"Lane splitting" is a hot topic among many motorcyclists. It's a tactic used by many to carefully filter their way through slow-moving or stopped traffic. However, it's also a practice that unnerves many other motorists and often sets the stage for serious accidents among motorcyclists.
If you get into an accident on your motorcycle while lane splitting, you'll definitely want to know how it could impact your ability to seek compensation for injuries and other damages.
How the Law Sees Lane Splitting
The official rules and vehicle codes in nearly every U.S. state take a dim view to lane splitting, viewing the act as an unlawful maneuver. However, each state has its own take on how it views lane splitting:
- In some states, lane splitting isn't specifically called out as an illegal act, but other statutes and codes exist that may make law enforcement agencies see it as one and the courts are likely to side with them.
- In others, lane splitting is explicitly prohibited by a specific statute and punishable by fines and penalties. As an example, Florida Statute 316.209(3) states that "no person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles."
The state of California falls into the first category, but with an unusual twist. Although there are no statutes that allow lane splitting, there aren't any that prohibit the practice. As a result, law enforcement agencies are highly unlikely to pull motorcyclists over for lane splitting as long as it's being done in a safe and prudent manner and no other offenses are being committed.
The California Highway Patrol issued general guidelines on lane splitting, but it recently withdrew them due to a complaint that there was no formal rulemaking process involved in creating the guidelines. A recently tabled legislative bill would have officially allowed the practice had it been passed. Other states have considered similar bills, but the issue hasn't gained much traction in their respective legislatures.
How It Affects Your Claim
Since most state laws don't look favorably on lane splitting, it's likely that your insurance company won't look favorably on it, either. If you have an accident while lane splitting, you could find yourself facing an uphill battle with your insurance adjuster and the courts.
In most cases, you'll have to prove that the other driver was at least partially at fault for causing the accident. By lane splitting, the insurance adjuster could argue that you were completely at fault since you were engaged in an unlawful act while riding. Not only can this prevent you from being fairly compensated for your damages, but you could also face a substantial increase in your insurance premiums.
If you're in California, however, the odds may be more to your liking. As long as you can prove you were lane splitting safely and prudently, it's likely that you'll get a favorable ruling on your insurance claim.
How to Improve Your Odds of Being Compensated
Keep in mind that lane splitting isn't an automatic death sentence for your motorcycle accident claim. Despite the unlawfulness of lane splitting itself, there are a few factors that could mitigate the circumstance somewhat and possibly even improve your chances of being adequately compensated for your injuries.
For instance, the other driver could be found substantially at fault for the accident if they were engaged in driving behavior considered far more dangerous than lane splitting. The insurance adjuster and the courts may consider actions such as driving while under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or controlled substances and texting while driving to have deadlier consequences on other drivers.
Having a driving record that's free of citations and penalties as well as a proven track record for safe and responsible riding could also improve your odds of receiving just compensation for damages and injuries. As an example, demonstrating that you were engaged in safe and responsible riding behavior prior to the accident could increase your chances of a favorable settlement.
Motorcycle accident claims involving lane splitting can differ on a case-by-case basis, so it's important to speak to your personal injury attorney for more info if you're pursuing a claim.