Motorcycle Accident Motorcycle Accident Liability & Best Practices

  1. What makes a person legally liable for causing a motorcycle accident? This article explains the standard of negligence, the times when nobody will be found liable for an accident and also provides best practices tips for motorcycle safety and avoiding legal liability.

    Negligence: The Standard of Liability

    A motorcycle accident can occur for many reasons although not all will result in someone being found liable for damages that may occur. For example, an accident caused by a hurricane or tornado would not result in a motorcyclist being liable for damages. Such accidents are usually called an "act of G-d" or an "act of nature." Liability that results from a motorcycle accident occurs when a party is negligent. The word “negligence” is a legal term that is used to describe a situation where someone did not conduct themselves with the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise under the circumstances. Examples of negligence can include:
    • Driving a motorcycle in the snow without snow tires
    • Operating a motorcycle while intoxicated or in an impaired condition
    • Operating a motorcycle while holding a cell phone in one hand
    • Driving faster than the posted speed limit
    Depending upon the state you are in, your negligent conduct can make you fully or partially liable for damages that result from a motorcycle accident. In the event that someone else is mostly responsible for the accident, your own negligence can also reduce the amount of damages you might have been awarded. A minority of states follow a contributory negligence system where even a small amount of your own negligence might result in no damages being awarded to you. Comparative negligence compares the negligence of each party in assessing who should be awarded damages and for how much.

    Avoid Liability by Using Smart Driving Practices

    The best way to minimize your liability for motorcycle accidents is to familiarize yourself with hazardous conditions for motorcycles and to obtain training that will help you understand best practices for operation. Here are some some common motorcycle safety tips:
    • Be familiar with common road hazards that affect motorcycles so that you can anticipate problem conditions. Motorcyclists frequently underestimate the hazardous nature of wet leaves and railroad tracks, which present far greater dangers for motorcycles than they do for cars.
    • Obtain adequate motorcycle training to learn how to best navigate common road hazards. Training should include how to handle wobbles, navigating through slick surfaces, gravel and dirt roads, uneven surfaces and larger bumps in the road.
    • Best to take a slightly longer, less trafficked road than a shorter one with heavier traffic. Having an unobstructed view of the road provides a motorcycle rider with greater time to identify and avoid road hazards.
    • It is essential to maintain a safe distance between your motorcycle and the vehicle directly ahead.
    • Maintain awareness of surroundings at all times while operating a motorcycle. Road hazards may be small or large animals, small children, other vehicles, painted surfaces and falling rocks or debris from other vehicles.
    • Take note of hazards that are present on common routes to anticipate potential problems.
    • Consider alternate routes that avoid road hazards such as taking note whether there is a shoulder on the road to drive if it becomes necessary, e.g. observing an oil spill or slick spot on the road ahead of you.
    • Best not to drive in the rain or snow or any time the roads are wet. If possible, wait at least 30 minutes after the rain has stopped before operating a motorcycle on the open road.
    • Proceed at a reasonable rate of speed which will allow a gradual slow down. Make sure to rid only at the rate of speed which will allow adequate stops after identifying a hazard on the road ahead.

    What Should I do if I Have a Motorcycle Accident?

    If you have a motorcycle accident, the list of steps should be proceed with the same steps you'd take after any auto accident. You’ll need to remain calm and be alert and obtain as much information as possible that can help you at the scene of the accident. It is advisable to seek an experienced motorcycle accident attorney who can help you preserve your case for damages or to minimize the liability you may have.

    Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.


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