Can I Recover Damages If I Was Lane Splitting?

lane splitting, motorcycle, motorcycle accident, car accident


Every year thousands of motorcyclists are injured because of the negligence of motorists who do not see them. A typical scenario is when a driver changes lanes as the motorcyclist is lane splitting. This article addresses the rules that govern operators of motorcycles and how insurance companies try to deny compensation.


California law defines lane-splitting. It is when a motorcycle drives between rows of stopped or moving vehicles in the same lane including on both divided and undivided streets. California allows lane-splitting.


California law provides that a driver cannot change lanes until it is safe to do so. Many drivers cause a collision because they violate this law. However, instead of taking responsibility, insurance companies try to deny motorcycle victims.


A typical defense to a lane-splitting accident is that the motorcyclist did not lane-split reasonably. What does that mean?

Insurance companies typically rely on the California Highway Patrol guidelines for motorcycle safety. Claims adjusters commonly argue that violation of these guidelines precludes recovery. Two of the more common guidelines used by insurance adjusters to deny recovery include:

1. Don’t travel at speed more than 10 mph faster than traffic.  The CHP has found that a slower rate allows a motorcyclist to respond to hazards such as vehicles changing lanes.

2. Don’t lane split if traffic is moving faster than 30 mph. At higher speeds, a motorcyclist needs more time to stop to avoid hazards. The higher the rate of speed, the less time there is to stop if a driver suddenly changes lanes. 

The CHP further advises against lane splitting:

  • If you can’t fit in between the vehicles
  • If traffic is moving too fast or is unpredictable
  • If there are dangerous road conditions

The CHP also advises that lane-splitting should not occur between trucks, buses or other large vehicles, or around or through curves.

Insurance companies take advantage of these guidelines to deny compensating motorcyclists. Of importance, these are just guidelines. They are not law and do not preclude recovery. The outcome of every case depends on an analysis of the facts.


As former insurance company lawyers, we know the defenses that are raised to defeat injury claims. We know how to overcome them. Schedule a free evaluation of your case.