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How Negligence Laws Affect Motorcycle Accident Settlements

In the context of motor vehicle accidents, negligence refers to a driver’s failure to operate a vehicle safely. This is an important designation when it comes to negotiating car accident settlements. It’s also important in a court case to determine fault and damages related to a car accident, as a driver who is deemed negligent is typically considered at fault for the accident. In either a settlement or a lawsuit, negligence means the at-fault party will be held financially accountable for any damage or injuries. 

Motor vehicle accidents that require settlements may involve any number of different types of vehicles and structures. Accidents that involve motorcycles, in particular, may be more likely to result in severe injuries, which in turn, may lead to heavier damages sought from the insurance company.

Types of Negligence 

There are several types of negligence, and it’s important to understand each and how they can affect the trajectory and outcome of the settlement process. The types of negligence are:

  • Gross negligence is a severe form of negligence that indicates an extreme departure from expected safety conduct, for example, intentionally ignoring stop lights. 
  • Comparative negligence is a type of defense that indicates that blame for the accident lies with both parties to some degree. Therefore, the party who is subject to the claim is not solely responsible for damages, such as if both drivers ignored traffic signs. If comparative negligence is established, both parties will be responsible for a percentage of the damages based on their percentage of comparative fault. 
  • Contributory negligence is similar to comparative negligence in that it indicates that both drivers were at fault to some degree. Contributory negligence is a doctrine that states that a driver cannot recover damages if they are found to be partially at fault. This type of negligence is becoming less common and is widely being replaced with comparative negligence. 
  • Vicarious negligence is a type of negligence where a party is found to be vicariously liable for damages caused by another party that they were responsible for, such as if a company is found to be liable for the actions of one of the drivers that it employs. 

It’s also important to understand the difference between negligence and recklessness in the context of vehicular accidents. Negligence is the act of not taking steps to meet typical expectations for safety, whereas recklessness is the act of knowingly and deliberately endangering the safety of others. As such, reckless driving is considered a more serious act and may carry additional damage or even criminal charges.

How Is Negligence Established in a Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit?

If a motorcycle accident settlement can’t be reached due to disputes about negligence, a party — the plaintiff — may file a lawsuit in an attempt to establish negligence on behalf of the other party. There are four major factors that a plaintiff must prove to prove the negligence of the defendant. These factors are as follows:

  • Duty: The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, which means that there was a reasonable expectation that they should take care to avoid risking the wellbeing of the plaintiff.
  • Breach: The defendant breached the aforementioned duty of care. 
  • Causation: It was the action or inaction of the defendant that directly contributed to the injury of the plaintiff. 
  • Damages: The plaintiff was harmed as a result of the defendant’s action or inaction. 

During the establishment of negligence, the plaintiff can make a case for pain and suffering incurred by the defendant’s actions, which may impact the value of the payment. This can be determined by reviewing the specifics of the accident and the injuries incurred, as well as the resulting medical care that was needed. 

Insurance providers typically also play a significant role in establishing negligence. When a vehicular accident is reported to the insurance providers of the respective parties in the form of claims and demand letters, insurance adjusters will launch an independent investigation into who was at fault. The results of their respective investigations will be noted by the court if a settlement can’t be reached and one of the parties files a lawsuit. 

How Negligence Laws Vary By State

The most notable difference in how states handle negligence laws is whether they recognize comparative or contributory negligence. Those who recognize comparative negligence use pure or modified comparative negligence laws. Under pure comparative negligence laws, a party can seek compensation regardless of the comparative fault of the parties involved as long as both are found to be at fault in some way. 

Meanwhile, under modified comparative negligence laws, a party can only seek damages if they are found to be under the established cap for comparative negligence (typically 50% or 51%).

For example, if one party was found to be 75% at fault while another was found to be 25% at fault, both could seek damages in states where pure comparative negligence laws are in place. However, in states with modified comparative negligence, only the party found to be 25% at fault could seek damages. 

Thirteen states have pure comparative negligence laws, while 33 have modified comparative negligence laws. Meanwhile, only four states and the District of Columbia recognize contributory negligence, and South Dakota stands alone in utilizing a hybrid of comparative and contributory negligence laws. 

Examples of Negligence in Motorcycle Accidents

The following are some examples of circumstances where a motorcycle operator may be found to be negligent:

  • Speeding;
  • Running a red light;
  • Failing to yield;
  • Following too closely;
  • Making an illegal U-turn;
  • Driving under the influence;
  • Driving distracted;
  • Failing to consider road conditions.

For example, if the motorcycle driver was found to be speeding and following a vehicle too closely, resulting in a rear-end collision, the other party would have a strong chance of establishing negligence on the part of the motorcycle driver. 

What Happens if You Are Found at Fault

If it’s determined that you are at fault in an accident involving a motorcycle, your insurance will pay out the determined amount up to your limit. If the amount exceeds the limit outlined in your insurance policy, you will be personally responsible for paying the excess. If you cannot produce that amount, you may face a lien or seizure of assets. Being found at fault in the accident is also likely to increase your insurance rate

What Happens if the Other Party Is Found at Fault

Once the claim has been settled or the case adjudicated, you will likely receive your compensation within 30 days. The value of a motorcycle accident settlement can vary widely depending on many factors, including the nature and severity of resulting injuries, the amount of out-of-pocket and medical expenses, and whether those involved can return to work, among other things. 

Can You Appeal a Decision?

In the case of a lawsuit, any party can appeal the decision of the court when it comes to a motorcycle accident. However, to do this, an issue has to be identified in the legal proceedings. Examples of this would be jury misconduct or an unlawful verdict. Still, a settlement is preferable because that means the at-fault party agrees to make a payment, and the possibility of an appeal doesn’t enter the picture; upon accepting the settlement, the injured motorcycle rider agrees that, legally speaking, the issue is closed and they have no further recourse. This is why it’s important to find out what your settlement is really worth before accepting an offer from the insurance company.    

Negligence laws can affect motorcycle accident settlements in several ways. It’s important to embrace and promote standard safe driving practices every time you hit the road. If you find yourself involved in an accident, you must be aware of the laws in your state, particularly if you’re ever in a position where you could be found at fault.