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What should you know about motorcycle accident liability?

Whether you're a biker or a firm believer that four wheels are better than two, it's important to know some of the facts surrounding motorcycle accidents.

This is particularly wise because Virginia follows a set of rules that only a small minority of states use regarding negligence and personal liability for accident and injury claims.

Virginia's contributory negligence rule

If you're a motorcyclist, you already know you have to practice defensive driving in order to be safe -- it doesn't matter who is right or wrong if you're killed in an accident.

However, you might not realize that you can be held responsible for your own injuries -- and left unable to collect for even serious wounds and long-term recovery costs -- if the court finds you to be even 1 percent responsible for your accident with a car.

Virginia, unlike the majority of other states, follows a rule known as "pure contributory negligence."

What counts as contributory negligence?

Essentially anything that that a jury could consider a factor that might have caused either your accident or your injuries could be considered "contributory negligence" on your part.

While there's no way to cover everything, these are some common issues that might come up:

  • You were exceeding the posted speed limit.
  • You ran through a stop sign or red light or even pushed through a yellow light before a car turned left into you.
  • You were not wearing protective gear, including a helmet -- even if the gear wasn't required.
  • You were riding with a broken light when it was dark out, rainy or foggy.

In most places, none of these things would totally bar you from recovering compensation from the car's driver if the other driver was clearly at fault.

For example, a driver who turns left into a biker (or another car) is almost always at fault -- but if you raced the light to get there before it turned red and exceeded the speed limit, a jury could easily determine that you were 1 percent responsible for your own accident.

At that point, your own insurance would cover your injuries but you wouldn't be entitled to compensation from the other driver.

Because of Virginia's somewhat draconian laws when it comes to negligence -- not to mention the bias that many people have against bikers in general -- it's important to get legal help as quickly as possible to protect yourself if you're in a car accident.

Source: Motorcycle accident FAQ, "Motorcycle accidents," accessed Sep. 29, 2017

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