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Can a rider’s decision to lane split affect a motorcycle crash case?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Motorcycle crashes |

In California, lane splitting, the practice wherein a motorcyclist operates between rows of vehicles instead of remaining in formation within a standard lane, is a recognized and legal maneuver. However, the fact that a maneuver is legal doesn’t necessarily mean that it is irrelevant when it comes to determining liability – and the ultimate outcome – of a motorcycle crash case. 

In the same way that turning left – a legal maneuver in many circumstances – can lead to a crash under the right circumstances, lane splitting can potentially serve as a cause (or a contributing factor) in a motorcycle crash case. Yet, there are also instances in which this legal maneuver may have no bearing on the outcome of an accident claim. 

It all comes down to the specifics of any particular case

California is unique in explicitly allowing lane splitting, provided that it is done in a “safe and prudent” manner. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) offers guidelines suggesting that motorcyclists should not lane split at speeds exceeding 10 mph faster than other traffic and should not lane split when traffic flow is at 30 mph or faster. 

As the “safe and prudent” standard is largely circumstantial, a decision to lane split can significantly impact a motorcycle crash case when it comes to liability and fault determination. Since California follows a comparative fault system, the actions of all parties in an accident are scrutinized, and liability is assigned proportionately. If a motorcyclist is found to be lane splitting recklessly or unsafely according to the conditions at the time of the accident, this can increase their percentage of fault and reduce the compensation they may receive from other liable parties as a result of the harm they’ve suffered. 

For example, if a motorcyclist was lane splitting at a high speed in near-stationary traffic and an accident occurred, the rider might be deemed partially or predominantly at fault for the crash. Conversely, if the motorcyclist was adhering to safe lane splitting practices but another driver made a sudden lane change without signaling and caused a collision, the other driver might bear more substantial fault.

Due to the circumstantial nature of liability and fault questions in motorcycle crash cases, the issue of whether lane splitting will affect any particular claim will play out uniquely according to the details of that claim itself. 


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