If you've ever been stuck in heavy traffic on your motorcycle, then chances are you've been tempted to squeeze past those four-wheeled vehicles by riding in between the lanes. It's a practice known as "lane splitting," and it's one that many riders tend to engage in. But what happens if you get into a serious accident while you're engaged in lane splitting? Can it adversely impact any motorcycle accident settlement you get from the insurance company? The following sheds some valuable light on the issue.
Understanding the Legalities of Lane Splitting
Although lane splitting is a common practice throughout the world, it's one that hasn't gotten much legal sanction in the US until recently, and only in a single state. The state of California recently legalized lane splitting after years of legislation. Before it was finally legalized in the state's Assembly Bill 51, lane splitting operated within a legal gray area -- although the practice was not explicitly considered illegal under state statutes, there were no laws governing or sanctioning it, either.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of states in the U.S. view the practice of lane splitting as illegal in various respects. Some states specifically identity and prohibit the practice under existing motor vehicle codes, complete with fines and other penalties for doing so. Others do not specifically identify the practice, but give law enforcement enough latitude to punish lane splitting under the guise of "unsafe vehicle operation." Some states, like Oregon, have tried to enact their own version of California's lane splitting law, but to no avail.
Measuring the Impact on Your Personal Injury Claim
Needless to say, the actual practice of lane splitting is either illegal or highly discouraged in every state save for California. This can have a number of ramifications on your personal injury claim:
- The courts and the insurance companies are more likely to see your actions as being unnecessarily reckless, especially if you sustained severe injuries while engaged in lane splitting.
- The insurance adjusters may decide to hold you completely at fault for the accident due to your lane splitting activity prior to the collision.
- The insurance company may not be as willing to compensate you fairly for your injuries and other damages.
These factors can easily turn your fight for fair compensation into an uphill battle. Nevertheless, there's still a chance that you'll be able to prevail in your personal injury claim.
Outside of California, there's a good chance that you may end up with a settlement that's much lower than you've expected. However, there are a few circumstances where you may be able to receive the compensation you deserve in spite of the circumstances surrounding your personal injury claim:
If you have a clean driving record with no accidents or major traffic violations, the court may look at your case more favorably. It's one way for you to overcome the sometimes inherent bias against motorcyclists in personal injury cases.
Highlighting the other driver's negligent behavior may also be another way to mitigate the circumstances surrounding your personal injury claim. For instance, your attorney may argue that the other driver was engaged in behavior that posed a bigger danger to other motorists than lane splitting, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.
The courts may also consider if the other driver was engaged in malicious behavior throughout the event (i.e. "road rage"). Such actions could make the court more sympathetic to your claim and less likely to hold you completely at fault for the accident in question.
Your motorcycle accident attorney will be able to offer more information regarding the potential outcome of your personal injury claim.