Inexperienced insurance claim representatives often look at whether the motorcycle struck the car or the car struck the motorcycle, when determining liability. Insurance claim representatives trying to blame our client often claim the motorcycle was the striking vehicle.
Did Your Motorcycle Strike the Car or Were you Struck By the Car?
Which vehicle is the striking vehicle is irrelevant to determine who caused the accident. There are many examples which can illustrate why it should never be considered but these examples will make the reason obvious.
In one example, we will assume that a motorcycle is proceeding straight through an intersection with a green light and strikes a car which runs a red light. If the motorcycle strikes the car, the motorcycle is the striking vehicle but not at fault because it had a green light.
In this case, the front of our client’s motorcycle in the image below struck a car broadside on the passenger side. However, the car was 100% responsible for causing the accident because the car exited a store parking lot and crossed 2 lanes of traffic when he was waived on by the driver of another car. Neither driver saw the motorcyclist who had the right-of-way.
GEICO originally offered nothing for the damage to the motorcycle and denied the claim for injuries, claiming that it was 100% the fault of the motorcyclist. After a deposition where we questioned the driver, GEICO admitted that the car was 100% at fault and we got our client the money for his motorcycle.
In another case, our client’s motorcycle struck the left side of the rear bumper of a car making a left turn. Again, the insurance company claimed the accident was our client’s fault. The New York State Supreme Court ruled that it was 100% the fault of the driver of the car.
The claims representative might have believed this was all or partially the fault of the motorcyclist because of two reasons. One is that the motorcycle is the striking vehicle and the other is that the car was hit in the rear of the side.
Insurance claims representatives use cookie-cutter methodology to determine who was at fault but this rarely provides a true picture of what really happened.
Insurance claims representatives use a cookie-cutter formula which tells the claims representative that the motorcyclist is also partially at fault because the motorcycle struck the rear of the car.
This would indicate to the claims representative that the motorcyclist failed to see what there was to be seen which is also a violation of New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. The fallacy of this thinking is that it fails to look at the timing, position, speed of the vehicles and the fact that motorcycles require more distance to stop than a car.
In another example, which is the most common type of motorcycle accident, we will assume that the motorcycle is going straight through the intersection when a car coming in the opposite direction is making a left turn.
The car is in the process of turning left when it is struck on the side by the motorcycle. Thus, the motorcycle is the striking vehicle. Does this make it the fault of the motorcyclist? The answer is no.
Again, this cookie-cutter approach ignores several factors. If the motorcycle was not speeding, this indicates that the car began its turn without seeing the motorcycle. In that situation, the car is 100% at fault. There are many cases like this in which courts have awarded Summary Judgment which means that the court ruled that the car was 100% at fault and the question of fault never even got to be considered by a jury.
In a hit in the rear / rear end collision where there were 3 or more vehicles, which vehicle struck first does make a difference.
In motorcycle accidents, the motorcycle is often the “striking” vehicle because the driver of the car or truck did not see the motorcycle.