Lane splitting happens when a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars, usually in traffic jams. When a motorcyclists crashes while lane splitting, insurance adjusters and courts decide who was at fault for the accident based on lane splitting laws in the state and the actions of all of the people involved in the accident.
Laws on lane splitting (sometimes called lane sharing, lane filtering, shoulder surfing) vary from state to state. As of 2022, a handful of states have legalized some form of lane sharing. A majority of states ban it in all situations. In the remaining states, lane splitting isn't recognized as a legal maneuver, but it's not explicitly banned either.
Many people think lane splitting is dangerous because of how close motorcyclists get to cars when they split lanes, the limited space the vehicles have to maneuver, and the fact that drivers don't always anticipate that a motorcyclist might pass them in slowed or stopped traffic.
If an accident happens while a motorcyclist is lane splitting, there's a good chance that investigators and insurance adjusters will find the motorcyclist to be at fault for the accident. If a motorcyclist's carelessness (negligence) caused an accident, the rider is typically out of luck when it comes to getting compensation for accident-related losses (called damages).
However, if a motorcycle rider can show that another driver shares blame for the accident, the rider may be partially or fully compensated for accident-related injuries and property damage. For example, if a driver is texting or otherwise distracted and collides with a motorcyclist who is lane splitting, the driver might share fault (liability) for the accident.
The following factors can help show that a motorcycle rider isn't entirely at fault for a lane splitting accident:
Motorcyclists should try to support their description of the accident with a police report and witness statements. Learn more about how to take notes after an accident and how to preserve evidence after an accident.
If you are going to lane split, be sure it's not against the law in your state and then make sure you do it in a safe manner. If you get in an accident while lane splitting, evidence of your safe riding behavior will make it more likely that an insurance adjuster or court will find that you were not at fault for the accident.
Safety tips for lane splitting include:
To learn more about motorcycle, bike, and car accidents, and how to recover for injuries and property damage resulting from these accidents, get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo).