Who Is Mostly at Fault for Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents cause severe harm to society every year. They represent some of the most dangerous and fatal vehicular accidents in the United States. A common question about motorcycle accidents is, Who is at fault for motorcycle accidents in most cases? The circumstances around the accident determine who is at fault. Although people often peg motorcyclists as reckless, the truth is other drivers frequently cause motorcycle accidents.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics

National statistics and California statistics both underscore the danger of motorcycle accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 80% of all reported motorcycle crashes end with injury or death to the motorcyclist. For a more precise number, in 2019, 5,014 motorcyclists died in vehicle accidents. By comparison, there were 36,096 motor vehicle deaths in 2019. Motorcycle drivers constitute only a fraction of passenger car drivers on U.S. roads, with around 8.3 million motorcycles to 290 million cars, which means that motorcycles are far overrepresented in fatalities.

California statistics paint a similar picture. The California Office of Traffic Safety found that in 2019, 474 motorcyclists died in accidents. This is compared with the total number of fatalities being 3,606 in the same year. This means that motorcycle deaths represented 13% of traffic deaths despite making up a fraction of the total vehicles. In 2020, an estimated 14,201,400 total automobiles were registered in California and 785,424 registered motorcycles. This means motorcycles represented a mere 5% of total registered traffic, marking an apparent disparity.

What Makes Motorcycles Dangerous?

Motorcycles create danger due to their design and functionality. Motorcycles do not have the safety features of a passenger vehicle. Normal cars weigh more and also possess airbags, seatbelts, and other protective attributes. These features save thousands of lives every year in passenger cars, but not in motorcycles. Motorcycles weigh a fraction of the amount passenger vehicles do. The only real piece of safety equipment every motorcycle rider can rely on is a helmet, usually accompanied by some body armor.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

A severely damaged motor vehicle on its side because of an accident.Motorcycle accidents happen for various reasons; someplace the fault on the motorcyclist, while others blame the other driver. In some cases, fault can’t be placed squarely on either party due to unforeseen circumstances.

Cars Making Left Hand Turns

One of the more common causes of motorcycle accidents is when cars make left-hand turns into motorcycles without seeing them. Forty-two percent of fatal motorcycle accidents involve cars smashing into motorcycles while making left-hand turns. Car drivers have a more difficult time seeing motorcycles in their mirrors, and distracted driving can also exacerbate this issue.


Alcohol creates the conditions for many motorcycle accidents every year. NHTSA found that 29% of all motorcyclists killed in 2019 were intoxicated. NHTSA estimated that alcohol was involved somehow in 43% of all motorcycle accidents. If one driver is drunk, they will most likely be found at fault for the accident.


Drivers and motorcyclists alike frequently speed when navigating all different kinds of roadways. In 2019, speeding killed 9,478 people in vehicular accidents. This puts speeding firmly into the category of most common causes of accidents.

Speeding often determines which driver is at fault. If both drivers were speeding, both might share some responsibility for the accident. California uses a pure comparative negligence model when it comes to fault. This means that you can recover compensation from the other driver even if you were partially at fault for an accident. The amount you recover will be reduced proportionately to your share of responsibility.

Road Hazards

Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to hazards on the road than drivers of other types of motor vehicles. Motorcycles have no insulation from the outside air, and they also only have two wheels on their axles compared to the four on regular cars. This means that if one of the wheels loses traction, it is very likely the motorcycle will spin out. Heavy rain or snow can have this effect on motorcycles very easily. Some Common road hazards include:

  • Bad weather,
  • Uneven roads,
  • Debris,
  • Poor lighting,
  • Wet or icy roads,
  • Potholes,
  • Animals, and
  • Construction zones.

Sometimes these conditions are unavoidable. But often, they are caused by someone’s negligence. For example, debris in the road might result from someone failing to take proper care to tie down cargo. Dangerous conditions in a construction zone may be the fault of the state or city government. An attorney can help you identify all potential at-fault parties and seek the compensation you deserve.

How Can You Decrease Your Risk of Injury on a Motorcycle?

Motorcycle helmets constitute the most crucial piece of protective gear a rider can have. If a rider has a helmet on, their chances of having a severe head injury go down by 69%, and their fatality rate drops by a massive 42%.

Motorcycles can be more challenging to drive than the average car, so special training can help improve safety. Therefore, another way to enhance motorcycle safety is to obtain proper motorcycle training. California requires all motorcyclists to have a Class M1 license. Unfortunately, many motorcyclists drive without a license and training and thus are far more likely to sustain injuries. Motorcycle training commonly teaches drivers how to:

  • Complete pre-ride inspections,
  • Lean to adjust for curves in the road,
  • Judge gaps in vehicles for lane changing,
  • Weave in between obstacles,
  • Navigate traction, and
  • Make sharp turns and brake safely.

Nevertheless, no matter how much training a rider has or what kind of safety equipment they have, motorcycles will always be more dangerous than regular cars.

We Can Help Determine Who Was at Fault for Your Accident

Ultimately, there are several answers to the question, Who is at fault for motorcycle accidents? The answer will vary depending on the circumstances of each car accident. Only a detailed analysis of the accident and all the factors surrounding it will accurately determine who is at fault.

If you suffered an injury in a motor vehicle accident, do not hesitate to reach out to an attorney at Henderson Law today. We have represented accident victims for over 20 years and helped them recover over $10 million in compensation. We are here to answer your questions and help you through the process of filing a motorcycle accident claim. Contact us now.