When a Car or Motorcycle Injury Accident Is Not Your Fault
Car and motorcycle accidents occur every day under various circumstances. Fault is easily ascertained in many cases, such as rear end accidents, or red light violations where there are cameras or witnesses, or in any other accident where independent or neutral witnesses can support and verify a certain version of events.
Situations where a car or motorcycle accident is not your fault:
In situations where a car or motorcycle accident is not your fault, you can sue for your injuries and property damage by bringing a claim against the other party’s auto liability carrier.
All motorists, including car drivers and motorcycle riders, have a duty to other motorists, pedestrians and bicycle riders to exercise reasonable caution and care when operating their vehicles. This includes obeying all traffic laws, maintaining a safe speed, not using a cell phone when driving and not driving while impaired. If recklessness, fatigue, impairment or any other negligent behavior by another motorist causes an accident and injures you, then you may bring a claim to compensate you for your injuries and losses.
If liability is totally the other party’s fault, your damages are based on the nature and extent of your injuries. Motorists are required to possess minimum levels of insurance, which are $15,000 per claim or $30,000 per accident and $5,000 for property damage in California. If you and two others were injured and made claims, you would have to split or apportion the $30,000 among yourselves.
If you have underinsured coverage (UIM), you may collect additional compensation if your UIM coverage is more than the other party’s liability limits. For example, if the other party had limits of $50,000 and your UIM coverage was $100,000, you could recover up to an additional $50,000 from your own carrier provided you recovered the full $50,000 from the third party and your damages exceeded that.
However, if your UIM was the same as the third party’s limits, then you cannot recover any additional compensation under your own policy.
Statistics indicate that as many as 25% of California motorists possess no auto liability insurance. If you were injured because of an uninsured third party motorist’s negligence, you can look to your own auto insurer for compensation if you possess uninsured coverage.
You can still have to prove negligence in the underlying accident by the other motorist. The claims process is otherwise the same as in dealing with a third party adjuster in determining the value of your damages and the nature and extent of your injuries. If you are unable to settle your claim, it goes to binding negotiation rather than before a jury or judge.
Fault in a Car Accident Case
Like any accident, fault is usually determined by either an understanding between the parties involved or by the investigating officer on the scene who interviews the parties and witnesses and examining the circumstantial evidence. The officer or reconstruction expert, if retained, will usually base conclusions about fault on the following:
- comparing the parties’ statements
- statements from witnesses on the scene
- examining the property damage
- the location of the vehicles
- skid marks
- videos from a red light camera or adjoining businesses
An expert can also assess crush damage to determine the force of the collision and which vehicle was more likely traveling at a high rate of speed or started from a dead stop, among other possibilities.
California is a pure comparative fault state so that you can collect compensation from another party so long as you can prove any degree of fault by that motorist or other entity. If you are determined to be at fault in any degree, however, you can still collect for your damages though your award or settlement will be reduced by your percentage of comparative fault.
For example, if you are 60% at fault and your damages are $100,000, you would recover $40,000 from the other party.
Injuries in a Car Accident
Typical injuries in a car accident include:
- neck and back strains and sprains
- spinal cord injuries
- chest injuries
- traumatic brain injury
- internal organ damage
- knee and hip injuries
Motorcycle accidents are often caused by rider inexperience, fatigue, impairment, speeding or lane sharing. Slippery road conditions after a recent rain or from snow or ice present dangerous hazards for riders who have little to no protection from a fall. Motorcyclists suffer some kind of injury in 80% of accidents. Motorcycle passengers are especially vulnerable in accidents with passenger vehicles; studies indicate that passengers are killed in an astounding 98% of such accidents.
Since motorcycles can be less visible than passenger cars, motorists often fail to see them or misjudge their speed and distance when turning in front of an approaching bike, which accounts for many motorcycle accidents and injuries. Uninsured and underinsured motorist principles and rules also apply to motorcycle accidents.
Injuries in a Motorcycle Accident
Your injuries in a motorcycle accident are similar to those you might sustain in a car accident with some differences. Wearing a helmet can minimize the risk of receiving facial injuries and serious or even fatal head trauma. Common injuries include:
- traumatic brain injuries
- skin burns and lacerations
- facial disfigurement and/or fractures
- fractured limbs
- serious internal injuries
Determining fault in a motorcycle accident depends on factors similar to those used in auto accidents. The principles of comparative fault also apply to motorcycle accidents so that you can still be compensated for your damages so long as any degree of fault is assigned to another party.
Experts can still assess damage to motorcycles to determine the force of a collision. Bikers, unfortunately, are commonly seen as the culprit in an accident given their lawless and reckless image. If you are a biker and have been determined to be at fault in a motorcycle accident, an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can provide valuable guidance.