Motorcycle Accident Lawyer: 4 Ways Fault Can Be Determined in Motorcycle Accident Cases

Fully exposed, motorcycle riders are at greater risk for a traumatic head injury, paralysis, and loss of limb. Misfortune can occur on even the shortest ride and may irrevocably alter your life. If you’re involved in an accident while riding in or around Springfield, Missouri or Joplin, Missouri, you’ll need a capable motorcycle accident lawyer with expertise in determining fault and procuring appropriate compensation for damages suffered.

From Your Motorcycle Accident Lawyer: 4 Ways to Determine Fault

1. Determining Negligence Exists

In order to secure compensation for injury and damage to your motorcycle, it must be proven that another party was negligible and caused you financial and/or physical harm. Legally, four conditions must be met:

Duty of Care

All drivers, whether they operate cars, trucks, or motorcycles, must do all they can to prevent accidents from occurring. This obligation also applies to certain other actors not behind the wheel.

Breach of Duty

Involved parties can be found at fault for failing to act with due care. Fault can be levied for the manner in which they operate or maintain the vehicle.

Causation

A party is deemed at fault if their actions (or sometimes inaction) caused the accident, either in whole or in part.

Damages

Finally, you must prove the party at fault caused you financial damage. This is done primarily by submitting repair estimates for the vehicle, hospital bills, and reporting lost wages.
 

2. Identifying the Number of Liable Parties

The first thing to know is that Missouri is a fault state for automobile accident claims. The state runs a “comparative fault” system which determines responsibility for an accident. More than one party can be liable with a relative degree of fault determining how damages are settled. Here are some of the possible at-fault parties.

Unsafe Drivers

Numerous ways exist in which drivers cause or contribute to accidents. They operate vehicles under the influence of alcohol, illicit or prescribed narcotics, while overly fatigued, distracted, or speeding. They fail to stop, yield, or signal turns or lane changes. They follow too closely, make illegal turns, and are sometimes overcome by road rage. They can also be negligent in other ways. Often, car and truck drivers simply don’t take the time to check their blind spot for motorcycles.

Government Agencies

Government agencies can be faulted for accidents. For example, if the public works department in Joplin, Missouri fails to repair or cordon off a pothole, they could be required to provide compensation for your injuries and damage to your bike, should you ride into it. Municipal and regional governments are also responsible for clearing tree branches that conceal signage, repairing damaged and fallen signs, and repairing malfunctioning traffic signals, all in a reasonably expedient manner.

Manufacturers

If a factory defect, faulty part, or component causes your bike or another vehicle to malfunction, resulting in an accident, the manufacturer can be held to account. This applies to the vehicle or bike manufacturer as well as makers of factory and aftermarket parts. The same premise also applies to safety equipment that fails to deploy or otherwise work effectively.

Repair Shops

Motorcycle and auto repair shops must be held to a high legal standard. A single bolt left untightened can result in heavy damages, severe injury, and even fatalities. If a repair shop is found to have performed shoddy work or if an inspection was not thorough, the shop can be held responsible for its negligence.

Rental Shops

Like repair shops, car and motorcycle rental agencies are responsible for the maintenance and safety of their vehicles. If they release an unsafe car or bike to a customer, they can bear fault for any subsequent accident or injury. 

Other Actors

Perhaps the most obvious of indirect contributors to accidents is the drinking establishment. If a bar continues to sell alcohol to an intoxicated customer who then gets behind the wheel and subsequently causes an accident, the establishment can be found liable. Medical offices can also be held accountable if medicated outpatients get behind the wheel and cause an accident.

3. Gathering Evidence Accepted by Springfield, Missouri and Joplin, Missouri Courts

Police Report

Law enforcement officers always attempt to determine fault in accidents. They interview drivers and witnesses, examine vehicle damage, the relative position of vehicles after the collision, skid marks, and other factors. If there is enough evidence, they issue citations.

Security Cameras

Although not always accessible, footage from nearby security cameras can provide insight into the cause of an accident.

Eye-Witness Accounts

The police interview witnesses, but it’s also recommended that you exchange contact information with other drivers in an accident, if possible, as well as bystanders who may have important information.

Insurance Policies

An attorney who investigates the number of insurance policies and extent of coverage for all potential at-fault parties takes a critical step in ensuring you receive the maximum amount of compensation available.

Every party involved in the accident should be insured. Each of their insurance companies will dispatch adjusters whose job it is to represent both their insurance company and the client driver. If possible, you should use your smartphone to take your own photos of the accident scene in order to support your position.

Admitting Fault

On occasion, a driver will feel motivated to accept responsibility for an accident. Even if you feel you were at fault, you should never do this, not in conversation with law enforcement, insurance adjusters, other drivers, witnesses, or anyone else. You may or may not be at fault. Emotion can get the better of people in stressful situations. Additionally, other parties may also be responsible. Speak and listen to an experienced attorney before making any statement.

4. Determining Your Role in the Accident

Ideally, you would not wish to be at fault for an accident, but, because Missouri is a comparative fault state, you can still be partially at fault for an accident and still receive compensation. How much you receive depends on the percentage of fault assigned to your actions. All the same factors that apply to other parties apply to you in any mishap. Law enforcement and insurance adjusters will examine your actions in their investigations.

How Does Your Level of Fault Affect Your Compensation?

In the simplest terms, all at-fault parties are assigned a percentage of the blame. If you were found to have been 10% responsible, that amount would be deducted from any compensation awarded to you. For example, $10,000 would be deducted from $100,000 awarded, leaving you with $90,000.

Does the Choice Not to Wear a Helmet Automatically Place You at Fault?

As you may know, Missouri law changed in 2020, permitting certain riders over the age of 26 to opt-out of wearing helmets. That choice doesn’t automatically place you at fault. However, if you suffer head injuries, the absence of protective headgear will factor into determining fault. If those injuries could have been prevented or mitigated, your compensation might be reduced.

To protect your rights to compensation, it’s critical that fault in any motorcycle accident be determined. Nor can you rely on other parties to acknowledge those rights. It’s important to have a skilled, experienced motorcycle accident lawyer representing you. If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, contact Potts Law Firm at our Kansas City or Springfield, Missouri offices now.