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Rear-end motorcycle accident raises liability questions

Rear-end accidents, people often assume, are the fault of the driver who hits the car in front. It is true that drivers behind another car must be ready for that car to slow down or stop, and not follow that car too closely. However, this is not a black-and-white issue: sometimes liability is more complicated, and that can be particularly important in a motorcycle accident.

One recent motorcycle accident occurred about an hour southeast of Worcester, on the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border. Police are not certain as to what may have triggered the crash, but a motorcycle heading down I-195 rear-ended a car at night time. The motorcyclist lost control of his ride, crashed, and was taken to the hospital.

Neither of the car's occupants were injured, but the motorcyclist died at the hospital from his injuries. Massachusetts authorities are investigating what caused the fatal motorcycle crash.

This scenario is in some ways just the opposite of what one would expect in a rear-end accident. Typically the occupants of the car in front will suffer injuries, if anyone. But a motorcycle collision is unique in that the motorcyclist is always more vulnerable to catastrophic injuries due to the degree of exposure on a motorcycle as opposed to a car.

As far as rear-end accidents go, there are some factors that can point to liability on the part of a vehicle in front. Drivers with one or more malfunctioning brake lights, for example, might be held liable if they get rear-ended. Drivers also must avoid stopping suddenly in the middle of traffic if at all possible; doing so could be an act of negligence. On the other hand, if another vehicle did force a car to stop suddenly, that third party might also bear liability.

It is therefore crucial not to assume that a driver from behind was at fault in a rear-end accident. Especially when family members of a fatal motorcycle accident victim are considering a wrongful death lawsuit, all factors should be carefully analyzed when reviewing the available legal options.

Source: WPRI, "Man dies in late night motorcycle crash," Courtney Caligiuri, June 2, 2014

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