What Does “Comparative Negligence” Mean When Determining Who Is Liable for a Motorcycle Accident?
- August 8th, 2018
- The Law Office of David E. Gordon
Tennessee law allows injured individuals to claim compensation for their injuries, even in situations where they may be partly to blame. However, the compensation will be reduced in proportion to the relative degree of blame. This is known as comparative fault.
When someone is injured in a motorcycle accident in Memphis, Tennessee, there are a number of unique ways that insurance companies will try to apply this principle to reduce compensation to injured motorcyclists and their passengers. Here’s what every motorcyclist in Tennessee should understand about “comparative negligence.”
Understanding Comparative Negligence Laws in Memphis, TN
Tennessee law applies a theory of fault sharing known as comparative negligence. States use a patchwork of different theories in order to deal with situations where both parties in an accident may share some blame.
In some states, if you are even slightly at fault for your accident, you are prohibited from recovering compensation. Fortunately, Tennessee is not that harsh. On the other hand, some states will allow you to recover some compensation, even if you are mostly to blame. Tennessee does not go that far. Instead, Tennessee law strikes a middle ground by applying something known as the 50 percent rule.
Under the 50 percent rule, you can collect compensation from the other party, so long as you are less than 50 percent to blame.However, your compensation would be reduced by your percentage of assigned blame.So, for example, say that your damages from an accident total $100,000, but you are determined to be 25 percent at fault. Your award would be reduced to $75,000.
How Does Comparative Fault Affect Crashes Involving Multiple Vehicles?
In situations where multiple vehicles are involved,Tenn. Code Ann. 20-1-119 allows defendants to add third parties to the lawsuit, and these comparative fault principles are then applied in much the same way.
A good example would be where you sue a driver who rear-ended you. That defendant then, in turn, sues the driver who rear-ended him, pushing him into you. In such a case, the law would have to determine what share of the blame each of the other drivers has for causing the crash. Of course, in this example, you would likely have no share of liability.
The Importance of Establishing Liability
One of the first determinations in any auto accident case is liability. This is important because if the insurance company for the other driver believes it can avoid paying the claim by blaming you, then it will.
A dedicated Tennessee motorcycle accident lawyer will work quickly to gather all the evidence to establish liability in your claim and push back against insurance companies.
Determining Comparative Negligence Percentages
After a Tennessee motorcycle accident, it can be a bit difficult to determine percentages of comparative negligence. If the case goes to trial, a jury would be asked to determine whether and to what extent the plaintiff shared responsibility for his or her injuries. Consider a few complications that are unique to motorcycle crashes:
Helmet Law Arguments: Each state has its own helmet law(or lack thereof in some cases). Tennessee requires all riders to use a helmet. One of the first arguments many insurance companies make is that the rider or passenger failed to have a helmet, thus leading to or increasing the injuries. At The Law Office of David E. Gordon, we vigorously dispute such claims and work to reduce the degree to which such evidence is used to reduce an injured motorcyclist’s award. Ultimately, helmet or no helmet, the direct cause of the crash was the negligent driver.
Laying Down the Bike: Experienced riders know that one of the worst things a rider may have to do is make the painful decision to lay down the bike. Sometimes you are riding along, obeying the law, and a negligent driver will pull right out in front of you, almost ignoring that you are even there. When this happens and you’re in a car, the answer is simple: hit the brakes and try not to hit him.On two wheels, things are very different.
Often you must make this decision in a split second. On one hand, the other guy is at fault. Yet, if you hit him directly, your bike will crash, you will go flying, and you risk a painful and possible deadly impact. Your second option is to simply lay down the bike, accept the painful road rash, and pray you survive. Experienced riders often take option two in order to stay alive. Unsurprisingly, insurance companies jump at the opportunity to re-brand the facts to make it look like the injured motorcyclist was negligent and just couldn’t control the bike.
How a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help Prove Negligence
Proving liability starts with the very first case evaluation. When you meet with a Memphis motorcycle accident attorney, discuss the facts step-by-step. Be honest and open. Bring all evidence you have, such as photos, medical records, the police report, names of witnesses, and anything else you believe may help your case.
At the Law Office of David E. Gordon, we perform thorough and aggressive investigations to make sure no stone is left unturned. If there’s evidence that could help prove the other party is at fault, we are committed to finding it.
With decades of comprehensive experience handling serious motorcycle accident cases in Memphis, you can count on The Law Office of David E. Gordon to fight for your best interests. As a board-certified trial lawyer, David E. Gordon has the experience and skill set that less than 2 percent of all Tennessee lawyers can claim. So you can trust that you are working with someone who truly knows how to get results. For more information or to schedule a free case consultation today, contact us online.