Not every motorcycle accident is a contact crash. An automobile driver can be liable for a motorcyclist’s injuries and property damage even when they have not physically touched the motorcycle rider. The question is whether the driver was negligent.
Negligence is failing to exercise reasonable care. If a reasonable person would have behaved a certain way, failure to do so is considered negligence. Conversely, if the person would not have behaved a certain way, behaving in such a manner can also be considered negligent.
The four elements of negligence are:
- Duty: The average reasonable person owes other people the duty of due care.
- Breach: When the average reasonable person fails to exercise due care, they are said to have breached that duty.
- Causation: The breach must be the actual and proximate cause of damage.
- Damage: There must actually be damages to the party to whom a duty was owed.
Examples of No Contact Motorcycle Accidents
When the Rider is Parallel with the Driver
A car and a motorcycle are both traveling parallel to each other, obeying all safety and traffic rules. Suddenly, the car driver changes lanes moving in front of the motorcycle. This causes the motorcycle rider to brake forcefully, flip over his handle bars landing in the road and causing injury.
In this situation, the car driver is negligent because they switched lanes suddenly and without warning. Had the car driver been aware of his surroundings, they would have noticed the motorcycle and not cut in front of it.
Applying the factors above, the driver owed the motorcycle rider a duty to exercise reasonable care while driving. When the driver suddenly moved lanes in front of the motorcycle, he breached his duty. This breach was the cause of the motorcycle rider’s damages which, in this case, would likely be personal injury and some property damage at minimum.
When the Rider is Behind the Driver
Another example is a car traveling with a motorcycle rider behind them. Distracted by radio or text messages, the car driver fails to notice that traffic ahead was slowing to a stop. Suddenly the car driver slams on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front. When the motorcycle rider sees the sudden brake lights, he must veer off the road into a ditch, causing significant injury.
In this case, the car driver owed the rider a duty of reasonable care. But the motorcycle rider also had a duty to be aware of his surroundings. This is a situation in which both parties can be equally responsible for the damages that occurred; however, from a liability standpoint, the motorcycle rider should have been more observant in order to see the car slowing ahead.
You can see that a “no contact” motorcycle accident may still give rise to liability just like any other kind of car accident. The determining factor is not whether there was a collision but whether either party (or both) was negligent. If a negligent driver causes a “no contact” accident, whether they are the vehicle driver or the motorcycle rider does not matter.
If a negligent driver caused damages to you as a motorcycle rider, whether or not there was a collision, you should contact a reputable motorcycle accident lawyer with experience determining negligence in no-contact accidents.