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Motorcycle accidents: When there's more than 1 cause

Sometimes the cause of a motorcycle accident is pretty clear-cut—a driver cuts you off while making a left turn as if you weren't even there or rides so close on your tailpipe that there's no possibility that he or she could have stopped in time to avoid hitting you.

Other times, the cause of the motorcycle accident is a little more complicated because it wasn't any one factor alone that lead to the wreck—instead, a series of issues combined at just the wrong moment and left you on the ground, injured and bleeding.

For example, you may be a relatively inexperienced driver who just recently got your license. That can make it difficult to know how to anticipate or compensate for problems the way that a more experienced driver might. If you encounter wet weather and a rough patch in the road where the road repair crews have done a poor job patching up the winter potholes, you may be concentrating hard on not losing control of your bike. Then, you might not be able to react in time when a car cuts you off or swerves into your lane, throwing your bike out of control. You may also not know how to properly "lay down" the bike rather than go spinning along with it, which ends up adding to your injuries.

What happens then? You arguably have a good case against the motorist for cutting you off. You may also have a decent case against the city for allowing the road to be in such disrepair. But you may also be somewhat at fault for driving in bad weather on a heavily trafficked road when you're still inexperienced and not knowing how to mitigate your own losses.

In Illinois, personal injury awards follow a modified comparative negligence rule. You're still able to collect damages as long as the jury finds that you are less than 50 percent responsible for your own injuries. Any compensation you do receive will be reduced by the percentage of your liability.

That means if the jury awards you $100,000 but finds you 25 percent liable for your own injuries, you can still collect damages—but the maximum is reduced to $75,000 due to your own negligence. If the jury finds that you are 50 percent or more at fault, you're barred from recovering any compensation at all. An attorney can help you learn more about your legal options.

Source: FindLaw, "Motorcycle Accidents: Overview," accessed Dec. 30, 2016

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