Despite making up about 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S., motorcycles accounted for close to 14 percent of traffic-related fatalities. Most accidents are usually a result of negligence on the side of the motorist. Other causes of motorcycle accidents include speeding, drugged or drunk driving, and failing to check blind spots.
Regardless of the cause, seeking compensation after a motorcycle accident is crucial. To do this, you have to single out the party that is liable for the accident. With the help of a competent personal injury attorney, an in-depth investigation can be done to determine fault.
Determining fault in the accident will help you tell who will be financially liable for losses or injuries brought by the accident. It’s usually done in the following ways.
The Evidence is Key
Evidence is an important element in proving fault or negligence in a motorcycle accident. You must record details about the accident and collect relevant evidence to support your claim.
The other driver’s insurance adjuster will be keen on what you provide to prove that you were injured or suffered losses in the accident. So, the pieces of evidence may include the following:
- Eyewitness statements
- The police report
- Personal notes on the accident
- Surveillance camera footage
- Your bike and helmet
- Hospital bills (if you sought medical treatment) and other accident-related financial information such as proof of lost income
- The protective gear and clothes you wore during the accident
- Your insurance company’s policy information (particularly the amount of money covered by your liability coverage)
While the police report won’t decide or mandate who is at fault, it’s an important piece of evidence. It may capture the directions both vehicles traveled in and the officer’s opinion on the cause of the accident, which can help reconstruct the accident. You may need the report to show that the other driver violated a traffic law and was arrested or cited for doing so.
The Insurers Decide
It’s important to note the differences between traditional vehicle insurance and motorcycle insurance. While vehicle insurance covers passengers involved in a crash, you will need additional coverage on your motorcycle insurance for the same. Your insurer may also require you to buy additional coverage for any custom or additional features added to your bike.
Though it’s continuing to be easier to file an insurance claim, negotiating with the insurance companies is quite a struggle. Most insurers have algorithms to help assess the damage brought by the accident.
Once you file a claim with the help of your motorcycle accident lawyer, the outcome will come from what the insurers decide. For instance, collision coverage allows you to file a claim for motorcycle damage.
Your insurance provider may seek restitution from the insurance provider covering the other motorist. They will also ask for a reimbursement in the motorcycle accident claim, allowing you to get a deductible refund.
Arbitration always comes in handy when it’s difficult for motorists, insurers, or police to determine fault. You may choose this procedure to identify the responsible driver without stepping foot in court. The arbitrator should be neutral to determine the percentage of fault for each motorist.
One reason you may want to consider arbitration is to solve an issue that’s difficult to agree on. In this case, a private arbitration company may be hired. The arbitrator will look at the scale of damage and the party that is at fault.
Thanks to its transparent process, arbitration minimizes the number of personal injury lawsuits. It makes the compensation-seeking process to be less costly and tiresome for insurers.
California Law and Comparative Fault in a Motorcycle Accident
As a motorcyclist, you have the same responsibilities and rights on the road as other motor vehicle drivers. But in California, the law acknowledges that motorcyclists can drive in ways different from motorists since motorcycles are quite maneuverable and smaller. Some of these ways include lane splitting or lane sharing.
Lane splitting is the act of riding a motorcycle in between two traffic lanes. Since it is quite dangerous if you are inexperienced, most states (apart from California) deem this practice illegal.
You can seek compensation against the liable party when you suffer damages from a motorcycle crash. However, fault will be apportioned to the parties involved. To be precise, the court will assign each driver a percentage of fault in what is referred to as comparative fault.
More insights on how comparative fault applies to accident liability claims are broken down in Civil Code Sections 1431 through 1431.5 of the California law. These sections discuss that you can get compensation even if you are partially to blame for the accident.
And during the claim proceedings, you can prove the other party’s fault, and the other party can argue against your claims with evidence. The key here is that courts assign each party a percentage of fault depending on the evidence provided.
A Jury Decides
If the case proceeds to court, a jury will determine fault for motorcycle accidents. Unlike an arbitrator, a jury’s decision is usually considered final. This means that even the Supreme Court has no power to change the decision.
Only a few claims involving motorcycle accidents make it to a jury trial. This is because it’s quite time-consuming and costly to try the case in front of a jury. In this case, most settlements are made before trial unless they involve a lot of medical expenses or damages.
Comparative negligence law helps guide the court when determining fault. Expect the court to apportion blame to each party. For instance, if the other motorist is 80 percent responsible for the accident, they will pay four-fifths of your damages. You may also be sued for causing 20 percent of the accident.
Need Legal Help on a Motorcycle Accident?
Determining liability after a motorcycle accident can help if you want to seek compensation. You will have to figure out the party responsible for the damage, as discussed in this guide.
While it’s difficult to fully prepare for an accident, hiring a lawyer can help you handle the legal outcomes of the crash. South Bay Accident Lawyers will help you know your options and get compensation. Book your free accident consultation now.