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Basics on Motorcycle Accidents and Comparative Negligence

Motorcyclists too often get an undeserved, negative reputation. Drivers of larger vehicles often blame motorcyclists for riding too fast, weaving through traffic and splitting lanes during rush hour (even though this is legal in California).

But motorcyclists are entitled to their place on the road and deserve the same respect given to drivers of cars and trucks. And motorcyclists who are seriously injured by the negligence of other drivers have a right to pursue compensation in court.

If you are a regular or even occasional rider, you may be wondering about your legal options if you get into a motorcycle accident that was partially or fully caused by another driver. Today, we’ll discuss some legal basics about determining fault in an accident.

In certain scenarios, drivers – not riders – are almost always found to be at fault. A good example is a left-turn accident, in which a car turns across oncoming traffic and into the path of a motorcyclist going straight. In most cases, the driver of the turning vehicle will be considered at fault.

In other cases, it may not be clear that either the driver or the rider was entirely at fault. This shouldn’t be a deterrent to pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. Rather, the rider just needs to understand that his “comparative negligence” may reduce the damages he will receive if the jury rules in his favor.

Comparative negligence is a determination that the plaintiff was partially responsible for the accident and an assigned percentage of fault based on his carelessness or negligence. Let’s say that you were involved in an accident on the highway at night. The driver was largely at fault for failing to keep a lookout, but the defense claims that you share some blame because you had a non-working brake light or tail light. The jury may decide that your comparative negligence is, say, 20 percent. If the jury rules in your favor, this could reduce the overall award you receive by 20 percent.

If you ever get into a motorcycle accident with another vehicle and aren’t exactly sure what happened, it is usually best to avoid signing any legal papers or admitting any fault until you have the chance to consult an attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and options, and may be able to help you pursue compensation.

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