Who’s at fault in a motorcycle accident?
Most motorist error and traffic law violations are forms of negligent driving. When a motorist is negligent and causes an injury accident, the law says he breached (violated) his duty of care (obligation) to the other driver. When negligence results in injuries to a motorcyclist, the motorcyclist has a legal right to seek compensation for his injuries and the related costs. Keep in mind that motorcyclists also have a duty of care to other motorists.
If a motorcycle accident case goes to trial, the issue of who breached his duty of care is usually the primary issue the jury must decide. Before a jury begins its deliberations, the judge will give the jurors several instructions about how they’re to base the verdict. The primary instruction will usually look something like this:
The motorcyclist and the motorist had equal duties of care to each other. Those duties were to:
- Keep a proper lookout for each other
- Comply with applicable traffic laws
- Use all reasonable means necessary to avoid an accident
Because the motorcyclist (plaintiff) filed this lawsuit, he has the burden of proof to show the motorist (defendant) breached his duty of care. That breach is an act of negligence. In this case, the defendant is counter-claiming, saying the plaintiff breached his duty of care to him, and his breach was negligence.
You must determine from the evidence whether there was a breach of duty of care and who breached it. If you believe both parties breached their respective duties of care to each other, you determine the comparative negligence of each party and award the percentage of compensation you believe the evidence warrants.” The plaintiff must prove that the defendant was more than 50% at fault in order to obtain a monetary verdict.
The above jury instruction is an excellent way to understand what goes on in a motorcycle accident claim or trial. It addresses the issues of duty of care, breach of duty, and comparative negligence.