Drivers Have a Legal Duty to Allow Enough Space for Motorcycles

This article explains the legal obligations of drivers towards motorcyclists and the basics of a personal injury lawsuit if drivers fail to do so and injure a biker.

Driving is a task that requires full attention. This is easy to remember on a motorcycle; at any time, obstacles in the road, traffic congestion, or other issue may arise that causes the need for a motorcycle to stop suddenly or swerve. Drivers in their cars, however, may not be as aware of their surroundings. Still, it is the responsibility of every driver to leave enough space in front of the vehicle to be able to stop if necessary without crashing into a motorcycle.

Unfortunately, many drivers make the mistake of leaving too little room.

Each year, approximately half a million accidents are reported in California. The vast majority of those crashes are attributable to human error. The largest type of crash is a rear-end collision, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The most common causes of a rear-end crash include driver inattention, tailgating, drunk driving, and ignoring weather conditions and road defects, among others.

Rear-end accidents also often result in serious injury, especially when a motorcycle is involved. Traumatic brain injury can be devastating to the injured rider, even if wearing a helmet. Neck and back injuries are common, as are disfiguring scars, burns, and broken bones. Tragically, fatal injuries resulting from this type of crash are not uncommon.

Legal options available

If a driver does rear-end another car or motorcycle, that driver can be held accountable for negligent driving through a personal injury lawsuit. Such a lawsuit allows the injured victim – or the victim’s family – to focus on recovering from the accident by helping to pay for medical expenses and lost wages. In order to recover in a lawsuit, the person injured (the plaintiff) must prove that the other driver was negligent, caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and the plaintiff suffered actual damages because of the injuries (such as by being unable to work or through pain and suffering).

In the wake of a fatal accident, the victim’s family has the legal right to sue to get help with their own recovery – fatal accidents are devastating to an entire family, and California law recognizes this. A wrongful death lawsuit helps surviving family members by helping to cover the costs of a funeral, medical bills, and the loss of companionship and earnings of the deceased.

Determining fault in a rear-end collision

There is no bright-line rule under which a driver is always at fault for an accident. However, the vast majority of the time the driver who slams into the back of a vehicle in a rear-end collision is at least a significant cause of the crash. Under California law, drivers have the duty to maintain a reasonable distance between the car or motorcycle in front of them in order to stop before crashing if the need arises.

Help with recovery

Motorcycle accident victims and their families can get help. An experienced personal injury attorney can negotiate with insurance companies, protect the rights and interests of the victim and victim’s family, and try to help a family deal with the aftermath of a devastating accident.

Our founding attorney, Scott J. Corwin, has more than 30 years of experience in representing accident victims injured in all forms of bicycle accidents, in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and throughout the state of California.