Rear ended while riding a motorcycle...

by Grigsby
(Santa Monica, CA)

Yesterday I was rear ended while riding my motorcycle. It happened at approximately 11:40am. I was riding northbound on Lincoln Blvd, splitting traffic while approaching a very dense intersection on the corner of Lincoln and Michigan in Santa Monica - an intersection where the right lane leads to access for the 10 east bound and the left lane leads to access for the PCH heading for the beach.

Traffic was moving very slowly and could be called 'stop and go' and I was not going very fast (maybe 5-10 miles per hour). As I approached the intersection I passed an old van on my left and noticed a gap in the traffic in front of it so I eased into the lane in front of the van, then reoriented my bike back to the right.

The light turned red and I, as well as the three cars in front of me, came to a complete stop. Almost immediately thereafter I was hit from behind. The rear end of the bike slid to the left and the bike and I fell over to the right. Estimated speed at impact was around 1-2 mph.

The driver of the vehicle that hit me insisted on filing a police report - stating that it wasn't his fault; that I "cut him off". The police discouraged this as a waste of time but were obligated to comply.

I went home and immediately filed a claim with my insurance company, assuming that since I was rear ended it was clearly the other driver's fault. Since then I've been reading on the internet about "comparative negligence", and now I'm concerned that it might be construed as my fault.

Can you please explain "comparative negligence" and how on earth I could be liable for a rear end accident like this? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Rear ended while riding a motorcycle...":

Grigsby (Santa Monica, CA):

When two or more vehicles are involved in a collision it's fair to say one of the parties must have been negligent - that it had to be someone's fault.

Well in the State of California this isn’t necessarily true. The State of California is one of several states which consider “Comparative Negligence” when looking toward culpability of either of the drivers involved in the collision.

California’s Comparative Negligence policy was defined in an important court case from 1975. The case was (Li v. Yellow Cab Co, 13 Cal.3rd 804).

In this case the court defined its theory of Comparative Negligence stating: “…the injured party’s own negligence which contributed to her injury can be offset by that degree of negligence caused by the defendant.”

Simply put this means if you are involved in a collision caused by another driver and it appears to be her fault, that even if it is, if your actions in any way contributed to the collision then any settlement award you may receive will be “offset” by the degree of your comparative or contributory negligence.

You may wonder what objective measuring tool is used to determine the degree of comparative negligence. There isn’t one. Those decisions are usually hashed out between insurance companies. If they don’t agree between themselves, then it goes to the next step, and may be decided by a judge or jury in trial.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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