Glossary of Motorcycle Accident Terms

Law Tigers and its national network of motorcycle accident attorneys who strive to provide the most comprehensive services to motorcycle riders throughout the nation. Motorcycle laws and terms may not be familiar to some. We have provided a glossary of terms to better acquaint individuals with unfamiliar words and phrases related to motorcycles, motorcycle laws and motorcycle safety.


Bodily Injury Liability Insurance (BI)

BI pays for injuries to other people when the insured vehicle’s driver is legally at fault. For example, this coverage is required in Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana and Wyoming.

Civil Liability

Civil liability is the principal of law that places financial responsibility and other obligations on a defendant. Under civil liability, a defendant who has acted negligently has the responsibility to compensate those injured as a result of the person’s negligence.

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Clutch Lever

Located in front of the left handgrip and is used to connect power from the engine to the rear wheel.

Collision Coverage

This optional coverage pays for motorcycle damage as a result of colliding with another object—a wall, for example. It also can come into play if you hit a pothole that severely damages your motorcycle. This insurance applies only to your motorcycle. It doesn’t cover the object the motorcycle collided with (that’s what your property damage liability insurance is for). According to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 72 percent of insured drivers carry this coverage.

Comprehensive Coverage

Optional coverage pays for your motorcycle when it is stolen or damaged in ways that don’t involve a collision. Examples include: hail damage, glass breakage, fire, vandalism, collision with an animal, flood, earthquakes, falling objects and theft. The cost of comprehensive insurance coverage is affected by the risk of loss, meaning the likelihood that an insured motorcycle will be stolen or damaged, and the motorcycle’s value at the time of the loss. According to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, 77 percent of insured drivers carry this coverage.


A cruiser is a type of motorcycle such as a Harley-Davidson that is low and long. Typically, they are outfitted with low seats, fat rear tires, and raked front forks. Foot pegs are located in an extreme forward position so that much of the road jolts are absorbed by the rear end.

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Cut-Out and Bypass Devices

Cut-out and bypass devices are methods of bypassing the internal exhaust system of a motorcycle (or other vehicle) to divert gasses directly into the atmosphere. Many times, vehicle owners install cut-out or bypass devices on their mufflers in an attempt to make the vehicles go faster. Most states have laws prohibiting the use of such devices, which can greatly increase the release of dangerous emissions directly into the air and make vehicles louder.


Damages is the money awarded to plaintiffs in civil law suits as reparation for injuries or losses suffered as a result of another person’s negligence.

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Designed for long-distance travel, a dresser is also known as a touring bike and is outfitted with a windshield and storage bins.

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A floorboard is a type of foot rest that sits below the engine and is intended to accommodate the rider’s entire foot.

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Friction Zone

Area in the travel of the clutch level that begins where the clutch starts to transmit power to the rear wheel and ends just before the clutch becomes fully engaged.


Handlebars are a motorcycle’s primary control component because it’s the most common way to initiate and control motorcycle lean.

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting, also called “lane sharing,” is the practice of riding a motorcycle between the lanes of traffic used by cars, trucks, and other vehicles, most often on a crowded interstate or freeway. Some states prohibit lane splitting. California is among the few states that allow it, as long as the motorcycle is being ridden in a “safe and prudent manner.”

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Liability Insurance

Protection in case others hold you financially responsible for bodily injury or property losses as the result of a motor vehicle accident. In other words, coverage to protect you in case you cause an accident where there is either physical or property damage to other people. This is a general term that covers both bodily injury (BI) liability and property damage (PD) liability


Efficient turns on a motorcycle begin by approaching the turn wide and following a line that requires the least amount of braking and lean. Typically, a rider taking the proper line will begin a right turn from the left portion of the lane and a right turn from the left portion of the lane.

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Margin of Safety

Maintaining a time/space cushion all around you.

Medical Payments Coverage (MP or Med Pay)

This coverage pays the doctor, hospital bills, and funeral expenses for injuries to you and the passenger on your motorcycle, regardless of who causes the accident, up to the policy limits. Med Pay is sold in states with traditional tort insurance laws. In states where Med Pay is optional, drivers and passengers may choose to rely on their own health insurance to cover medical bills for resulting injuries. Most insurance companies offer a wide range of coverage amounts.

Modulated Headlight

A modulated headlight is a front lamp on a motorcycle that is wired to modulate, or quickly switch back and forth, between the upper and lower beams of the lamp from brightest to a lower intensity. Most states have laws in place regarding how quickly the headlamps may legally modulate.

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Motorcycle License Endorsement

A motorcycle license endorsement is an additional licensing requirement many states impose on riders of motorcycles and other two-wheeled vehicles. In most states, written and road-skills exams must be passed to earn a motorcycle endorsement. License endorsements are also required to legally operate a tractor-trailer, school buses, and tank vehicles, or to otherwise transport hazardous materials. Many states recognize license endorsements that are earned in other states.

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Motorcycle Owners Manual

Best source of information about routine motorcycle maintenance.


Negligence is the failure to utilize the degree of care that is considered to be reasonable and prudent in a given set of circumstances, resulting in property damage or injury or death to another individual.

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The blind spots around trucks that can be avoided by a space cushion.

Overriding the Headlight

When riding at night, the total stopping distance exceeds your sight distance. To reduce risk, keep your speed reasonable for conditions and use lights of vehicles in front of you to help you with visibility.

Pain and Suffering

This term relates to damages that can be recovered to compensate for an individual’s physical or mental anguish resulting from another’s negligent actions.

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Motorcycle panniers (also called saddlebags) are enclosed metal or plastic containers, or leather or fabric bags attached to the motorcycle for stowing cargo.

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A peg is a type of footrest that is often cylindrically shaped and intended to accommodate only a portion of the foot.

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Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

This a package of first-party benefits that provides broad compensation for medical costs, lost wages and loss of essential daily services but if not for the accident, would be provided by the injured person (i.e. babysitter, housekeeper), as well as funeral costs. It is usually associated with a state no-fault auto insurance system.

Property Damage Liability (PD)

This coverage pays for the damage to someone else’s property caused by your vehicle when you are at fault in an accident. Usually it’s covers vehicles or property like buildings, utility poles and garage doors.

Punitive Damages

Court-awarded damages against a defendant intended as a punishment for willful and malicious misconduct to serve as a deterrent against future similar actions.

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Road Rash

Road rash is one of the most common motorcycle accident injuries and a term used to describe cuts, scrapes, burns, and other noticeable soft tissue injuries.

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(Also called a pannier) A saddlebag is a container or pouch that is attached to the rear of the motorcycle and used to stow cargo.

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Spark Arrestor

A spark arrestor is a device designed to keep sparks, small flaming debris, and or other hazards from escaping from the engine of a motorcycle or other vehicle. Most often built into the muffler and made of tightly wound metal gauze, a spark arrestor can also be effective in preventing fiery debris from starting brush fires along the side of roads.

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Statutes of Limitations

Time limits imposed on parties in taking judicial action. In civil matters, statutes of limitations serve to administer a balance of fairness in weighing the competing interests of both plaintiffs and defendants. The plaintiff has a specified amount of time in which to gather evidence, locate an attorney, investigate, and file an action. This timeframe also provides the defendant with some measure of assurance that after a set period of time with no action being brought, he or she will be safe from civil action.

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Third party

In an insurance contract, a third party is anyone other than the policyholder and the family members covered under the insurance policy. The policyholder is the first party. The insurance company is the second party in the contract. Anyone else is a third party.


Right hand grip that controls engine speed.

Twelve Second Rule

Recommended distance to look ahead to identify hazards. This provides the rider with time to prepare for a situation before it becomes immediate.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)

This type of policy pays up to the coverage limits for the insured rider and passenger on the motorcycle when they’re injured as the result of an accident where the at-fault driver is uninsured, underinsured or a hit-and-run situation. This also comes in a second form — Uninsured/Underinsured Property Damage (UMPD) — to cover damage to your motorcycle if hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver. However, most people do not purchase the second form of coverage because they carry collision and comprehensive coverage

Wrongful Death

A wrongful death describes the type of lawsuit filed by the next of kin of an individual who is killed as a result of the negligence of another.

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Consult a Law Tigers Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, consult an experienced Law Tigers motorcycle accident member attorney who can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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