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Liability in Motorcycle Accidents, Part 1

MotorcyclesMotorcycles are some people’s primary mode of transportation, while, for others, riding is primarily recreational. Either way, choosing this method of travel comes with inherent dangers. Because of these risks, injuries sustained in accidents involving motorcycles can be especially devastating to riders and more often result in deaths than accidents involving only automobiles. Fortunately, negligent parties can be held liable for their actions and will be required to compensate motorcyclist victims for their medical bills and emotional trauma.


Many of the risks associated with motorcycle riding also exist for drivers of standard vehicles. However, because motorcycles are smaller, lighter, and less stable than automobiles, accidents can have much more tragic results.

Road Hazards

While debris in the road, uneven surfaces, and wet pavement have little effect on cars, these factors can make motorcycle travel extremely dangerous, and many accidents involving motorcycles occur due to this type of road hazard. Some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents involving road hazards include:

  • Rough roads, whether due to disrepair or resurfacing efforts;
  • Edge breaks, when two lanes are different heights;
  • Gravel;
  • Swerving to avoid and colliding with animals;
  • Slick surfaces, like wet leaves, crosswalk lines, painted surfaces, and oil;
  • Rain and standing water; and
  • Debris, such as tire treads, branches, and rocks. 
Skill Level

Operating a motorcycle requires more skill than is required to drive a standard vehicle. Many accidents are caused by overconfident riders who are unaware of proper motorcycle riding practices.

High-Risk Behavior

Because motorcycles are so light and have such relatively powerful engines, riders are often feel encouraged to speed, accelerate too quickly, or engage in other high-risk behavior. This kind of behavior, while dangerous for motorists, can be deadly for motorcycle riders.

Safety Precautions

There are a number of safety precautions that motorcyclists can take to lower their chances of being injured in an accident, including:

  • Seeking professional training;
  • Being cognizant of road hazards;
  • Performing proper motorcycle maintenance;
  • Careful lane-sharing;
  • Obtaining a motorcycle license; and
  • Wearing protective clothing and a helmet.

Liability for injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents is usually decided under a negligence theory. In a large number of cases involving motorcycle accidents, the driver of another vehicle was the negligent party. The negligent act may have been, for example, a failure to check the rearview mirror or speeding. If either party in an accident was not reasonably careful and injured someone else as a result, then the negligent individual may be liable for any injuries that occurred.

Comparative Negligence

In California, if the negligence of both parties contributed to a motorcycle accident, then the amount recoverable by the injured party, often the motorcyclist, will be reduced by an amount proportional to his or her contribution to the accident.

If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by a driver’s negligence, an experienced attorney may be able to help you recover compensation. Please contact the dedicated San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free consultation. Call (408) 289-1417 today to schedule an appointment

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