One of the best things about Tennessee’s injury laws is that you can still file a lawsuit if you are partly at fault for a crash. The state operates under a modified comparative negligence system, which allows victims to pursue damages if they were less than 50% to blame for an accident. However, the amount of fault assigned to each party will proportionately reduce the damages each victim is awarded. This can be especially devastating for motorcycle accident victims, who rely on their settlements to pay high medical bills and compensate them for permanent injuries.
Actions That Can Reduce the Award in a Tennessee Motorcycle Accident Case
As injury cases are dependent on negligence, there are some motorcyclist actions that can make it more difficult to recover in a crash case. Any action that puts others at unnecessary risk or increases the risk of an accident will be looked upon unfavorably by a judge, and can potentially give the other party’s position more weight.
Biker behaviors that can reduce the amount of an award include:
- Intoxication. Drinking and driving is illegal, so a biker who has a high blood alcohol level after a crash is unlikely to recover damages. Someone who has a legal substance in his or her bloodstream (such as a prescription medication) or a legal amount of alcohol may still have trouble getting compensation.
- Lane splitting. Opinions vary on the safety of riding between cars in traffic, also called lane splitting. The driver of a car may be less likely to see a biker who is “sharing” a lane, while the close proximity to other vehicles could be seen as a reckless move.
- Speeding. Speeding is a common cause of motorcycle and car accidents, and places everyone at a higher risk of injury. Depending on how fast you were going, your speed could be the reason that a jury finds you more at fault for a crash.
- Failing to signal. Drivers often “don’t see” motorcyclists in their mirrors, making it difficult for bikers who are turning, cornering, or passing other vehicles. If you did not signal your intentions, the driver may not have known which travel path you were taking, increasing the risk of a crash.
How an Attorney Can Help if You Are Partially at Fault in a Crash
One of the advantages of hiring an attorney is that it allows you to understand how much at fault you could be in your crash case. Many judges and juries have a negative view of bikers, and may automatically assume that a biker is more to blame than the driver of a passenger car. An attorney can examine not only the actions of each party, but the reasoning behind those actions, allowing a fair assessment of each party’s negligence.
For example, the jury may consider the following factors when apportioning fault in a crash case:
- Whether your actions mitigated the damage. Motorcyclists are often forced to perform a number of emergency actions to protect themselves before and during the crash. If you moved into another lane because your path was blocked, the action may be seen as necessary rather than reckless.
- Why you performed the action. In some cases, bikers may put others at risk without being aware of it. A motorcyclist who has a few drinks before riding is knowingly negligent, as opposed to a biker who accidentally got drowsy after taking cold medicine in order to go to work.
- Reasons behind the other driver’s actions. A driver’s actions before and after the crash may be seen as much more hazardous than those of the biker. For instance, a driver who was driving aggressively around the biker (by tailgating, honking, or exhibiting road rage) may be more at fault for instigating the crash.
- Events after the crash. A jury will not only examine the events leading up to the accident, but what happened afterward. If a driver took off and left you at the scene, and you followed up on your medical care and made every attempt to cooperate with law enforcement, your percentage of fault may be reduced considerably.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, we can listen to your story and explain to you how much your claim may be worth. Contact GriffithLaw today for a free evaluation of your case, or order a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.