Lane splitting is the practice of riding a motorcycle between two lanes of traffic which are traveling in the same direction. It is a common practice in California, which sees some of the heaviest traffic in the nation. Lane splitting can help motorcyclists get from point A to point B more quickly by moving through dense city traffic in San Francisco or gridlocked freeway traffic in Los Angeles. The practice is commonly seen on frequently gridlocked California highways such as Interstate 5 and Interstate 10.
While lane splitting can be convenient and save time for motorcyclists, it is also a common cause of motorcycle accidents in California. All it takes is for a single motorist to make a lane change without using their turn signal, checking their mirror and checking their blind spot for a lane splitting accident to occur. Motorcyclists are unfortunately more likely to be injured in accidents than other motorists because they do not have the shell of a vehicle around them to protect them in an accident. Motorcyclists can be hurt very badly if they strike the ground forcefully after an accident.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident in California while lane splitting, you may be wondering if you may still be able to obtain financial compensation for your injuries. The answer is yes, since lane splitting is not illegal in California. You can obtain financial compensation from any negligent driver who causes your accident or, more likely, their insurance company.
However, a lot of people, including insurance adjusters, have a bias against motorcyclists and lane splitting. Therefore, if you’ve been injured in a lane splitting accident, the other driver’s insurance company may reflexively deny you the money you deserve for your injuries. You will need strong, experienced motorcycle accident lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen in this case to fight to preserve your legal rights, convince the insurance company, a judge or jury that your accident was the result of someone else’s negligence, and obtain the financial recovery you are entitled to under the law.
Is Lane Splitting Illegal In California?
Lane splitting is not illegal in California. There is no law that prohibits lane splitting in California. California Highway Patrol (CHP) and California Department of Motor Vehicles publications state, “Lane splitting in a safe and prudent manner is not illegal in the state of California.
Many people assume that because lane splitting is legal in California, there must have been a law passed that legalized it. This is not the case.
Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 51 in 2016. AB 51 defined motorcycle lane splitting, and gave the CHP the authority to develop lane-splitting safety guidelines.
California Lane Splitting Laws
The CHP advises California motorcyclists to be aware of the following laws:
21658 CVC: When a road is divided into multiple clearly marked lanes in the same direction, vehicles should be driven as nearly as practical inside a single lane and shouldn’t move from the lane until they can with reasonable safety.
22350 CVC: No one should drive a vehicle on a highway at an unreasonable or non-prudent speed for the weather conditions, visibility, amount of traffic, surface conditions and highway width, and no one should drive a vehicle at a speed which threatens the safety of people or property.
21703 CVC: Motor vehicle drivers should not follow other vehicles more closely than is prudent and reasonable considering the speed of the vehicle, the amount of traffic, and the roadway conditions.
23103 CVC: Those who drive vehicles on a highway in wanton or willful disregard for the safety of property or people is driving recklessly.
2800.1 CVC: It is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to a year to willfully flee or attempt to elude a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while operating a motor vehicle with the intent to evade.
Lane Splitting Safety
After Governor Brown gave the CHP the authority to develop lane-splitting safety guidelines, the CHP finalized those guidelines in 2018. The CHP advised motorcyclists to follow the following safety tips regarding lane splitting:
- A bigger difference in speed between you and the traffic you are splitting means more danger.
- Lane splitting at a higher speed means more danger.
- Consider the totality of your surroundings when lane splitting, including the size of the vehicles around you, the lane width, lighting conditions, weather conditions and roadway conditions.
- Try not to split lanes around large vehicles such as motorhomes, buses or big rigs.
- The far left lanes are generally safer to split than other lanes.
- Stay visible, don’t stay in vehicles’ blind spots and don’t linger between vehicles.
- Do not ride on the shoulder; it is illegal and not lane splitting.
- Wear brightly colored and/or reflective protective gear and use your high beams in the daylight to help other drivers see you.
The CHP also advised other motorists to check their blind spots and mirrors frequently to avoid causing lane splitting accidents, especially before they make turns or change lanes.
A CHP brochure advises motorcyclists to keep in mind the Four R’s of lane splitting: Be Reasonable, be Responsible, be Respectful, and be aware of all Roadway and traffic conditions.
Other safety tips for motorcyclists to keep in mind when lane splitting are:
- Don’t split lanes when traffic is moving at 30 miles per hour or faster.
- Don’t go more than 10 miles per hour faster than the flow of traffic when lane splitting.
- Take extra caution, or don’t lane split at all, if your bike has wide pipes, handle bars, mirrors or other parts, as these parts can cause you to clip other vehicles.
- Don’t weave in and out between vehicles.
- Carefully assess the risks of lane splitting before attempting it, every time.
- Watch ahead carefully for sudden lane changes.
- Warn vehicles with your horn if they appear to be in the process of cutting in front of you.
Who Is At Fault For A Lane Splitting Motorcycle Accident?
In any traffic accident, lane splitting accidents included, the police will investigate the accident to determine which, if any, drivers were responsible for the accident. An officer’s determination of fault is an opinion. It is an opinion which is used to determine whether traffic citations are handed out to one or multiple drivers. However, fault can be more complicated than an officer’s initial analysis and officers can assume incorrectly at the scene of an accident.
A motorcycle accident attorney will do a comprehensive investigation of a lane splitting accident to gather all of the facts and evidence relating to the accident. A lawyer will sometimes need to hire experts to analyze any evidence and information to determine exactly what caused the crash. It is vital to determine exactly what caused a crash because of the concept of comparative negligence in the State of California.
Negligence is failing to use reasonable care to prevent oneself or others from being harmed. It is negligent to do what a reasonably careful person wouldn’t do in the same situation. It is negligent to fail to do what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.
California’s concept of comparative negligence means that more than one party can be found negligent for an accident, and when this occurs, each negligent party is assigned a percentage of fault for an accident. To put it simply, the amount of damages an accident victim is entitled to under the law for their injuries is reduced by their percentage of fault for the accident. Thus, if you file a motorcycle accident lawsuit and are found 30 percent at fault for the accident, the damages you can recover in your lawsuit are reduced by 30 percent.
Because of this, every party involved in a lane splitting accident requires evidence that proves that another party is completely or mostly at fault for the accident to ensure they receive the most compensation possible for their damages, losses and injuries.
A motorcyclist, another driver or even a third party can be found at fault for a lane splitting accident, or multiple parties could share fault for the crash. Motorists can view lane splitting motorcyclists negatively and this can cause insurance companies to automatically blame lane splitters for accidents that aren’t actually their fault. Hiring experienced, expert motorcycle accident lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen can improve the chances that you recover the financial compensation you deserve for your lane splitting accident injuries.
Do I Need A Lawyer If I’ve Been Injured In A Lane Splitting Accident?
You need a personal injury lawyer to obtain the maximum amount of compensation possible in any kind of motorcycle accident. This is because your source of recovery in a motorcycle accident case is going to be an insurance company and insurance companies are more concerned with their own profits than your well-being. Insurance companies make millions and millions of dollars. They can afford very expensive lawyers. They know you can’t beat their very expensive lawyers in court if you don’t have a lawyer of your own. Therefore, if you don’t have a lawyer, there is no chance they will offer you a settlement that comes even close to what you’re entitled to under the law. They will instead quickly offer you a tiny amount of money, hoping you’re desperate enough for money to accept it, and dare you to take them to court over it.
Insurance companies are also trained to manipulate you into saying things that imply your own fault for an accident, or imply that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim, so they can pay you less money. They are very good at this. It is thus vital that you hire a motorcycle accident lawyer to handle all communications with insurance companies for you so you don’t accidentally incriminate yourself.
However, it is even more vital in lane splitting accidents to hire a motorcycle accident attorney because of the bias that many people have against lane splitting. Insurance companies are always going to be reluctant to pay you what you deserve for your injuries, but they will be even more reluctant if your accident occurred while you were lane splitting. They may automatically assume that your lane splitting was the reason for the accident and may refuse to pay you at all because of it. Experienced lane splitting accident lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen can help you prove to the insurance companies that somebody else’s negligence caused your lane splitting accident in California while you were legally and safely splitting lanes as allowed in California.
Can I Afford A Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
Most motorcycle accident lawyers, like Nadrich & Cohen, charge a contingency fee for their representation. This means that the only fee charged is a percentage of any financial recovery they obtain for their clients. This fee is not charged until and unless they win your case and obtain a recovery for you.
Thus, anyone can afford a motorcycle accident lawyer because it will never cost any money out-of-pocket to be represented by one.
What Can I Recover In A Lane Splitting Accident Lawsuit?
A lane splitting accident lawsuit will seek to recover damages. Damages include any harm or financial loss resulting from your accident. Damages that you can sue for include:
- Past and future medical bills
- Hospital bills
- Medical supplies
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Loss of wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Loss of a limb
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
If you’re wondering how much your case might be worth after you’ve been injured in a lane-splitting accident, you should call experienced motorcycle accident attorneys like Nadrich & Cohen for a free consultation. A motorcycle accident lawyer can explain to you all of the possible damages you can recover in a lawsuit and how much they might be worth.