Who pays for damages after a motorcycle accident? California is a pure comparative negligence state, so Shasta County accident victims must prove motorcycle injury liability to receive compensation.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle crash, what does this mean for you? The motorcycle accident attorneys at Reiner Slaughter & Frankel explains how riders obtain compensation for motorcycle injuries.

People Who Cause An Accident Pay for Damages

“Pure comparative negligence” is a legal framework that courts use to decide who must pay for injuries and property damage. In California, everyone who contributes to an accident is at fault. The courts examine the evidence about the cause of a crash to decide how much blame to assign to each person. The amount of blame determines how much compensation each person must pay and can receive.

Imagine a car turning left on a yellow light and hitting a motorcycle coming through the intersection. Whose fault is that collision? If the evidence shows that oncoming traffic was still moving forward and/or the car didn’t have time to safely clear the intersection before the light turned red, the vehicle driver made an unsafe turn and is at fault. If the evidence shows that the motorcycle didn’t stop at the intersection because the rider was speeding and couldn’t stop safely and also couldn’t make it through the intersection before the light turned red, the motorcyclist is at fault.

A court examining the evidence may decide that the auto driver was slightly more responsible for causing the wreck than the motorcycle rider, assigning 60% liability to the vehicle driver and 40% to the motorcycle rider. This allocation of motorcycle injury liability means that the amount of damages each person can collect from the other is reduced by their percentage of fault.

Calculating How Motorcycle Injury Liability Affects Compensation

If the auto driver sustains $20,000 in damages and the motorcycle rider has $40,000 in damages, here’s what happens:

  • Auto driver:
    • 60% liable (driver’s damages are reduced by this amount)
    • Maximum possible compensation driver can receive = $8,000 (40% of total damages)
    • Amount driver’s insurance should pay to motorcycle rider = $24,000 (60% of rider’s damages)
  • Motorcycle rider:
    • 50% liable (rider’s damages are reduced by this amount)
    • Maximum possible compensation rider can receive = $24,000 (60% of total damages)
    • Amount rider’s insurance should pay to auto driver = $8,000 (half of driver’s damages)

Deciding Who’s At Fault In A Motorcycle Accident

In California, for a victim to receive compensation, someone must be found liable in a motorcycle accident. Insurance companies will only pay if they have to, and until someone is found liable, they don’t have to.

That’s why accident victims should consult with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible after a crash. Victims should not even talk to an insurance company before talking with a lawyer. Why? Because insurance companies don’t want to pay. They will highlight any facts that show their insured is not at fault, and they will ignore, downplay, or dispute any facts that show otherwise.

In the example above, a seasoned motorcycle accident attorney would collect evidence and utilize experts to prove that the driver’s turn was unsafe. Evidence might include the following:

  • Information about the timing of the traffic signals, including whether there is a pause between one side turning red and the other side turning green
  • How often each participant drives through the intersection
  • Police reports
  • Eye-witness statements
  • Tire marks
  • Motorcycle and vehicle damage
  • The weather, visibility, and traffic flow at the time of the accident.

Protecting Motorcycle Riders’ Legal Rights After Accidents

Because of the doctrine of “pure comparative negligence,” it may not be enough to build a case showing another driver’s liability. An accident victim may also need to prove that she was not at fault.

Seasoned personal injury lawyers work on both fronts at the same time: they assemble evidence proving the other person’s fault while building a case showing the motorcyclist was not at fault. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer also understands how insurance companies respond to claims. Before they ever speak with a claims adjuster, lawyers prepare their evidence and arguments.

Shasta County’s safety lawyers at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel offer a free, no-obligation consultation for accident victims. Get their advice before you talk to your insurance company. If you were hurt in a motorcycle accident, contact them today.