Determining Who is Liable for a Motorcycle Accident

Vancouver lawyers know that motorcyclists are often perceived by the general public to be at fault for motorcycle accidents. Vancouver lawyers at Bronson Jones & Company LLP also know, however, that the general perception is wrong – in the majority of multi-vehicle collisions, the other vehicle is at fault, not the motorcycle. The determination of who is at fault is extremely important, as it impacts who is liable for any injuries or damage caused by the accident. Any portion of fault that is assigned to you will correspondingly reduce your claim for personal injury compensation. For example, if you and the other driver are equally at fault for the accident, your claim for personal injury damages will be reduced by 50 per cent. Given how important the finding of fault is to the overall claim for compensation, this article will review how liability for a motorcycle accident is determined.


Gathering evidence after a motorcycle accident 


The first step is to gather all available information about the accident and look for any evidence of negligence to determine who is liable or “at fault” for the accident. ICBC will collect and consider information from the police report and the drivers involved in the accident, as well as evidence from any eyewitnesses. Examination of the accident scene can also be crucial to determining liability; for example, photographs, measurements, road maintenance schedules, lighting conditions, or information about the timing of traffic signal changes at a given intersection may be considered in determining who was at fault. In some cases, it may be necessary to retain an accident reconstruction expert to comment on how the accident occurred or whether a driver’s subjective version of events is possible given the objective evidence. 


Who can be found at fault for a motorcycle accident? 

  • The other vehicle’s driver. As noted above, in the majority of multi-vehicle collisions, the other vehicle is at fault, not the motorcycle. Motorcycles are smaller than passenger vehicles and thus more difficult to see. Often other drivers do not scan intersections carefully or take an extra moment to look for motorcycles when turning left. Following too closely and failing to yield are also major causes of motorcycle accidents – vehicle drivers have a difficult time telling how fast a motorcycle is travelling and often do not leave enough space for motorcycles. 
  • The manufacturer of the motorcycle. We recently discussed safety recalls as they pertain to motorcycles . If an accident was caused by a defectively manufactured or designed motorcycle, Canadian product liability law allows the injured plaintiff to sue the manufacturer. However, it can be difficult to prove that a defect existed and that the defect caused the accident. If you suspect that you were injured as a result of a defectively designed or manufacturer motorcycle, contact the Vancouver motorcycle accident lawyers at Bronson Jones & Company LLP to discuss the potential for a liability claim against the manufacturer.
  • The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and/or highways contractors. Motorcycle accidents may be caused by defectively designed or poorly maintained roadways, or as a result of construction or maintenance activities. For example, the contract between a highway maintenance contractor and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will require that the contractor meet specific standards and response times determined by the classification of the roadway in question. Once a deficiency, such as a pothole, has been detected, contractors must make the necessary repairs within those required response times; if they fail to do so, they may be liable for a motorcycle accident that occurs as a result of the pothole. There are shorter timelines and special rules for claims of this type, so it is important to speak to one of our Vancouver motorcycle accident lawyers (or a lawyer at any of our 13 offices in the Lower Mainland) as soon as possible after the accident. 
  • The motorcyclist. Of course, the motorcyclist may be fully or partially at fault for the accident that caused their injuries. Speeding and “lane splitting” are two examples of conduct on the part of a motorcyclist that can go against a favorable finding of fault. If fully at fault, the motorcyclist will not be entitled to tort compensation but can still claim Part 7 Accident Benefits from ICBC (sometimes called “no-fault” benefits or recovery benefits). If partially at fault, the motorcyclist can claim for both Part 7 benefits and damages or compensation for losses caused by the negligence of others (a tort claim). 


A word on contributory negligence 


Even if a motorcyclist is determined to not be “at-fault”, ICBC may attempt to reduce compensation on the basis of contributory negligence (in other words, that the motorcyclist failed to take reasonable precautions for their own safety, and as a result, contributed to their own injuries). In this regard, ICBC will look as issues such as the motorcycle’s condition (e.g. proper maintenance, meeting the safety standards for tire tread, tire inflation, and brakes) and whether or not the motorcyclist was wearing a certified helmet that meets DOT, Snell or ECE safety standards and protective clothing designed for riding, including appropriate footwear. Note that ICBC has to prove that the motorcyclist’s injuries were made worse as a result of the failure to wear a helmet or maintain the motorcycle, etc. Only then will a reduction be made in the tort claim. Read more on motorcycle rider safety.


Experienced Vancouver motorcycle accident lawyer can help build your case


Vancouver motorcycle accident lawyers at Bronson Jones & Company LLP have years of experience in gathering evidence and building a strong case against the other driver. Our lawyers know the ICBC process and are up-to-date on motor vehicle liability law in BC. We have the skills to challenge an allegation of contributory negligence and to test the accuracy of unfavourable eyewitness evidence (for example, we recognize that motorcyclists are often deemed by witnesses to be driving at a higher speed than accurate). In our plaintiffs-only practice, we also regularly work with accident reconstruction engineers and specialists. Contact our Vancouver motorcycle accident lawyers today for a free initial consultation at 604-852-5100, or use our toll-free number if you are elsewhere in BC or outside the province: 1-855-852-5100.


Legal Guidance & More, from Injury to Recovery


Bronson Jones & Company LLP exclusively represents victims of motor vehicle accidents, and that’s all we do! Unlike other law firms which deal with everything from dog bites to divorce, Bronson Jones has built more than 30 years of trial experience and in negotiating fair settlements for clients injured in motor vehicle accidents.
We’ve also developed an extensive network of medical and occupational specialists, therapists, rehabilitation specialists, and others to help you recover and deal with the impact of your injury on your physical health, family life, finances and future. Additionally, such reports may be essential in the development of your case. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call any of the 13 Bronson Jones locations in the Lower Mainland for our expertise and advice. All of our cases are handled on a contingency (percentage) basis and you don’t pay until we collect.

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