Motorcycle Accident Liability


Have you, or do you know someone who has been in a motorcycle accident? If so, you likely desire a bit more information about how liability is assigned under Nevada law.

In a motorcycle accident, liability is determined by a negligence standard.  Both car and motorcycle drivers have a duty to drive with due care.  The Nevada legislature has codified the specific duties for motorcyclists; they are as follows:

    NRS486.331  Rights and duties of drivers.  

A person driving a motorcycle or moped upon a highway is entitled to all the rights and subject to all the duties applicable to the drivers of motor vehicles as provided by law, except those provisions which by their nature can have no application.   (Added to NRS by 1971, 1470; A 1975, 1084)


      NRS 486.341  Right to full use of traffic lane.  

Every motorcycle or moped when being driven on the highway is entitled to full use of the traffic lane it is occupying, and a person shall not drive another motor vehicle in a manner which would deprive any such motorcycle or moped of such use.   (Added to NRS by 1971, 1470; A 1975, 1084)


      NRS 486.351  Unlawful passing; driving abreast.

      1.  A person, except a police officer in the performance of his or her duty, shall not drive a motorcycle or moped between moving or stationary vehicles occupying adjacent traffic lanes.

      2.  Except as provided in subsection 3, a person shall not drive a motorcycle, moped or trimobile abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane.

      3.  Motorcycles and mopeds may, with the consent of the drivers, be operated no more than two abreast in a single traffic lane.  (Added to NRS by 1971, 1470; A 1975, 1084; 1979, 857)


Why do these statutes matter? Because in determining liability in a motorcycle accident (hypothetically between the motorcyclist and an automobile driver), a judge or jury will evaluate if each party exercised the required due care.


How the NRS applies to a motorcycle accident

This is even true if automobile caused the accident in our hypothetical example.  Nevada uses what is called a modified comparative negligence standard.  Under this standard, even if the accident is caused by the automobile driver, the liability will be discounted by the percentage fault of the motorcyclist.  For example, a jury determines the automobile driver to be at fault, but the motorcyclist was driving faster than consider safe, they may assign 75% of the liability to the automobile driver and 25% to the motorcyclist.  The damages award will be then discounted accordingly.

Unlike your run-of-the-mill negligence cases where due care is determined based on how a “reasonable person” would act, much of the due care required by motorcyclists is explicit in the law as shown above.  Under the first two statutes listed, motorcycle drivers are said to have the same rights to the road as those driving cars, meaning that motorcycle drivers do not need to yield to drivers under all circumstances, but motorcyclists and automobile drivers are to treat one another as equals on the road.

NRS 486.351 elaborates on the specific duties, and exceptions, for motorcycle drivers.  Lane splitting (driving in between two cars on the white demarcation), is expressly prohibited by subsection one.  Subsection two prohibits motorcyclists from passing a car within the same lane.  Subsection three allows motorcyclists to share a lane as they drive, but only two motorcycles may share any one lane.

These laws are important to keep in mind because, as a motorcyclist, if you are in violation, it may be very difficult to recover for an accident injury.  This, unfortunately, may even be the case if automobile driver caused the accident.

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