Liability in Motorcycle Accidents

Because motorcycles are smaller than cars, only have two wheels and do not protect the driver with boundaries or an enclosure like a vehicle does, motorcycle drivers are at a higher risk when an accident occurs. Motorcycle accidents are more dangerous and the injuries can be more serious and often are.

This is due to the risks of driving a motorcycle on a road or freeway, which include less visibility to other cars, less stability and the lack of a physical barrier to protect the motorcyclist from other vehicles. Liability is determined by the standard of negligence. Was the accident caused by the motorcyclist’s action or inaction or in other words did the motorcyclist not act in a reasonable manner? Or was the accident caused by a truck or car that was negligent, did not see the motorcycle or failed to drive safely or properly in some other manner?

The determination is usually made in the first instance if for example one of the parties did not stop at a stop sign which would constitute a California Vehicle Code citation. A violation of a vehicle code citation automatically raises the assumption or inference of negligence and is legally called “negligence per se.”

In either event, either the motorcyclist will be found negligent or the driver of the other vehicle (truck, bicycle, car). In some rare occasions, both drivers can be said to be comparatively at fault. Perhaps, the motorcyclist did not put his signal on and so would be allocated 20% at fault while the driver of the vehicle was driving at such an unsafe speed (in violation of vehicle code section 22350) that he would have been unable to stop in any event and therefore deserves 80% allocation of fault. These are arguments the insurance company’s adjuster and your attorney will undertake and rehash in determining liability, especially where it is questionable.

It all depends on the factual circumstances of the accident, whether any laws were violated, whether there is a police report citing either party, whether there are witnesses, who was injured and to what extent and so on. Many considerations will be made and all of the factual scenarios will be reviewed by your attorney. For example, if a party did or did not have car insurance is also an important consideration. If a driver of a motorcycle is involved in a personal injury accident and did not have proper or effective insurance coverage, then his recovery in a legal case can be limited monetarily even if he was found to not be at fault or liable for the accident. When an injured party who was not negligent or liable does not carry insurance or the insurance was for some reason not in effect during the date of loss, the injured party can be limited in terms of his or her financial recovery against the negligent driver’s insurance company. This means pain and suffering money damages could be excluded and usually are, unless the insurance company is unaware of the coverage issue.

It is important to consult with an attorney if you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, either as the driver of another vehicle or as the motorcyclist yourself.