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Lane Splitting Accident: Understanding Who is Liable

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Lane splitting or lane sharing is the act of a motorcyclist riding between two lanes of traffic. If you are familiar with Los Angeles traffic gridlocks, you are likely familiar with at least seeing the process done. California is one of the few states in which the maneuver of lane splitting is explicitly stated as legal. Perhaps solely because traffic can get so bad in larger cities. While motorcycles are free to split the lane between stopped or slow-moving traffic, it must be done safely. If you have been in a lane splitting accident, here is who may hold the fault.

Who is at Fault in a Lane Splitting Accident?

If it happened in almost any other state, a lane splitting accident liability would be placed solely on the motorcyclist. They were at fault for engaging in an illegal – or at least unofficial – behavior, so the accident is on them. However, the legality of lane splitting in California is confirmed by California Vehicle Code 21658.1 that has been in effect since January 1st, 2017. This means that motorcycles are not the automatic culprit anymore.

Determining Fault

Immediately after an accident, the first thing you should do is contact the police. The police will file a police report on the accident. They will examine the scene, outline the details and events of the accident, and gather contact information. At times, even reviewing the police report can create a clear picture of liability in the accident.

The Benefit of Witnesses

One of the small benefits that lane splitting accidents have is that the only time motorcyclists would want to employ lane splitting is when there are quite a few other drivers around. Every driver nearby is a witness to your accident. This can work to your benefit if you are not at fault. Witness statements can be very powerful in cementing the events of an auto accident and defining clear liability. It may be a hard sell getting those drivers to stick around after a lane splitting accident. You do want to at least get their contact information for potential later use.

When Speed is a Factor

If a motorcyclist is driving defensively when they are lane splitting, in most cases the other driver will be at fault for not checking their blind spots. Outside of just swerving the motorcycle into another vehicle, there isn't much that can seemingly put the motorcyclist at fault. However, there is one consideration to keep in mind – speeding. The law that legalized lane splitting for motorcyclists put a flexible speed limit on the act. It is recommended that you don't go over 40 mph while lane splitting. So the act becomes illegal if you are going over 10 mph faster than traffic is currently moving. This means if you were cruising through at top speed, liability can be placed on the motorcyclist because they were technically speeding at the time.

Need Help?

If you have been in a lane splitting accident, you will want to make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. Have you been in an accident and need help navigating the complicated insurance or legal process? Contact us today to see what the Law Office of Freeman & Freeman can do to help you.

Lane Splitting Accident: Understanding Who is Liable

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