Compared to cars and trucks, motorcycles are unique. Riders enjoy a better field of vision and more flexibility in traffic, but they’re also harder to see and more vulnerable to road hazards and climatic conditions.
Because motorcyclists are exposed to dangers not met by other drivers, insurance laws that govern them are different. Laws pertaining to helmets, protective gear, driver training, and licensing are just a few examples. And laws do vary from state to state, so it’s important to consult with an attorney regarding laws applicable to your particular state.
Determining fault or liability for a motorcycle accident
Determining liability can depend upon a blend of factors, including weather, road conditions, speed, and driver impairment, and your state’s “fault” laws.
- No-fault state: If yours is a “no-fault” state, the law isn’t concerned with who caused the accident. It’s your responsibility to be adequately insured, and to file a claim with your own insurance company after an accident. No-fault states also limit your ability to sue other drivers for damages.
- Fault-state: If your accident occurred in a state that does take fault into consideration, there are some caveats. If another driver is at fault, you have to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. The insurance company may conduct a review and make a determination about “comparative negligence,” which means damages may be shared between parties involved, based on the degree or percentage of each party’s fault. Be aware, however, that if you are deemed responsible for over 50% of the accident, you may not be able to recover damages from other drivers or their insurance company.
Special considerations for motorcycle riders
Recovering damages if you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of the accident
The amount you’re able to recover may be limited, if it can be demonstrated that your failure to wear a helmet contributed to your injuries. However, your failure to comply with a state-mandated helmet law does not necessarily preclude you from recovering damages if someone else was proven liable for the accident.
Liability for manufacturing defects
If there was a demonstrable deviation from the intended design when the motorcycle was being assembled, and this deviation rendered the motorcycle dangerous in some way, a manufacturer may be held liable.
The majority of motorcycle accidents involving other vehicles are caused by the other driver violating the motorcycle’s right of way – usually because the driver didn’t see the cyclist. As a rider, you are a smaller visual target and are often obscured by other vehicles or weather conditions. Look for new crash avoidance technologies such as full-range sensors, solar-powered reflective clothing, and ‘intelligent’ (adaptive) lights.
Get help when you need it
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, seek medical treatment immediately if necessary. Then, consider contacting an experienced motorcycle attorney to review your claim for free. A specialized attorney can help you understand the merits of your case, protect your legal rights, and seek fair compensation.