Understanding Comparative Fault in Motorcycle Accident Cases

Understanding Motorcycle Accident Cases

Determining fault in motorcycle accidents can make or break a case. Motorcycle accident lawyers often need to overcome a jury’s inherent bias against a motorcycle rider to secure compensation from insurance companies and help their clients cover medical bills and other accident expenses. 

But what if both the motorcycle rider and the driver were partly at fault? Here’s what you need to know about comparative fault in a motorcycle accident case.

What Is Comparative Fault?

Comparative fault is the court’s method for determining what percentage of fault each party shared in contributing to the motorcycle crash. For example, if a motorcyclist waited at a four-way stop, then proceeded as expected through the intersection when an SUV driver blew through their stop sign and struck them, the SUV driver would be 100% at fault.

However, if the biker made a rolling stop through the intersection when the SUV driver blew through the stop sign, both parties would share some percentage of fault. The court may decide that the SUV driver was 70% at fault while the motorcycle rider was 30% at fault.

Different states have different laws regarding compensation and negligence. Most states allow injured parties to claim some form of compensation for their injuries if they were not the main contributor to the motorcycle crash.

Pure Contributory Negligence

Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia are pure contributory negligence states, along with Washington, D.C. If you are even 1% at fault for the accident, you cannot recover any compensation for your injuries. 

In an example where the motorcycle rider is 30% at fault, they would not be eligible for any compensation for injuries sustained in the accident in pure contributory negligence regions.

Pure Comparative Negligence

In pure comparative negligence states, no matter the division of fault, parties can recover for their damages minus their percentage of fault in motorcycle accidents. The court calculates the total award for the value of the case, then subtracts the amount that the party was responsible for to determine the final award.

For example, if the motorcycle rider had $100,000 in damages, but was 30% responsible, they would win $70,000 in a comparative negligence state.

Modified Comparative Negligence

In modified comparative negligence states, riders only qualify for compensation if they were less than 50% or less than 51% at fault, depending on the state. The language in some states restricts damages if the plaintiff and defendant are equally at fault, while others state that the plaintiff cannot be more at fault than the defendant.

In either case, the motorcycle rider would still be able to collect compensation while 30% at fault, and the SUV driver would not be able to collect any compensation with 70% of the fault for the accident.

When Might a Motorcycle Rider Be at Fault for a Motorcycle Crash?

If a motorcyclist performs an action that contributes to the motorcycle crash, they could be partially at fault for the accident. In the example above, the motorcycle rider didn’t fully stop at the stop sign. Had they fully stopped, the SUV driver may not have hit them when the SUV blew through their stop sign.

Other instances of fault could include:

  • Riding under the influence
  • Failing to yield
  • Speeding or driving recklessly
  • Lane splitting
  • Riding a motorcycle with a known defect

Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? Call Law Tigers

Motorcycle accidents can cause serious injuries. If you need consultation with a motorcycle accident, contact our motorcycle accident lawyers across the country. Call Law Tigers at 888-863-7216 for a free case evaluation.