Are Motorcyclists Liable for Lane-Splitting Accidents?

Liability for a Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Accident

motorcycle-handle-bars-viewLane-splitting – when a motorcycle passes a vehicle in the same lane – is legal in California. But, how safe is it?

If an accident occurs while a motorcyclist is lane-splitting, can the rider be held liable?

Determining Liability for Lane-Splitting Crashes

When a lane-splitting accident occurs, the insurance companies will investigate who was at fault and assess the factors in the accident to determine its cause. Liability can be complicated in these cases, so it is recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney about an accident involving lane-splitting.

The focus of the liability investigation will likely be on whether the motorcyclist split lanes safely. If the motorcyclist conducted this maneuver in an unsafe manner, such as by speeding or cutting off other vehicles, the rider may be found at fault for the accident. However, if the motorcyclist did the maneuver safely, he or she might not be found at fault.

State Guidelines on Lane-Splitting

California does not have any official guidelines on lane splitting, however motorcyclists are encouraged to exercise extreme caution when traveling between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic. Here are common-sense safety tips for lane splitting in a safe manner:

  • Consider the width of lanes, the size of surrounding vehicles, traffic conditions, weather conditions and lighting conditions before attempting to lane split
  • Try to split between far-left lanes when possible
  • Avoid lane-splitting next to large vehicles
  • Riding on the shoulder is not lane splitting and is illegal
  • Wear brightly colored clothing and use high beams to increase your visibility
  • Avoid blind spots of other vehicles, especially large trucks

Is Lane-Splitting Safe?

A 2015 study conducted by the California Office of Traffic Safety analyzed data on 5,969 motorcyclists who were involved in traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013. Researchers found 17 percent or 997 of these motorcyclists were lane-splitting at the time of their collision.

Motorcyclists who were lane-splitting were more often riding on a weekday, during commute hours, wore helmets and were traveling at lower speeds. They were less likely to have been impaired or carrying a passenger.

These motorcyclists were much less likely to be injured during the accident when compared with other motorcyclists who were injured in other types of motorcycle accidents. They were less likely to suffer a head, torso, extremity or fatal injury. However, they were equally likely to suffer a neck injury.

Since lane-splitting may be perceived as a dangerous driving behavior by the insurance company, it could be considered a factor when evaluating a claim.

Contact a Trusted Attorney After an Accident

If you were injured in a collision involving lane-splitting, discuss your situation with a licensed attorney. The Sacramento motorcycle accident lawyers at Arnold Law Firm can review the details of your accident and advise you on whether you have a viable claim. You may be eligible to pursue compensation for damages.

Our lawyers charge no upfront fees and work on a contingency fee basis, so you are not charged unless we successfully recover compensation on your behalf.

Contact us today at (916) 777-7777 to schedule your free evaluation.