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I loaned my motorcycle to a friend and he got into an accident. Am I liable?

Maybe. Two laws may apply here that could shift liability for a motorcycle accident to you, even though you weren’t involved in the actual crash.

First, Wisconsin has a Safety Responsibility Law that could affect you. Strictly speaking, Wisconsin does not absolutely require that people driving motor vehicles carry insurance, but the Safety Responsibility Law was enacted in 1945 to encourage purchasing insurance. If your buddy was uninsured, and if the Division of Motor Vehicles determines that he was responsible for the Wisconsin traffic accident, then his license to drive and all his vehicle registrations will be suspended. Worse, because he was driving a borrowed vehicle, then the license and vehicle registration of the motorcycle’s owner—uh-oh, that’s you—will also be suspended. 

Second, common law includes something called the dangerous instrumentality rule. Some objects—including motor vehicles operated on public streets—are considered inherently dangerous, requiring a special degree of care. If someone negligently uses a dangerous instrumentality and causes an injury, the common law rule says that the owner of the item—uh-oh, that’s you again—can be considered liable along with the item’s user. The legislature has specifically made the dangerous instrumentality rule part of state law (Chapter 941 of the Wisconsin Statutes), so it’s possible that criminal charges could be applied, too.

Untangling the knot of liability

It’s pretty clear that figuring out liability for a motorcycle accident in Wisconsin is not an easy task. It’s a job best turned over to your Appleton motorcycle crash attorney.

If you have suffered an injury in a Wisconsin traffic accident, call the Hupy and Abraham law firm at 920-882-8382 (local) or (800) 800-5678 (statewide toll-free) to get a FREE copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide for Motorcycle Accident Victims. Once you are convinced that we know our business, call for a free, no-obligation assessment of your case. We want to help you recover every penny of compensation that is available for your injuries.