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 because the driver didn’t see the motorcycle. 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 – the insurance company admitted fault

In most of our left-turn cases, the motorcycle hits the side of the car between the front fender and the front door. Because it’s not the front of the car, insurance companies 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.

In most of our left turn cases involving a motorcycle, the motorcycle struck the car. Don’t think that it’s your fault because the motorcycle struck the car. Read why it is not the fault of the motorcycle because the motorcycle struck the car.

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 and wrong 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 or speeding; the car was at a full stop prior to making a left turn; and other factors.

Left-turn accidents involving two cars are different than when a car and motorcycle are involved. Motorcycles need more distance to stop than cars do. Motorcycles have only two wheels and usually less surface area on the road per tire than a car. This makes it appear to the driver that the motorcycle was speeding.

The truth is that in almost all left-turn accidents where a motorcycle is involved, it is the fault of the car turning left no matter where the point of impact is on the car turning left.

How we proved the driver making a left turn was at fault when her car was struck in the rear by a motorcycle

We 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. How did we do that?

By hiring an accident reconstruction expert who proved that the motorcycle did not have enough time to stop and by asking the right questions at the driver’s deposition we proved she didn’t see the motorcycle and used her answers against her. Read why drivers don’t see motorcycles – it’s not what you think!

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’s 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, at the trial the jury was not allowed to decide who was at fault and was only allowed to decide how much money to award. The jury, at the trial in New York State Supreme Court Suffolk County, awarded $425,000 for our client’s broken leg. Summary judgment also entitles the motorcyclist to 9% interest.

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Motorcycle Attorney Phil Franckel talks about how motorcycle accidents are different

Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

Motorcycle Injury Attorney Rob Plevy, Esq.

Partner Rob Plevy, Esq.

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