How Is Fault Determined in a Motorcycle Accident?
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you will likely face high medical bills, time away from work, and significant pain and suffering. There is also a good chance that another driver will be at fault. If so, the other driver and their insurance company might be on the hook for your medical bills, missed paychecks, and more. To hold the driver accountable, you must understand how fault is determined in a motorcycle accident.
At The Peace Law Firm, we can help you hold the responsible party accountable for the damage caused by a motorcycle accident. Regardless of who is at fault, our firm can negotiate with insurance companies to secure a financial payout for the accident.
Our experienced motorcycle accident attorney in Greenville, SC has been helping motorcyclists handle the aftermath of accidents since 2002. With The Peace Law Firm, you do not have to fight alone. Contact us now to schedule a consultation.
Who Is at Fault in a Motorcycle Accident?
Four elements must be met for South Carolina courts to determine who is liable for a motorcycle accident. The four elements are:
- Someone owed a duty to the plaintiff (you);
- That person breached their duty;
- The plaintiff suffered an injury; and
- The person’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury.
In most cases, a plaintiff must prove all four elements to hold someone liable. In other cases, a plaintiff can bring a lawsuit based on negligence per se.
A duty is a legal obligation for one party to act in a certain manner toward others. For example, every driver has a duty of reasonable care that requires them to operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner.
They also must follow all traffic rules and regulations. Drivers owe this duty to everyone they could foreseeably harm with their vehicles.
Breach of Duty
Once the plaintiff establishes a duty, they must prove the defendant breached it. Proving a breach involves convincing a judge or jury that the defendant did not exercise the same care as a reasonable and prudent person under similar circumstances.
A reasonable and prudent person takes ordinary precautions to avoid harming others.
A plaintiff must also prove that they suffered an injury for which monetary compensation can be legally recovered.
In motorcycle accidents, establishing an injury can be relatively straightforward. The plaintiff can use their medical records to prove the existence and extent of the injuries they suffered.
Additionally, plaintiffs can recover damages for less tangible injuries such as emotional distress or pain and suffering.
The final hurdle for plaintiffs is to prove the defendant’s breach caused the injury. Sometimes this element is broken into actual causation and proximate causation.
Actual causation means that the injury would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s breach. Proximate causation means that the defendant could have foreseen that the injury might be a consequence of their actions.
Plaintiffs must show that both standards are met to hold a defendant liable for their injuries.
Negligence Per Se
When a plaintiff was violating the law at the time they injured the defendant, the defendant can argue the plaintiff’s actions were negligence per se. Under this standard, a plaintiff must prove:
- The defendant violated the law;
- The law’s purpose is to protect people from the harm the plaintiff suffered; and
- The plaintiff is among the class of people the law is designed to protect.
If the plaintiff can prove each element, they must only prove an injury and causation to hold the defendant liable. A driver speeding through a red light and hitting a motorcycle in the process is an example of negligence per se.
What Happens When Multiple Parties Are at Fault?
Sometimes more than one party, including the victim, can be at fault for one accident. South Carolina follows a modified comparative fault standard in these cases.
Under this standard, an accident victim can recover damages from another at-fault party as long as the judge or jury determines the victim is less than 50% at fault. If the victim is 50% or more at fault, they cannot recover damages.
Additionally, the compensation a defendant owes to the victim is reduced by the percentage of fault the victim is responsible for. For example, if a jury determines a defendant is 75% at fault and a plaintiff is 25% at fault for $1,000,000 in damages, the defendant will owe the plaintiff $750,000 in damages.
How to Prove Fault After a Motorcycle Accident
Proving every element to hold another party accountable for a motorcycle accident involves collecting evidence and effectively arguing it to a judge or jury. However, few cases go to trial, and presenting a strong case to the at-fault party’s insurance company is often enough to achieve a favorable settlement.
At Peace Law Firm, we know how to work with insurance companies to get you a favorable settlement. If a settlement is insufficient or the other party refuses to be reasonable, our firm can effectively advocate for you at trial. Contact us today!