test at any approved motorcycle training school.

What Are the Penalties for Riding Without an Endorsement?

It is illegal to operate most two- and three-wheeled cycles without an endorsement. Some mopeds do not require one, but it is the cyclist’s responsibility to check whether their vehicle requires an endorsement: any bike or trike with an engine larger than 50cc OR which can travel at speeds above 30 m.p.h. requires the proper 2W or 3W endorsement to operate on the road.

Motorcyclists who are pulled over on vehicles like this without the proper endorsement face a fine of $386 or more; in addition, their scooter, motorcycle, or motor-tricycle can be impounded by law enforcement. Washington State also requires all motorcycle drivers and their riders, even those on vehicles with engines smaller than 50cc, to wear a helmet every time they get on the road.

How Does a Lack of an Endorsement Affect My Personal Injury Claim? 

It is important to remember that Washington is a comparative negligence state, which means that the fault or blame for an accident can be shared between the motorists involved in an accident if it can be shown that the actions of each rider contributed to the accident. Because it is illegal to operate a two- or three-wheeled vehicle without the proper endorsement, investigators could interpret that behavior as negligent. This means that the motorcyclist may be considered partially at fault for the accident because they were driving without proof that they understood motorcycle laws and regulations or evidence of driving competency for their vehicle.

This is especially worrisome for motorcycle riders who were injured in an accident that was caused by another driver, because the lawyers for that other driver will argue in court that their client should not be held liable for the motorcyclist’s injuries because that rider was not properly licensed. Even if the court determines that the motorcyclist was not the primary cause of the accident, opposing lawyers may attempt to use comparative negligence to decrease or eliminate the amount of compensation their client must pay the injured motorcyclist.

In addition, because the injuries sustained by motorcyclists are frequently severe, and therefore expensive to treat, insurance companies may attempt to deny payment to an injured motorcyclist by arguing that driving without a motorcycle endorsement shifts responsibility for the injuries to the motorcycle rider.

What Can I Do If I Have Been Injured Driving a Motorcycle Without the Proper Endorsement?

Do not let traffic investigators, opposing counsel, or an insurance company bully you out of the compensation you deserve. Contact our offices to schedule your free consultation to learn how the legal team at Max Meyers can help you.  When you talk with our staff, be sure to request our free book: Motorcycle Accident Secrets Unlocked to learn more about how to protect your rights as a motorcyclist in Washington State.