If a Motorcycle Hits the Rear of a Car Turning Left, Whose Fault Is It?

Usually, it’s the fault of the car turning left. However, insurance companies like to use a simple formula to attribute fault to the motorcyclist in left turn accidents and use that to pay you less for your motorcycle damage claim and your personal injury claim for pain-and-suffering.

How does an insurance company determine fault when a car makes a left turn?

The formula insurance companies use is to look at the location of the point of impact on the car making a left turn. When the point of impact is on the front of the car, the insurance company will admit all or most of the fault belongs to the car. But the further back the point of impact is towards the rear of the car, the more it becomes the fault of the motorcycle.

left turn motorcycle accident

This photo shows the point of impact at the front of the car

In most of our left turn cases, the motorcycle hits the side of the car between the front fender and front door. Because it’s not the front of the car, insurance companies think claim the accident is 15%-50% the fault of the motorcyclist. When the impact is even further back, they argue it is even more the fault of the motorcyclist.

Why do insurance companies claim the motorcycle is partially at fault?

They argue that the further towards the rear of the car the point of impact is, the further the car was into the intersection when it was struck. Therefore, 1) the motorcycle must have been speeding and/or 2) the motorcyclist had time to apply his/her brakes and avoid the accident.

This formula is wrong. It makes multiple unproven assumptions including that: the motorcycle was speeding; the motorcycle can stop as quickly as a car; the driver of the car was looking at the motorcycle; the driver correctly judged the speed and distance of the motorcycle; the car wasn’t accelerating too fast; the car was at a full stop prior to making a left turn; and other factors.

The truth is that it is usually the fault of the car turning left no matter where the point of impact is on the car turning left. We just proved that it was the fault of the driver of the car turning left where our client’s motorcycle hit as far back as the rear bumper of the car.

We filed a motion for summary judgment, which is a paper submitted to the court, asking the court to rule (without a trial) that the driver was 100% at fault. It is much harder to win summary judgment than to win 100% fault against the driver at trial.

The Insurance company attorney called us and said the driver’s liability was 0%-50%, especially since the motorcyclist was not wearing his glasses. He offered to give us 50% liability against the car if we agree to withdraw our motion. We declined the offer and said we would wait for the decision of the court.

The court agreed with us that the insurance company assumptions were wrong, that the motorcyclist was not speeding; he could not possibly have had enough time to avoid the accident; and his failure to wear glasses was not a cause of the accident. We also proved that the driver, who said she saw the motorcycle, misjudged the speed and distance of the motorcycle. The court ruled that the driver was 100% at fault.

Because we won summary judgment, if there is a trial, the jury will not be able to decide who is at fault and will only be able to decide how much money to award. Summary judgment also entitles the motorcyclist to 9% interest.

Does it matter if the motorcycle struck the car or the car struck the motorcycle?