Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Lane Splitting By Sean Burke on August 18, 2014

A hand on the handlebar of a motorcycleLane splitting, or the act of a motorcycle and another motor vehicle sharing a single lane, can be a dangerous maneuver if not done with extreme care and caution. Far too many auto accidents can be attributed to this potentially risky practice, with motorcyclists more vulnerable to bodily injury, but the occupants of the other vehicle can also be at risk of being physically harmed. Many states have specifically outlawed lane splitting, while others have not specifically legalized it. In these latter states, courts often arrive at the conclusion that lane splitting violates the law all the same.

However, California is unique when it comes to lane splitting. It is the only state that has explicitly declared lane splitting to be legal, as long as it is done “safely and prudently.” In fact, recently the state has established guidelines to define what constitutes safe and prudent lane splitting:

  • Bikers should travel at a speed no more than ten miles per hour higher than the surrounding traffic.
  • The surrounding traffic should be moving no faster than 30 miles per hour.

If executed properly by an experienced rider, lane splitting is a relatively safe practice. However, the safety of the maneuver also depends on the operator of the other motor vehicle being appropriately vigilant and being always aware that he or she is sharing the road with motorcyclists. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the motorcyclist, the driver of the automobile, or both may be liable for any injuries that ensue.

At the Law Offices of Sean M. Burke in Orange County, motorcycle accidents and lane splitting are complex issues that are handled with the utmost care in preparing cases. If you were injured in an accident due to lane splitting - whether you were riding the motorcycle or driving a car, truck, or van - he can help you achieve the justice you deserve.

Determining Fault in a Lane Splitting Accident

One of the reasons that litigation involving lane splitting accidents is so complex is that it can be difficult to determine who was at fault. In states that prohibit lane splitting, motorcyclists are automatically found to be at least partially at fault for the accident, even if negligence on the part of the operator of the automobile contributed to the accident, as well. In California, however:

  • If the plaintiff is the operator of the car, truck, or van, the attorney must be able to provide evidence that the motorcyclist failed to execute the lane splitting maneuver “safely and prudently,” which often comes down to matters of speed.
  • If the plaintiff is the motorcyclist, the attorney must be able to demonstrate that the driver of the car, truck, or van committed a negligent act that caused the accident, despite the motorcyclist’s caution and care in executing a legal lane splitting maneuver.

In many cases, the doctrine of comparative negligence comes into play in lane splitting cases. According to this doctrine, fault for the accident is shared although not equal, and the recovery of the plaintiff will be reduced by the percentage to which he or she was at fault for the accident. Therefore, if the plaintiff is found to be 25 percent at fault for the accident, he or she will be awarded 75 percent of the damages to which he or she would otherwise be entitled.

Contact Our Law Firm Today

To learn more about lane splitting litigation, please contact the Law Offices of Sean M. Burke today.

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