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How Is Fault Determined in A California Motorcycle Accident?

Courtroom with gavel

If a California motorcycle accident leads to a lawsuit that goes to trial, a judge or jury will determine the fault of the parties. More often, though, motorcycle accidents are resolved through insurance settlements. They are the result of negotiations between the plaintiff’s Los Angeles personal injury lawyer and the insurance adjuster or the defendant’s lawyer. Settlements are based on how each side believes a judge or jury would likely assign fault– based on the evidence.

One or both parties can be at fault for a motorcycle crash

Personal injury cases would be easier all around if only one party could be at fault for an accident. However, in many situations, the injured person may also bear some legal blame for the accident.

Perhaps the motorist caused it by failing to yield the right of way to an oncoming motorcycle. The driver would likely be found at fault. However, if the motorcyclist had been speeding, which made the accident more serious, the biker may also be found partially to blame.

Blaming the injured plaintiff is a common defensive move regardless of whether the argument has merit. Choose an accident attorney who has experience litigating motorcycle crashes so that you will be prepared for these kinds of arguments.

California’s comparative fault law

Determining fault for a motorcycle is critical because it determines the amount of compensation that the plaintiff can recover. California has adopted a pure comparative negligence standard. Once the parties’ fault is determined, each party is responsible for a corresponding share of the plaintiff’s damages. Here is an example:

  • The plaintiff is a motorcyclist who suffered a brain injury caused by a car making an illegal turn. The driver of the car, the defendant, was legally to blame for the crash. However, at the time of the accident, the plaintiff was not wearing a helmet that would have minimized his head injury. The plaintiff’s damages total $200,000. A jury allocates 80% of the fault to the defendant and 20% to the plaintiff. Reducing the damages by the plaintiff’s fault, the award in his favor is $160,000.

Division of blame is not always obvious. The insurance representatives and defense lawyers will naturally downplay the defendant’s fault and exaggerate the role of the plaintiff’s actions. If you were injured while riding a motorcycle, having a skilled motorcycle accident lawyer in Los Angeles to advocate for you will help when it comes to determining fault.

Protect yourself before and after a California motorcycle accident

If you ride a motorcycle in the Los Angeles metro area, you may be tempted to skip the uninsured motorist coverage. However, if another driver injures you in a hit and run accident and you cannot identify them, you will need this coverage to receive compensation.

Certain types of accidents are more common for motorcyclists– know what these are and be on the lookout for them. For example, be aware of the risks of lane splitting, which is legal in California but still dangerous. However, if the biker was riding carelessly, this can shift some of the blame to them.

Another particular risk for motorcyclists is left-hand turns. More than half of all motorcycle accidents, and more than 40% of all fatal motorcycle accidents, occur when a larger vehicle without the right-of-way makes a left turn in front of the bike. The motorcyclist strikes the turning vehicle or loses control attempting to avoid a collision.

At-fault drivers often allege contributory negligence in these situations, so bikers should be aware of the risks and consult a left-hand turn accident attorney if they are injured in a crash.

Contact our team of California motorcycle accident lawyers

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident in Southern California, speak with an experienced Los Angeles lawyer at Salamati Law. We are committed to fighting for the rights of those injured in motorcycle accidents and have earned a distinguished record in securing compensation on their behalf. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.


  1. NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts: Motorcycles, https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812353
  2. California Highway Patrol, California Motorcyclist Safety, https://www.chp.ca.gov/programs-services/programs/california-motorcyclist-safety
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