Who Caused Your Motorcycle Accident -- And How Does It Affect Your Case?

Posted on: 9 March 2016

No matter how confident you feel on your motorcycle, the prospect of getting into an accident probably makes you cringe. But once it occurs, you have to know how the situation is likely to play out in court, which in turn hinges on whose fault the accident was. Here are some of the ways in which fault can impact the proceedings.

When It's Your Fault

Hitting a car or pedestrian with your motorcycle can be an absolute nightmare. In addition to your own injuries and medical expenses, you may be sued for the other party's medical expenses, lost wages or pain and suffering. You first instinct might be to accept the blame out of sheer guilt -- and that can be a big mistake. There's always the possibility that the plaintiff isn't being completely honest, in which you could be agreeing to wreck your financial future needlessly.

Even if you clearly caused the accident, your motorcycle accident attorney may be able to uncover hidden truths that undermine the plaintiff's claim. For instance, it might come out in court that the injuries displayed by the plaintiff actually pre-date the accident, or that they aren't really debilitating enough to cause permanent loss of income. Expert medical witnesses, hospital documentation and other supporting statements can help you summon the strongest possible defense.

When It's Another Driver's Fault

In the majority of motorcycle accidents that involve a second motorist, the second motorist is to blame. In fact, a whopping two-thirds of these incidents are directly caused by the motorist failing to yield the right of way to the motorcyclist. But establishing the other driver's liability may not be as cut and dried a process as you think. You'll need strong evidence to back you up, including:

  • The official police report, especially if it notes that the driver was cited for speeding, reckless driving, failure to stop or some other moving violation
  • Photographs or video taken at the scene of the accident 
  • Contact information for as many eyewitnesses as you can gather
  • Your salvaged helmet from the accident, which at least proves that you were wearing proper safety gear

When It's Both Parties' Fault

What if both you and another driver share the blame for your motorcycle accident? For example, if both of you were committing a moving violation that contributed to the outcome, then your ability to collect damages will depend on how much of the blame you shoulder. The two principal types of shared liability are contributory negligence and comparative negligence. Contributory negligence is an all-or-nothing proposition -- if you're found to be even 1 percent responsible for the accident, you can't collect a penny from the other driver. Comparative negligence reduces your award by the percentage of fault you assume in the accident. For example, if the judge finds that you were 30 percent responsible for what happened, you can only collect 70 percent of what you're asking for.

Which system you're subject to depends largely on which state you're in. North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Alabama and Washington D.C. are the only parts of the country currently enforcing the contributory negligence rule. But comparative negligence can take a variety of forms in the other states. For instance, 33 states use a modified comparative fault system with a "bar rule" that prohibits you from collecting damages if you're either 50 percent or 51 percent at fault. Other states have adopted their own individual variations. Your motorcycle accident attorney can brief you on what you actually stand to collect in a comparative fault scenario.

When It's the Motorcycle's Fault

It's quite possible to suffer a catastrophic motorcycle accident under perfect riding conditions, with no hazardous obstacles in the road, a beautifully maintained bike, no errors on your part and no collision with another vehicle. In some cases the motorcycle itself can fail in some unexpected manner that causes a crash. If you've always taken good care of the bike, then a mechanical defect may have caused your current misery. The two basic types of defects in such scenarios are:

  • Design defects - A critical error in the design of the motorcycle that makes it prone to mechanical failure, handling problems or other hazards
  • Manufacturing errors - The use of defective parts, errors made during the construction process or damage incurred during shipping

Any of these failures can be grounds for filing a product liability claim, but first you have to conclusively identify the guilty party. Was it the parts manufacturer, the maker of the motorcycle, the warehouse that shipped the motorcycle to the retailer or some other specific entity? Your motorcycle accident attorney can advise you as to what kind of detective work needs to be done to gather the necessary evidence to support your claim.

Wiping out on your motorcycle is bad enough without getting wiped out by the subsequent court proceedings. Consult a motorcycle accident attorney in your area today to determine how the issue of fault is likely to influence your case!


Always Know Your Renter's Rights

After my mother suffered a fall on the icy steps of her apartment building, I learned a lot about renter's rights, and I want to share my story and tips to help others. My mother was extremely afraid to pursue action against the apartment owners who were at fault for her fall due to fear she would be kicked out of her apartment. I found out that there are state laws that protect apartment renters from retaliation for asserting their rights as renters. However, it is very important to have any attorney on your side when you pursue a personal injury lawsuit against an apartment owner; the owner is less likely to even try to illegally evict you if they know you have an attorney already on your side. I hope you can learn a lot from my story and the other tips I share on this blog!