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Is Motorcycle Lane Splitting Legal in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2019 | Motorcycle Accident

Despite research suggesting that lane splitting can improve traffic congestion and that splitting lanes may actually be safer for motorcycle riders than sitting between vehicles in stop-and-go traffic, the practice of lane splitting remains illegal under Tennessee law. Unless you are a police officer and you are responding to a 911 call or otherwise performing your duties as an officer of the law, you are not allowed to ride your motorcycle between lanes of traffic in Tennessee.

The prohibition on lane splitting appears in Section 55-8-182 of the Tennessee Code. The relevant provisions of the law state:

“(b) The operator of a motorcycle shall not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.

“(c) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.”

On Tennessee’s public roads, car, truck, and motorcycle riders are all entitled to the “full use” of their lane. Riding between lanes (which technically involves riding in two lanes simultaneously) violates this right of full use, and it also constitutes a violation of Tennessee law.

Can a Motorcycle Rider Recover Financial Compensation after an Accident Involving Lane Splitting?

Questions about the legality of lane splitting often come up in the context of motorcycle accidents. If you were injured while lane splitting in Tennessee, can you still seek financial compensation for your injury-related losses? As with most legal questions, the answer is: “It depends.”

Most motorcycle accident claims are governed by the law of negligence, and violating a statute that is intended (at least in theory) to keep people safe is known as “negligence per se.” This means that, if you are involved in an accident while lane splitting, the law presumes that you are responsible for your own injuries. However, this is not the end of the story. Despite Tennessee’s lane splitting law and the law of negligence per se, there are still circumstances in which motorcyclists who are involved in collisions while riding in between lanes can seek financial compensation for their losses.

1. Were You Actually Lane Splitting?

The first question that must be answered is, “Were you actually lane splitting at the time of the accident?” Examples of scenarios in which a motorcycle accident claim may not be impacted by Tennessee’s prohibition on lane splitting include:

  • Changing Lanes – You were simply changing lanes at the time of the accident and not continuously riding between lanes of traffic.
  • Evasive Riding – You were only riding in between lanes because you were attempting to avoid a dangerous driver or a potential collision.
  • Returned to Lane – You had been lane splitting previously. But when the accident occurred, you had reestablished your position and right of way in a single lane of traffic.

2. Was Another Driver’s Negligence a Factor in the Collision?

Drivers make mistakes. They merge without looking, they change lanes without checking their blind spots, and in some cases, they even cut off lane-splitting motorcycle riders despite the obvious and severe dangers involved. If a negligent driver was partially at fault in your collision, then you may be entitled to partial compensation for your accident-related losses.

This is because, in accident cases, Tennessee law adheres to the principle of “modified comparative fault.” As long as you are less than 50% percent at fault in an accident, you can recover damages in proportion to your percentage of fault. So, if you are deemed 40% at fault due to lane splitting and your damages are $100,000, then you would be entitled to recover 60% of your losses, or $60,000.

What is the appropriate percentage of fault to be assigned to motorcycle riders in cases involving lane splitting? There is no single “right” answer to this question. In all cases, all drivers’ and riders’ proportional liability must be determined based upon a thorough assessment of the particular facts and circumstances involved.

3. Was the Accident Unrelated to the Fact That You Were Lane Splitting?

In some cases, the fact that a rider was lane splitting at the time of a crash could be completely irrelevant to his or her claim for financial compensation. This can be the case, for example, if an accident is the result of a motorcycle defect.

If your clutch or brakes failed, you may have been helpless to avoid an accident regardless of where you were riding. In this scenario, you may be entitled to full compensation from your motorcycle’s manufacturer (or any other company involved in the chain of distribution, such as a component manufacturer or motorcycle dealer). Motorcycle defect cases are governed by the law of “strict liability” rather than the law of negligence. This means that proof of fault is not required in order for you to secure a financial recovery.

What Should You Do if You Were Injured in a Lane Splitting Accident in Tennessee?

So, what should you do if you were injured in an accident while you were lane splitting? Just like any other accident, the two most important things you need to do are to seek medical attention and speak with an attorney as soon as possible. It will also be important for you to:

  • Keep any photos, videos, and information (e.g., license plate numbers and insurance policy information) you have from the scene of the accident;
  • Write down as many details as you can remember, including specifically any details related to why you crashed and why you were in between lanes on the road;
  • Follow your doctor’s advice, and avoid returning to work or returning to riding before you are physically ready to do so; and
  • Avoid giving a recorded statement to anyone’s insurance company, and make sure you do not post anything about the accident on social media.

Speak with a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Clarksville or Springfield, TN

Motorcycle accident cases are complicated, and you will need to aggressively assert your legal rights in order to obtain just compensation for your accident-related losses. To discuss your case with an experienced attorney in confidence, call 931-650-5484 or tell us how to reach you online now.