Accidents between motorcycles and other vehicles can be devastating. The sheer difference in mass and driver protection often results in serious—and sometimes fatal—injuries for the motorcyclist.
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However, that doesn’t mean that the motorcyclist is never at fault. These kinds of cases can sometimes be very complex. If a car has hit you on your motorcycle, or you have hit a motorcyclist while driving a car, you might have many questions about what comes next. As experts in accident law, we’ve helped many people in similar situations over the years; here are some of the questions we often get.
Who is at Fault in an Accident Between a Car and a Motorcycle?
Given how many variables go into determining fault in an accident, it’s impossible to say which party is at fault without a comprehensive understanding of the particular accident. However, we can discuss general trends and situations in which one party or the other may be at fault.
Sometimes, people assume that the other vehicle is more likely to be at fault than the motorcycle. However, there’s nothing in motorcycle law that guarantees this would be the case. The misperception is likely due to the disproportionate likelihood of fault in two common scenarios: failure to yield the right of way, and unsafe backing. According to a 2019 study of traffic incidents in Indiana, the other vehicle, and not the motorcycle, was at fault in 80.9 percent of accidents involving a failure to yield the right of way and 80.8 percent involving unsafe backing.
These two scenarios have captured the public’s imagination, even though they collectively account for only about a third of accidents involving motorcycles and other vehicles. The motorcyclist is more likely to be at fault when the accident involves improper passing (82.0 percent), unsafe speed (85.2 percent), and driving the wrong way on a one-way road (80.0 percent). Other kinds of accidents, including those caused by following too closely, improper lane usage or turning, being left of center, or unsafe lane movement, tend to be a toss-up, with neither side being at fault more than 65 percent of the time. Overall, motorcyclists are somewhat less likely to be at fault, at 40.8 percent of cases, compared to 57.8 percent for other vehicles.
Can Someone Hurt on a Motorcycle Receive a Settlement?
The truth is that driving a motorcycle is more dangerous than just any other kind of transportation, but that doesn’t mean a motorcyclist waives their legal rights when operating one. If someone on a motorcycle is hurt in an accident involving other vehicles, there’s a good chance they are entitled to compensation based on the damages they’ve received. Both parties may agree to settle to avoid the expense of a trial, but that might not always be the outcome. If the parties can’t agree on a settlement, the case would be determined in court, where fault becomes an important factor.
Determining fault isn’t straightforward in New Mexico, which uses a system known as “pure comparative negligence.” In a pure comparative negligence system, compensation is modified by the percentage of fault that each party holds for an accident. For example, say you were on a motorcycle that was hit by a car, and as a result of the accident, you had $100,000 in property damage, lost wages, and medical bills. A court could determine that you were 30 percent at fault for the accident, which would reduce the amount you received by 30 percent, so the amount you’d be able to collect would be reduced from $100,000 to $70,000.
New Mexico allows people to collect damages even if they were more than 50 percent at fault for an accident. Continuing the above example, if the other party also had $100,000 in damages but was found to be 70 percent at fault for the accident, they would be allowed to collect $30,000 in damages from you, despite owing you $70,000 in damages. Courts in New Mexico tend to assign fault in an 80/20 or 60/40 split, but theoretically, there’s no reason they couldn’t pick another ratio. The only situation when a party is entitled to 100 percent of their settlement is a situation with “clear liability” where the other party is found to be 100 percent at fault for the accident.
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What Happens if the Motorcycle Rider is Not Hurt?
Injuries are common when a motorcyclist is in an accident with another vehicle, so it’s a cause for celebration when that’s not the case. However, both parties must take additional steps to protect themselves legally after such an accident. Even if the motorcyclist is unscathed, there’s still a chance that the other vehicle’s operator has an injury, such as whiplash or trauma from an airbag. And depending on the fault for the accident, the motorcyclist could still be required to pay damages for medical expenses or car repairs. Likewise, the motorcyclist may be entitled to damages for damage to their motorcycle if they were not 100 percent at fault for the accident.
The operator of the other vehicle has similar concerns. Even if the motorcyclist is uninjured, they might owe damages for property damage to the motorcycle. Or they could be injured or suffering property damage of their own. Contacting a lawyer for a motorcycle accident is a great idea to ensure you protect yourself at all stages of the settlement process.
How Kane Helps with Motorcycle Accidents
Ultimately, the law is designed to produce a fair and equitable outcome in accident cases, but that doesn’t mean that the factors influencing a settlement in a motorcycle accident case are simple. Let us be clear–you should hire a lawyer if you find yourself in this situation. Hiring a lawyer for a motorcycle accident is critical to ensure you get the best possible outcome. At Kane Personal Injury, we’ve been helping clients with this problem for nearly 20 years. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today to learn more about where you currently stand and help get peace of mind through the legal process.