Driver Turned Into Me When I Was Lane Splitting. Am I Able to Get Compensation?

South Carolina has the perfect climate for motorcycle riding, with an abundance of things to see and do throughout the Palmetto State. While motorcyclists in Clinton enjoy the freedom of the open road, getting through local traffic can present hassles. When faced with a line of cars moving slowly or stopped, it may be tempting for bikers to engage in lane splitting, which involves riding down the median space between lanes of traffic. While illegal in South Carolina and most states throughout the country, it is a common practice, with some advocates claiming it can actually help to avoid motorcycle accidents and injuries.

If you are involved in an accident while engaged in lane splitting, you likely have concerns about your rights to compensation for the damages you have suffered, and may even have had your claim denied by an insurance company. At the Joye Law Firm, our experienced Clinton accident attorney provides the aggressive legal representation you need in these types of circumstances, to protect your rights and assist you in getting your injuries and property damages covered.

Controversy Over Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is a controversial practice, with fierce debates as to the potential dangers it exposes a driver to. According to a Consumer Reports survey on lane splitting, while motorcyclists are generally aware of state laws and guidelines against the practice, they continue to engage in this behavior in order to save time in high traffic situations. With close to 600 motorcyclists questioned for the survey, the results revealed the following:

  • As many as two thirds admit to using lane splitting as a means of dealing with highway traffic;
  • Roughly 15 percent admitted to actually being involved in an accident caused by lane splitting;
  • Close to half said they experienced near misses, including colliding with other vehicles and vehicle parts, such as rear view windows and car doors.

At the same time, the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration (NHTSA), in cooperation with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, has conducted extensive studies to help better protect motorcyclists on the nation’s roads and highways. According to the studies, maneuverability is one of the chief advantages to riding a motorcycle, and using median spaces between vehicles in traffic is not only considered safe for both riders as well as other motorists, but it could help to significantly reduce the risk of injuries involved in motorcycle accidents. The NHTSA report states that research shows lane splitting may offer the following benefits:

  • It can serve as an escape route for motorcyclists against being trapped between vehicles;
  • It can allow them to move out of the way and protect them from being struck from behind in accidents;
  • Maneuvering down the center lane between slowly moving vehicles has been shown to actually decrease the risk of accidents and injuries among motorcycle drivers.

Laws Against Lane Splitting

According to an August 2016 Road and Track report on lane splitting laws, California is now the first state in the nation to make lane splitting legal. Prior to the new law, which will help establish safety guidelines for the practice, lane splitting was in a grey area, where it was unauthorized, but neither legal nor illegal. While the original version of the bill placed speed restrictions stating that motorcycles traveling in the median between cars could go no faster than 15 mile per hour than other vehicle, motorcycle proponents got objected the limit as too restrictive. The new law now offers no speed restrictions, and puts guidelines for the practice of lane splitting in the hands of highway patrol. Other states, such as Texas and Nevada, are expected to follow California’s lead, and make lane splitting legal in their own states.

In South Carolina, lane splitting is covered under section 56‐5‐3640 of the SC Code. In regard to motorcycle lane rights, the law states the following:

  • Motorcyclists are entitled to a full lane in traffic, not to be encroached upon by motor vehicles;
  • Motorcyclists are permitted to ride two abreast in a single lane;
  • In regards to passing, motorcyclists are prohibited from entering a vehicle lane or from using the median space between two lanes in order to overtake other vehicles.

While the process of overturning laws restricting lane splitting has begun in some states, there are no plans to amend this law here at home.

Compensation in Lane Splitting Accidents

The fact that lane splitting in South Carolina is illegal does not necessarily bar a motorcyclist from getting compensation when they are injured in this type of accident. Under South Carolina comparative negligence statutes (SC Code Section 15-38-15), in a personal injury lawsuit for damages suffered as the result of a motor vehicle accident, an injured party may still be entitled to compensation, even if they were partly responsible for the accident or for the severity of their injuries, provided the other party’s responsibility is 50 percent or greater. This means that the person who engaged in lane splitting may still be entitled to compensation such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, but the overall amount they receive may be reduced by their percentage of fault. The following is an example of how this system works:

  • A motorcyclist engaged in lane splitting is hit by a motorist making a left turn, and suffers $100,000 worth of damages.
  • In a personal injury lawsuit filed on behalf of the injured motorcyclist, the court determines the main cause of the accident was due to an improper left turn made by the driver, yet the motorcycle rider still bears some responsibility for their injuries due to riding in the median space;
  • The court grants the $100,000 in damages, and rules the motorcyclist’s portion of blame to be 40 percent.
  • The court deducts the percentage of blame from the damages award, and the injured motorcyclist receives $60,000.

While comparative negligence cases are complicated and may seem confusing, they can help ensure accident victims get the compensation they need to recover.

Get the Help You Need By Contacting Our Clinton Accident Attorney Today

If you or someone you love is involved in a motorcycle accident, contact the Joye Law Firm right away. Our experienced motorcycle accident attorneys can advise you on your legal rights to compensation, while assisting you in holding responsible parties accountable. We provide the kind of aggressive legal representation you need to help you obtain the best possible result in your particular case. Serving Clinton and the surrounding areas, call or contact our office online today for a free case consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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