Yes, you can collect damages for your motorcycle accident injuries even if you did not have a valid motorcycle endorsement. But like any accident, you can only be compensated if the accident was caused by someone else’s negligence. The lack of a motor cycle endorsement was addressed in the Washington wrongful death case of Holtz v. Burlington Northern Railroad Co., 58 Wn.App 704, 794 P.2d 1304 (1990). In Holtz, the defendants tried to introduce evidence that the motorcycle rider did not possess a motorcycle endorsement; lacking an endorsement, they argued, he should not have been riding and therefore would not have been injured or killed. The Holtz Court concluded, however, that lack of a motorcycle endorsement was irrelevant as to who was negligent and caused the accident.
The reasoning is that possessing an endorsement would not protect you from being injured if the person who hit you was negligent. In other words, having a motorcycle endorsement would not have made the crash less likely to happen. Under the Holtz ruling, the party claiming the relevancy of not having a motorcycle endorsement has the burden of proof. It must show that IF the motorcyclist had an endorsement that the injury WOULD NOT have occurred. In almost all situations this would be extremely difficult to prove.
Nonetheless, possessing a valid motorcycle endorsement is still the law. To get an endorsement you must complete a state-mandated motorcycle safety course or demonstrate your riding competence by passing the knowledge and riding skills tests. For more information, visit the Washington Department of Licensing.