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What Contributory Negligence Means For Your Motorcycle Insurance Coverage


The insurance laws of your state dictate a motorcycle owner's rights and responsibilities when he or she is involved in a motorcycle insurance claim. The law also affects your motorcycle insurance quotes, which is another good reason to know how and why your state's traffic courts operate. Some states operate on a no-fault system, in which the costs of an accident are paid by the respective insurance companies of the parties involved; no fault is assigned to either driver or motorcycle rider, hence the name of these "no-fault" systems. Most states operate on a tort system, which allows motorcycle owners to litigate after an accident to receive compensation for the cost of damages to their bikes; however, insurance law still varies in these tort systems. Some states use contributory negligence to decide culpability, while others use comparative negligence. If you live in a state where contributory negligence is used in traffic court, you need to make sure that you understand this crucial term and how it can affect you.

In layman's terms, contributory negligence means if you contributed to an accident in any way, you're unable to receive compensation for the damages you'd sustained in that accident, even if your negligence was fairly minor. For instance, if a car runs a red light and hits a motorcycle making an illegal turn, the motorcycle rider would not be able to sue the driver of the car for damages. Even if the infraction committed by the motorcycle rider was extremely minor, contributory negligence could be used as a defense by the car driver. The alternative to this is comparative negligence, in which the person who was most at fault for the accident would have to pay all of the damages for that accident. Insurance law can vary greatly from one state to the next, so in some states, contributory negligence may automatically end a driver or motorcycle rider's chances of litigation; while in other states, a further assessment of the accident may be necessary in order to determine culpability. This assessment is often handled by insurance claims adjusters and, of course, your state's traffic law courts.

You should certainly know how your state's insurance law works, so contact your state's insurance commission and ask about contributory and comparative negligence laws. If you're currently insured, your insurance agent should also have this information. Knowing about negligence can make a big difference when the time comes to file a claim, and you can avoid nasty hikes in your motorcycle insurance quotes by keeping up to date on the terms listed in your contract and on claims forms.

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