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Comparative fault: What California motorcycle riders should know

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Motorcycle Accidents

As a motorcyclist in California, you face unique challenges on the road. Despite your vigilance, accidents happen, sometimes with devastating consequences. San Diego County is among the top three for motorcycle-related fatal accidents. The California Highway Patrol reports 92 fatal crashes in the county from 2021 to 2023 and nearly 1,000 crashes resulted in severe injuries.

If you’re in a motorcycle crash, knowing that responsibility may not rest on a single party is crucial. California law recognizes that multiple parties can contribute to an accident. This means that you and other parties could share the blame for a collision, which directly impacts any compensation you may seek for damages or injuries.

How does comparative fault work?

Comparative fault, also known as comparative negligence, is a principle that affects damage awards in California motorcycle accidents. It works by assigning a percentage of fault to each involved party.

For example, if you are 30% at fault for an accident and the other driver 70%, any compensation you’re awarded will be reduced by your percentage of fault, so you would receive 70% of the total damages.

Consider a scenario in which you are lane-splitting – a legal maneuver in California – when a car suddenly changes lanes without signaling and collides with you.

If the court finds the car driver primarily at fault but decides your speed was unsafe, you could receive a portion of the blame. If your total damages are $100,000 and you are 20% at fault, you would receive $80,000.

Reducing risks on the open road

As a rider, exposure to the elements and lack of structural protection make you particularly vulnerable in the event of a crash. That’s why it’s essential to take proactive steps to minimize risk, including:

  • Wear a Department of Transportation-approved helmet
  • Use appropriate safety gear, such as reinforced jackets, gloves and boots
  • Be hyper-aware of your surroundings
  • Practice defensive riding
  • Avoid blind spots
  • Signal your intentions early
  • Keep a safe distance from other vehicles

Taking these precautions and others can be the difference between minor and severe injuries if an accident occurs. Also, regularly maintain your motorcycle to ensure it’s in optimal condition and take refresher riding courses to sharpen your skills.