It may be safe to say that the congestion of California's freeways is legendary. You could spend hours sitting in stop and go traffic to get to your destination. If you ride a motorcycle, these circumstances put you a particularly precarious position since other drivers could stop suddenly in front of you or not stop behind you.
If you stay in the flow of traffic, you could end up seriously injured. This is why you and other motorcycle riders may travel in the space between the lanes under these circumstances. It limits the possibility of another vehicle striking you.
What the state of California says about lane splitting
In 2013, the California Highway Patrol issued guidelines to motorcyclists regarding lane splitting. Even though there was no law allowing it at that time, it was a generally accepted practice by the CHP. It wasn't until 2016 when lane splitting was made legal by the state legislature that the CHP's guidelines held any weight. Of course, the law doesn't require you to use lane splitting. It just gives you the choice.
You will need to follow the CHP's guidelines in order to do it legally, however. If you end up in an accident in which you were not following the guidelines, you could face liability. Drivers who do not ride motorcycles often don't understand lane splitting and often think you are just trying to get ahead of the traffic. In fact, motorcycle riders involved in accidents while lane splitting often face blame for their own injuries by the other driver involved.
Lane splitting doesn't mean you caused the accident
If you suffered injuries in an accident while you were legally lane splitting, the other driver may be at fault. You may file a personal injury claim pursuing compensation for your injuries. During the course of those proceedings, you will need to provide the court with evidence that the other driver's negligence caused your injuries. Of course, that driver may attempt to blame the crash on your lane splitting.
Easton & Easton LLP handled such a claim. The motorcyclist suffered significant injuries when a shuttle bus crashed into him while illegally crossing the double yellow line to get into the carpool lane. The motorcycle rider was legally lane splitting at the time, and the bus company attempted to lay the blame at his feet. The evidence successfully proved two important things:
- The rider was legally lane splitting.
- The bus driver was illegally changing lanes.
The court ruled that the bus driver was in the wrong, and the motorcyclist received an award of damages in 2016. If you wonder whether lane splitting will deny you much needed compensation if you suffer injuries due to another driver's negligence, you may benefit from a thorough review of your case before moving forward with your claim.