Shared Fault in Motorcycle Accidents

If you’re in a motorcycle crash, the scary truth is you are likely going to be left with grave injuries. In 2020, 45% of motorcycle accidents resulted in more than just a minor injury, meaning that the rider was faced with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in medical bills. For those motorcyclists who survive accidents with cars or collisions with fixed objects, they have a long road to recovery that will be paved with surgeries and therapy. 

The first question when you realize the cost of your motorcycle accident is, how am I going to pay for this? In basic personal injury law, the person who is liable for the accident is therefore liable for your injuries and the costs to treat them. 

Many people assume that the less injured person, in these cases, the person in the car, is liable for the injured party’s medical bills. However, that’s not always the case. 


Your settlement amount is a reflection of how many damages you have suffered as a result of the accident. These can be physical damages, such as damage to your bike and medical bills, or intangible damages, such as lost wages if you cannot work while recovering from your injuries. 

A list of damages from motorcycle accidents is included below:

  • Property damage
  • Medical bills 
  • Mental anguish 
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future earning capacity 

When you hire an attorney, they will examine your situation and seek out the help of experts, such as psychologists and mechanics, to assign a number to your damages. They will then argue that the other party should compensate you for these damages.

Liability in Motorcycle Crashes

Liability in most motorcycle crashes is governed by the concept of “negligence.” In California injury law, someone is negligent when they act in a thoughtless or careless manner that most people would avoid, and their lack of care results in the injury of another person. Motorists should pay attention to the road and make decisions that keep those safe around them. If they aren’t reasonably careful and cause an accident, most injury attorneys will argue that they are at fault for injuring the other party.

In many traffic accidents, negligence is to blame. When someone is riding a motorcycle and has minimal protection against collisions, they are often the one to pay for this mistake. That’s why all motorcycle crash victims are advised to hire a motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible after their accident.

The driver may have shown negligence by doing something that is outright illegal, such as running a red light, or something that is good driving practice, like checking their mirrors before making a left-hand turn.

Negligence for Motorcyclists

Every person on the road, whether they are a motorcyclist, bicyclist, pedestrian, or motorist, is required to exercise a reasonable care to keep themselves and others safe. 

Examples of conduct that might be determined to be “negligent” include:

  • Speeding
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Driving while fatigued
  • Disobeying traffic signals, such as failing to yield or running a stop sign
  • Driving a bike that you know is defective, such as faulty brakes or headlights
  • Using a cell phone 

It’s possible that the motorcycle rider was acting with negligence in any traffic collision. If they were intoxicated while on the road, which constitutes almost 36% of fatal motorcycle accidents, they are unable to make the sudden decisions that are required for safe riding. The inebriated biker might have swerved in front of a car, causing an accident, or their reflexes might have been too impaired to stop behind a car that was pausing for pedestrians, resulting in a rear end motorcycle accident in California. In both of these situations, the motorcyclist rider can be at fault for the accident. 

Accidents are not always cut and dry, and insurance agencies have to conduct investigations in order to establish fault. In California, shared fault laws muddy the waters even more. 

California Laws Regarding Negligence

Something that distinguishes California courts from other states are our shared fault laws, which make settlements more difficult to configure. Under California’s shared fault laws, the defendant can make the argument that the injured party is also to blame for causing the crash.

In California, traffic accident compensation is not an either-or situation; instead, the courts follow the doctrine of “pure comparative negligence,” where both parties can share some percentage of fault. In basic terms, the size of your settlement will be reduced depending on how much at fault you were. 

For California’s shared fault rule, each party is given a percentage of liability for the accident, and this percentage directly affects the total amount of damages they have to pay. Pure comparative negligence assigns a percentage that will be converted into a dollar amount depending on the total cost of damages from the accident. 

If you are in a traffic accident where a driver parallel parked on the shoulder opened their door and caused you to collide with it, the accident would not have happened had they taken the extra time to see if someone was riding past. However, as a motorcyclist, you should drive down the center of your lane, given parked cars the extra few feet to open their doors without worry. The collision would have been prevented had the driver checked over their shoulder and the motorcyclist had driven further from the edge of the road. Under the rule of pure comparative negligence, the court may assign 20% of the fault to you and 80% of the fault to the driver. If the damages add up to $10,000, then the driver will only have to pay $8,000, leaving you responsible for the remaining $2,000. 

The doctrine of pure comparative negligence makes hiring a skilled bodily injury lawyer all the more crucial, since they will be able to negotiate for a lower percentage of fault. 

It’s important to note that, courtrooms are obligated to follow shared fault if an injury lawsuit makes it to trial, but settling outside the court system with an insurance adjuster is a different story. That’s why you should never settle outside of court without the help of a motorcycle crash attorney. An attorney is trained to negotiate for the highest settlement possible.