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Sharing the Road, Sharing the Blame: Understanding Shared Liability in Car Accidents

Cars sharing the road.

Every day in Massachusetts, cars and trucks share the roads with bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. Unfortunately, collisions do happen, and identifying the responsible or liable party can be complicated. Sharing the roads and sharing liability in the event of an accident are protections provided by local law.

In 2023, vehicle collisions resulted in 348 fatalities in Massachusetts and 129 in New Hampshire. Additionally, at the national level in 2023, it was determined that motorcyclists were nearly 24 times more likely to die in traffic crashes than passenger car occupants. Sharing the road safely with all vehicles and pedestrians can save lives.

Even one car accident could be caused by a variety of factors. Yet, even if you share some of the blame for causing your accident or injuries, you may still be able to recover compensation for what you have suffered. You don’t have to wonder whether you have a claim. Schedule a free case evaluation 24/7 with an accident attorney with Kiley Law Group at (978) 965-3228. 

Why Sharing the Road Is Important

While the main form of transportation in our area may be passenger cars, other vehicles of many shapes and sizes also have the right to drive safely down the road. Motorcycles or bicycles often get overlooked by drivers of larger vehicles, which can result in collisions. However, many of these accidents are avoidable if a little more care is shown by both parties.

Motorcyclists and bicyclists can increase their visibility and safety by:

  • Wearing highly visible and protective clothing and appropriate helmets
  • Having the proper lights and reflectors on your bike
  • Refusing to be distracted by cell phones
  • Playing music at a volume that you can still hear your surroundings
  • Being aware of your surroundings at all times and obeying all traffic laws
  • Making sure that your bike is properly maintained and roadworthy

By taking these few steps, riders can help prevent accidents. And if a collision still occurs, these protective measures provide an excellent defense in case the other party tries to throw blame your way.

Drivers of passenger and cargo vehicles can look out for bikers and pedestrians by:

  • Checking all blind spots before turning or changing lanes
  • Following or passing motorcycles and bicycles at a safe distance
  • Watching for hand signals or body movements which may indicate a direction change
  • Performing maneuvers safely and using blinkers

By following these few simple steps, drivers of larger vehicles can help protect bikers and others on the road.

Due to the nature of their mode of travel, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are often exposed to more serious injuries in the event of a roadside accident. These injuries can result in lengthy recovery times and steep medical bills. We all want to do our part to keep our roads safe.

Determining Liability in Personal Injury Cases

In the aftermath of an auto accident, you may be completely focused on your physical or financial recovery. However, a car accident attorney can help you get justice for what you have suffered – even in shared fault car accidents where the other driver is only partially to blame.

In order to prove your case, you must show that the other party behaved negligently. To do so, one must demonstrate four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages.


A legal duty must exist in a personal injury case in order to prove negligence. A legal duty of care exists between two people when failure to use reasonable care would result in harm. In the case of a car driver and a bicycle rider, both have a duty of care to the other – to act in a way to avoid hurting the other.


The breach of duty is the failure to exercise reasonable care in the specific set of circumstances surrounding the case. For example, if a car driver failed to signal a turn and this resulted in the bicyclist running into the car she was driving alongside, that would be a breach of care on the driver’s part – and he could be considered negligent.


After the duty and the breach are proven, in personal injury cases you must link that failure to some sort of injury. The negligent actions of the car driver’s failure to signal led to the bicyclist damaging her bicycle and breaking her leg. Cause of the damage is clear, as is the driver’s negligence.


The amount of compensation that a victim’s injuries and losses are worth is known as damages. Money may be awarded for the amount of liability the judge or jury deems deserving and reasonable for the losses suffered.

In the example of the car driver and the bicyclist, if the at-fault driver is found liable, he might have to pay the price of the bicycle property damage, medical bills, lost wages while recovering, and even pain and suffering to the cyclist.

If you believe that you have a personal injury accident claim against some other driver or another person on the road who caused you harm, it would be a good idea to talk to a car accident lawyer.

An experienced attorney can walk you through the legal process and help you determine whether negligence can be proven. The other party could be found liable for your injuries or you may share liability with them. Find out by contacting Kiley Law Group – by phone or online 24/7.

Comparative Negligence in New Hampshire and Massachusetts

When an automobile accident happens, each party may carry some responsibility for the crash. This is where the legal concept of comparative negligence comes into play, since you can still pursue compensation in some states, including Massachusetts, even if you are deemed to be partially liable.

Basically, comparative negligence is a legal concept used to divide responsibility for an injury among those involved in shared-fault car accidents. A specific amount of fault is determined as a percentage, and the total of the percentages between the parties must add up to 100 percent. For example, the injured bicycle rider may be found to be 20 percent at fault for causing the accident, and the car driver would take the other 80 percent of the blame for the accident.

In real terms, the amount of fault the court assesses and assigns to each party will determine how much money they can receive when pursuing compensation. For example, in the case of the cyclist (at 20 percent fault) and driver (at 80 percent fault), if the cyclist sues the other driver and the damages are awarded as $10,000, then the cyclist can only recover $8,000. This is due to the fact that since he is 20 percent liable for the accident, his award amount must be reduced by that percentage.

There are limits, however, as Massachusetts state law clarifies that the plaintiff’s share of fault must be less than 51 percent. At 51 percent and above, the plaintiff will not be entitled to recover any damages. It can be hard to establish the percentage of fault attributable to each party, but an experienced car accident lawyer can gather evidence that proves your case.

How Kiley Law Group Can Assist You

When an accident occurs while cars and 2-wheeled vehicles share the road, determining fault may be difficult. Indeed, with cases in comparative negligence states, both sides can be partially at fault. That is why it is even more vital to have a legal team by your side helping you build a strong case – to get the compensation you deserve.

At Kiley Law Group, we advocate for our client’s best interests from the day we take his or her case. From the very start of gathering evidence at the accident scene and collecting witness statements to negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and even taking your case to court if necessary, we want you to get the fair settlement you deserve.

A personal injury attorney can explain the legal concepts of comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence as these apply to your car accident case. So if you or someone you know was injured in a car accident, contact the attorneys at Kiley Law Group.

Get help with your injury claim from an experienced lawyer who has dealt with shared fault cases successfully. Kiley Law Group has represented the injured in Massachusetts for over 40 years. Call us at (978) 965-3228 for your free consultation today.