Who Is at Fault in a Lane-Splitting Accident in Virginia?

Jul 13, 2021 | Auto Accidents


Rather than sit in traffic, motorcycle riders straddle the dotted lines between the lanes on multi-lane roads. This is known as lane-splitting. A legislative measure to legalize lane-splitting, a practice also known as lane filtering, died in committee in 2020. So, as of Summer 2021, lane-splitting is illegal in Virginia. Therefore, if a lane-splitting motorcycle rider is involved in an accident, insurance adjusters may assign fault to the rider.


However, the negligence per se rule usually does not apply in these cases. Sometimes, lane-splitting riders veer into vehicles. Much more commonly, the vehicles veer into the riders. If the other driver caused the crash, even if this driver properly signaled the lane change, a Richmond personal injury lawyer might be able to obtain compensation in court. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.


Motorcycle Wreck Injuries

During collisions, four-wheel vehicle occupants have steel cages and multiple restraint layers to protect them from serious injury. But motorcyclists have no such protection. So, riders are twenty-nine times more likely to die in these wrecks. 


Spine injuries are among the most catastrophic, and most common, motorcycle crash victim injuries. The motion of a crash and/or the trauma impact could cause a back injury.


The spine is not a single bone. Instead, the spine is made up of thirty-three small bones (vertebrae) which are connected by fluid joints (facets). Any sudden, jarring movement could knock the spine out of alignment. Once that happens, the vertebrae often pinch the nerve, causing intense pain. Procedures are typically very expensive.


The same violent, jarring motion could cause a head injury as well. That motion causes the brain to repeatedly slam against the inside of the skull.


Some motorcycle riders wear helmets to protect their heads. But no one wears a back brace or other device to protect the spine. Therefore, a hard landing could cause a bone bruise at best or a bone fracture at worst. Either injury could cause paralysis.


Motorcycle Accident Liability Issues

The medical bills alone in these cases could exceed $5 million. Compensation is available as mentioned above. But there are some legal and practical hurdles to overcome, especially in lane-splitting claims.


Legally, victim/plaintiffs must prove that the driver’s negligence, as opposed to the rider’s lane-splitting, substantially caused the wreck. Usually in this context, negligence is a failure to look before changing lanes. Many drivers are completely unaware that a lane-splitting rider might be approaching from behind when they change lanes. That unawareness, when coupled with the standard failure to watch for motorcycle riders, is usually sufficient to establish driver negligence.


Contributory Negligence

Contributory negligence is one of the most common defenses in these situations. This legal doctrine may enable the defending party to shift the accident blame from the driver to the victim. In Virginia, if you are found to be even 1% at fault for the accident, you are barred from recovering anything. Since the motorcycle rider is technically breaking the law in these claims, many jurors are willing to accept the contributory negligence defense.


Motorcycle Prejudice 

Something called “motorcycle prejudice” increases this likelihood. People may believe that motorcycle riders are reckless. Therefore, they are quick to blame riders for crashes, even if the evidence suggests otherwise. This is, of course, all the more reason why victims in a motorcycle accident should contact a lawyer. 


Call Today for Help From an Experienced Attorney

Car crash victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. Lawyers can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


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