In many states, the victim/plaintiff must prove the other driver was mostly responsible for the crash but isn’t required to prove that the other driver was entirely responsible. However, Virginia is a contributory negligence state. Victims are ineligible for compensation even if they were only 1 percent responsible for a motorcycle wreck.
So, a Richmond motorcycle accident lawyer has basically two responsibilities in these claims. First, a lawyer must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the other driver was negligent. Then, an attorney must defend that the victim was in no way responsible for the accident.
Understanding Preponderance of Evidence and Contributory Negligence
We mentioned a preponderance of the evidence and contributory negligence. A preponderance of the evidence means “more likely than not.” Contributory negligence shifts blame for an accident from one party to the other one.
Some people may remember the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee case from the 1990s. The jury divided fault 80-20 in that case. The victim was 20 percent responsible because she spilled coffee on herself. McDonald’s was 80 percent responsible because the coffee was over 200 degrees hot. Because of this high temperature, the victim suffered grotesque burns on her inner thigh.
But as mentioned, Virginia is a pure contributory negligence state. So, if the McDonald’s case happened in Virginia, the victim would have received nothing because it was found that the plaintiff was partially responsible.
Disproving Contributory Negligence
Basically, negligence is a lack of care. Usually, this negligence is operational (speeding or making an illegal turn), behavioral (driving while sleepy or intoxicated), or environmental (failing to account for adverse environmental conditions).
Either the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule usually applies. Ordinary negligence is usually a lack of reasonable care. Negligence per se is a violation of a safety law.
To disprove responsibility, most Richmond motorcycle accident lawyers focus on the victim’s good driving habits. This list usually includes:
- Being physically, mentally, and otherwise fit
- Inspecting the motorcycle to make sure it’s working properly
- Driving friendly
- Focusing on the road
- Maintaining a safe following distance
- Obeying the formal and informal rules of the road
Not every failure is negligent. Speeding is a good example. If a rider is operating slightly above the speed limit, that’s technically illegal. However, most jurors wouldn’t consider that behavior to be negligent. A little evidence goes a long way.
The Help You Need for Your Motorcycle Accident Case
Virginia crash victims must prove the other driver was entirely at fault. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Richmond, contact Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C. Home, virtual, and after-hours visits are available.