Who’s at Fault in a California Motorcycle Accident Involving Lane-Splitting?

Crashed Motorcycle on road

The practice of motorcyclists riding between lanes of traffic – also called lane-splitting – has long been a controversial topic, especially in Southern California where motorcyclists frequently lane-split to move past long rows of stalled traffic. But the practice was gaining acceptance across the state a few years back, with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) being given the responsibility to issue guidelines for lane-splitting for motorcycles. That effort to normalize lane-splitting, however, hit complications, and the CHP later chose “not to issue, use or enforce (lane-splitting) guidelines and thus removed them from the website.”

On top of that removal of lane-splitting guidelines, the Department of Motor Vehicles website now states that: “California law does not allow or prohibit motorcycles from passing other vehicles proceeding in the same direction within the same lane, a practice often called ‘lane splitting,’ ‘lane sharing’ or ‘filtering.’”

All of this raises the question of who is at fault in a personal injury lawsuit when a motorcycle accident occurs in a situation involving lane-splitting.

California Looks at the Comparative Negligence of Each Party

In any type of personal injury case following a vehicular accident in California, an injured plaintiff will have to prove that the defendant acted negligently in causing the accident. What this means is that a motorcyclist will have to present enough facts to show that it was more likely than not the case that a car or truck driver failed to exercise the care expected of a reasonable person in the same circumstances, and that the motorcyclist was injured as a result of this lack of care. Examples of careless driving include changing lanes without looking, driving while texting, or driving while intoxicated.

A defendant, however, might argue that an injured motorcyclist was also negligent in his actions in bringing about the accident, and may offer the motorcyclist’s lane-splitting as an example of this negligence. But, in such cases, the motorcyclist can push back against claims of negligence by offering evidence that his own negligence was limited or not a contributing factor to the accident. Even where a motorcyclist was negligent, however, this will not prevent that party from bringing a successful suit against a negligent driver (although damages may be reduced).

Although the CHP guidelines regarding lane-splitting are no longer listed on state websites, some of the practices the CHP had previously recommended may be helpful in establishing you as the motorcyclist were maneuvering safely, including:

  • Traveling at a speed no more than 10 MPH faster than surrounding traffic
  • Avoiding lane splitting when traffic is moving at 30 MPH or faster
  • Splitting between the left-most lanes
  • Being alert to other drivers and sudden changes

Why Contacting an Attorney ASAP After a Motorcycle Accident Is Critical

Motorcycle accidents typically occur in a matter of seconds, and thus collecting and piecing together the evidence that demonstrates that another driver was negligent as well as evidence helpful to combat allegations of comparative negligence is critically important after an accident occurs.

By reaching out to an experienced personal injury attorney skilled at bringing and winning motorcycle accidents as quickly as possible after an accident, your attorney will have better opportunities to collect evidence (including physical evidence, medical evidence, and eyewitness accounts) to support your personal injury claims in pursuit of winning your maximum recovery with minimal delay.  

Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in the Inland Empire

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be eligible to recover the cost of all medical bills, any lost income and reduced earning potential, and the value of the pain and suffering resulting from your accident. The experienced personal injury attorneys at McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP have won hundreds of millions of dollars in recovery for their clients – including a $4.25 million verdict in a motorcycle accident case – and are here to help you win every cent you are owed for your motorcycle accident injuries. Contact us today at (909) 345-8110.

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