Traffic Q&A: Motorcyclists not required to carry insurance in Washington state

Question: One of my co-workers is a motorcyclist, and he told me that motorcyclists in Washington, if the motorcycle is totally paid for, are not required to have insurance, including liability insurance.

Is this true? Why would a motorcyclist not be required to have — at a minimum — liability insurance?

I’m sure this is going to be surprising to a lot of people if it is in fact true. — Lonnie Scott, Gig Harbor

Answer: Your co-worker is correct. In Washington, motorcycles and mopeds are exempt from the state law requiring that all other registered vehicles have liability insurance.

When the Washington law (RCW 46.30.020) was passed, more than 20 years ago, several states had similar motorcycle exemptions. Now only Montana, New Hampshire and Florida have similar laws.

While Washington does not require motorcyclists to carry insurance, they still must comply with the state's financial responsibility law, which says you need to be financially responsible for damages caused if you’re at fault. And, as your co-worker noted, if the motorcycle owner has a loan for his or her bike, the lender will almost certainly require liability insurance.