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What Causes Motorcycle Accidents in California

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The smooth pavement and the smell of the open road attracts motorcyclists to California. There is definitely a reason why some of television’s most popular motorcycle series, like Sons of Anarchy, is based in California. After all, the weather is made for motorcyclists.

Wearing a helmet can safe guard you against head trauma, but there are many causes of motorcycle accidents that are unforeseen and often not the fault of the cyclist. As a motorcycle operator, you should be aware of the ways you motorcycle accidents in California can happen, as well as the options you may have if you’re injured. Even if you’re at fault, you’re entitled to certain rights and benefits that a expert motorcycle accident lawyer who knows the California motorcycle laws can help you determine.

What is the Primary Cause of Motorcycle Accidents in California?

Many factors and actions can contribute to the likelihood of a motorcycle accident occurring on a California roadway, including:

Motorcyclist checks his mirror before entering a California roadway.

Unsafe Lane Changes – California Vehicle Code 22107

Vehicles and large trucks have blind spots. If a driver doesn’t physically turn their head to check their blind spot, it is easy to miss a motorcycle. Unsafe lane changing is a law under California vehicle code 22107. The case of Li v. Yellow Cab Co. reversed the decision that a person who was guilty of negligence (unsafe lane change) now has the ability to collect recovery.

This means that even though the plaintiff was making an unsafe lane change and caused an accident, she was still able to collect money for lost wages and medical bills. This is a precedent setting case and it is important for you to know. Even if you are in the wrong, there may be some compensation for your losses if you’ve suffered.


Speeding is the leading cause of all traffic accidents, and definitely a leading cause of motorcycle accidents. Motorcycles can reach maximum speeds in very little time, leaving a very little window for braking times. Speeding also increases the chance of a collision causing severe damage. Speeding 15 mph over the posted speed limit is considered reckless driving and can be punishable with jail time. If the speeding leads to a death, the operator of the vehicle/motorcycle can be charged with vehicular manslaughter.

Driving Under The Influence – California Vehicle Code 23152(a)

Driving under the influence is a serious offense. Offenders may face civil and criminal charges as well as liabilities. Driving under the influence includes all illicit drugs and alcohol. California vehicle code defines driving under the influence in two parts of the code. California Vehicle Code 23152(a) is defined as driving under the influence and vehicle code 23152(b) defines driving under the influence as having a blood alcohol level of 0.08. Motorcycles often fall victim to drivers under the influence due to their slow reaction times and shortened peripheral vision. When these drivers change lanes, they often don’t have time to react to a motorcycle in their blind spot. If a motorcyclist is unable to split lanes in time, these accidents can be life changing.

Car Doors Injuries – California Vehicle Code 22517

Doors of parked cars have been known to cause motorcycle accidents. Once a car is parked, the driver often assumes that they are no longer liable for any accident—but that’s only partially true. Drivers and passengers of cars parked parallel to busy streets have to be weary of motorcycles driving down the road before they open the door to exit the vehicle.

California Vehicle Code 22517 states “No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.” This is often referred to as dooring, and it is more common than you think! Pedestrians and even cyclists are also at risk for dooring.

Lane Splitting

Have you ever been stuck in traffic and seen a motorcycle driving in between two lanes? That practice is what is commonly referred to as lane splitting. Besides the fact that it is a totally unfair advantage, it is completely legal in California.

Lane splitting reduces traffic, but should only be done at lower speeds to reduce injury. Lane splitting over 10 mph over the speed limit can cause serious injuries to the head and torso of the cyclist. Lane splitting can also save the life of a cyclist in emergency situations. If a motorcycle is in the blind spot of a vehicle, they can split the lane and share the lane with another vehicle as long as they don’t use excessive speed. This is also true in the case of sudden stopping. When in the situation where a motorcycle is about to collide with a vehicle that has suddenly stopped, lane splitting could save the operators from serious injury or even death.

Sudden Stops – California Vehicle Code 22109

Sudden stops can seriously impact a motorcycle for both the vehicle and the motorcycle operator. The person on the motorcycle can be seriously injured or even die due to the impact and the ejection of the motorcycle operator from the motorcycle on to the road. Sudden stops and lane splitting go hand in hand. When a car suddenly brakes in front of a motorcycle, the motorcycle can split lanes and stay safe.

This isn’t always the case, and sudden stops results in rear ending, which is typically the fault of the sudden stopper. Under California Vehicle Code 22109, no person shall stop suddenly without first appropriately signaling the vehicle in the rear. The signals for sudden stops can be found in the California DMV website.

Inexperienced Drivers

Drivers who have little experience or are not driving on busy roads often tend to hesitate and make rash decisions while driving which causes accidents. This is also true of drivers who are unsure of the size of their vehicles and make unsafe lane changes and sharp turns. This is especially true if the driver is inexperienced and driving a borrowed or company vehicle.

If the inexperienced driver is driving someone else’s car, the owner of the car is liable under California law. This is because of the verdict in the case of Nault v. Smith. This is true even for business owners. If a business owner entrusts the company vehicle to an inexperienced driver, the company may be liable if the driver causes an accident.

Right Of Way Accidents

Right of way accidents often occur when the driver thinks they have the right of way, but this isn’t the case. These accidents are typical of left turns into oncoming traffic where there is no signal and four-way stops. Right of way accidents occur mostly as the fault of inexperienced drivers, or drivers that seldomly drive. The rules and regulations for right of way incidents can be found on the California DMV website.

Dangerous Road Conditions

There is nothing more dangerous in California than roads that are slick with rainwater. Other dangerous conditions can include roads with no signage indicating danger, roads with no stop signs, construction that obscures the vision of the driver, and even trees covering important signs.

In the case of Erik Rodriguez v. The Department of Transportation, Erik Rodriguez claims that the design of the roads caused him to get into an accident. Since it is unlawful to sue a public entity under the Government Claims Act for Design, the case concluded that even though dangerous road conditions are partially due to the design of the roads in California, it is not possible to sue for the design of the roads. If the dangerous road conditions are paired with a driver under the influence or a driver who is excessively speeding in a reckless manner, a civil suit is definitely a possibility.

Motorcycle Malfunction/Defects

Motorcycle malfunctions and defects can occur any time with any aged machine. Motorcycles are in fact machines and can therefore malfunction at any given time. Vehicles and motorcycles have been known to malfunction, and the most memorable cases of malfunction involving accidents were the cases involving the accelerator in Toyota manufactured vehicles. One of the cases occurred in 2009 near San Diego. There was loss of life in this case and Toyota settled out of court with the family.

When It’s Time to Call a California Vehicle Code – Motorcycle Attorney

California sees negligence in both parties of a traffic accident. The verdict is typically determined by the fault of the operator of the vehicle and or motorcycles the process is called comparative negligence. That being said, laws are ever changing and the only way to know if you’re truly able to be compensated for loss of wages and even recovery fees is to seek help from a motorcycle accident injury lawyer. Even if you’re at fault, changes in laws such as the new lane splitting law can change the outcome of your case.

If you’re in an accident, it is in your best interest to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer. There are unpublished laws and case findings known to lawyers that aren’t readily available to the general public. Certain legalities don’t allow the public to gain this knowledge. This means that an experienced lawyer at Avrek Law Firm may find flaws in your case that you’re unaware of that could either cost you more money or gain you more money in recovery.

Avrek Law is here to help you understand your legal options after you or a loved one has been in motorcycle accidents in California. The consultation is free, and you’ll get expert advice from a law firm with $1 Billion recovered in over 45,000 cases. Contact us today – we want to hear more about your case!

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