What is “Comparative Negligence” in a Motorcycle Case?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Justin A. Smith with Sloan Firm.
What if you are in a motorcycle accident and find yourself partially at fault? Comparative negligence refers to the practice of offering compensation to a damaged yet partially at-fault party with that compensation reduced by the same percentage of fault decided. This allows a driver or motorcyclist who may have been partially at fault for an accident to still receive a certain amount of compensation for their damages, though not as much as they would have received had they not had any fault. Comparative negligence may or may not be applicable depending on the state, so it’s a good idea to research the law in your area if you believe you may have been partially at fault for an accident.
Comparative negligence in motorcycle cases can be particularly tricky due to the inherent biases many jurors have toward motorcyclists.
There is a tendency for jurors to assume that motorcyclists have a habit of recklessness, and that if they are injured on the road, they are less deserving of compensation since they took the risk on themself. This bias may be further aggravated if the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet or other protective gear at the time of the accident. If you are injured in a motorcycle accident which you might have been partially at fault for, refrain from discussing the situation or admitting fault to anyone until you have spoken to a motorcycle accident attorney.
In comparative negligence states, a motorcyclist may still receive compensation at a reduced amount if they are partially fault.
However, it is the jury that decides which party is at fault and how much so. This is why it is particularly important to hire an attorney with extensive experience handling motorcycle cases in particular. The attorneys who handle these cases will be practiced in communicating with a jury in order to help them sympathize with the rider and admit that they should still be eligible to receive some kind of compensation. In states where comparative negligence is not applicable, a motorcyclist may not be eligible for any compensation at all if they are decided to be partially at fault.
Refrain from admitting fault or discussing your situation until after speaking with an attorney.
In motorcycle cases in particular, but also in any situation where you might have contributed to the situation, refrain from discussing your situation. It may be argued that fault can be admitted in a variety of ways. Even something as simple and vague as a blanket apology at the scene of the accident could be taken as an acceptance of fault by the other party. It’s also important to refrain from discussing details of the situation with anyone other than your attorney, including an insurance provider. It is not at all uncommon for a motorcyclist or driver to believe they were at fault for an accident only to discover that the other driver was contributing to the accident in a far more significant way, such as driving distracted or under the influence.
If you have been injured on a motorcycle and might be partially at fault for the accident, don’t go into court alone.
It may be tempting to represent yourself in this situation, but the consequences could be severe. Without an attorney who is well-versed in both motorcycle law and comparative negligence, you might miss out on valuable compensation which could otherwise have paid for damages including medical bills, lost wages, and more.