Figuring out who is required to pay for injuries and property damage, following a motorcycle accident, is based on both the actual circumstances and the laws in the state where the accident occurred. Generally speaking, state laws fall into one of two categories or theories of liability: “no fault” or “comparative fault.” As such, determining who is at fault in motorcycle accidents can be a challenge.
No fault theory of liability
In states that apply the “no fault” theory of liability in motorcycle accident cases, the injurer party is compensated for their injuries and other damages through their own insurance company. In those states, your compensation for economic damages is limited to your insurance coverage, so it is crucial that you have adequate insurance coverage for yourself. Typically, you can file a lawsuit to recover only non-economic damages, resulting from a motorcycle accident, such as pain and suffering. In some cases, this type of recovery is only available if the amount exceeds a certain level.
Fault based theories of liability
Determining who is at fault for a motorcycle accident is more complicated in states that take fault into consideration. In those states, you will file your insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier. So, it is important to determine exactly who is at fault for the accident. In most “at-fault” states, the degree of fault each driver bears, determine who much each party is responsible for paying.
Explaining the “comparative fault” system
In states that follow the “comparative fault” system for determining who is at fault for a motorcycle accident, there are three possible scenarios: pure comparative fault, modified comparative fault and pure contributory fault. Fault is determined by evaluating several factors, such weather and road conditions, how fast each vehicle involved in the accident was driving, and whether the drivers were impaired or distracted in any way. Missouri is a “pure comparative fault” state, whereas Arkansas is a “modified comparative fault” state.
Missouri’s pure comparative fault system
In a pure comparative fault state, each driver can only be compensated for the percent of the damages they did NOT cause. Each driver remains responsible for the part of the damage they caused. So, for instance, if Jack and Lisa are involved in a motorcycle accident resulting in $10,000 worth of damage and injuries, and Jack is 80% at fault, then Jack can only recover $2,000, which represents the 20% of the damages for which Jack was NOT responsible. Likewise, Lisa would be entitled to the other $8,000.
Arkansas’s modified comparative fault system
The modified comparative fault system, a driver can only recovery for injuries or damages resulting from the accident if that driver is less than 50% at fault. If the situation with Jack and Lisa was analyzed under this system, Jack would not be able to recover anything because he was not less than 50% at fault.
If you have questions regarding liability for motorcycle injuries, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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