The aftermath of a motorcycle accident: a legal guide for Texas
With miles and miles of flat, open roads, Texas is one of the most ideal states in the country to ride a motorcycle.
But what happens if you—quite literally—run into a careless driver?
It’s important to understand that motorcyclists often face unjustified biases while trying to pursue injury claims. What’s more, motorcycle accidents differ from car accidents in how they’re handled and the financial compensation that might be awarded.
Here at Enjuris, we believe the saying “knowledge is power” is especially true for motorcyclists. With that in mind, let’s take a look at motorcycle accidents in the Lone Star State.
Causes of motorcycle accidents in Texas
Motorcycle accidents usually fall into 1 of 3 categories: disobeying laws, driver error, and road conditions.
|Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents|
|Disobeying Laws||Driver Error||Road Conditions|
|Speeding||Switching lanes without checking blind spots||Difficult driving weather, such as heavy rain or fog|
|Driving while intoxicated||Driving while distracted||Unforeseen road obstructions|
|Using a cell phone while driving||Driving in another motorist’s blind spot||Sharp curves|
|Failing to yield||Aggressive driving||Poorly maintained roads|
Texas motorcycle laws
Motorcyclists must obey Texas motor vehicle laws just like passenger cars. However, there are some laws that apply specifically to motorcyclists.
Here are 3 of the most important laws motorcyclists in Texas must be aware of:
- All riders under the age of 21 are required to wear a helmet. Motorcyclists 21 years of age or older don’t have a legal obligation to wear a helmet so long as they’ve completed a motorcycle safety course or purchased an appropriate health insurance plan that covers motorcycle accidents.
- Lane splitting (when a motorcyclist drives between lanes to pass slow or stopped vehicles) is prohibited.
- Motorcyclists must carry the following minimum liability coverage: $30,000 bodily injury coverage for each injured person in an accident, $60,000 bodily injury coverage total per accident, and $25,000 property damage coverage per accident. This coverage is known as “30/60/25 coverage.”
Determining fault in a Texas motorcycle accident
After a motorcycle accident, the insurance companies and your personal injury lawyer will attempt to determine who was at fault for the accident.
Finding out who was at fault generally involves determining who was negligent—or, to put it another way, who caused the accident by acting carelessly.
Thanks to a stubborn bias that exists against bikers, motorcycle accident victims can find receiving fair compensation a challenge. Insurance adjusters and jury members may presume that bikers are dangerous and careless, and therefore automatically to blame for any accident.
However, the reality is that many accidents involving motorcycles are caused by people other than bikers. Here are the most common negligent parties in a motorcycle accident:
- Motorcyclist. Examples of negligence on the part of the motorcyclist might include driving while intoxicated, running a red light, or swerving in and out of traffic.
- Motor vehicle driver. Examples of negligence on the part of a motor vehicle driver might include following too closely or switching lanes without looking.
- Manufacturer. If a manufacturer is negligent it’s generally because the manufacturer sold or made a defective motorcycle component that component caused the accident.
- Government. In some cases, the government may be negligent. For example, the government might be responsible for an accident if it failed to maintain the roads or left an obstruction in the road (such as an open sewer grate).
Sometimes, both the motorcyclist and the motor vehicle driver (or some other party) are careless.
What happens then?
Texas follows the modified comparative fault theory. Under this theory, the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover is reduced by a percentage that reflects the plaintiff’s degree of fault. If that percentage is more than 50%, the plaintiff is barred from recovering any damages.
Damages that can be recovered in a Texas motorcycle accident
Once it can be proven that the other driver is to blame for the accident, the focus turns to what damages the victim is entitled to receive. Damages are the costs associated with the harm that the defendant caused.
The state of Texas recognizes 2 types of damages in most injury cases: special (economic) and general (non-economic).
Special damages are those that can clearly be tied to a specific injury, such as physical harm to your body or the destruction of your property. These damages are easy to quantify and include:
- Property damage
- Medical expenses (including future medical expenses)
- Lost earnings (including future lost earnings)
General damages are harder to quantify, and include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
One of the most important things you can do to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve is to document all of your injuries.
What to do after a motorcycle accident
If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident, the actions you take immediately afterward could have a big impact on your case. Chances are, if you're reading this, the accident has already happened. If not, keep these general guidelines in mind:
1. Remain at the scene
Unless you’re immediately carted off by an ambulance due to your injuries, stay at the scene of the accident. Call the police and ask the responding officer to draft a police report.
2. Gather information
If possible, get the other driver's name, address, phone number, driver's license number, and license plate number. Additionally, ask for the driver's insurance carrier and policy number.
If any eyewitnesses were present, get their contact information. If the witnesses are up for it, you can even have them record a brief statement describing what they saw.
3. Don't say anything
Don’t say anything at the scene of the accident other than what’s necessary to get the information mentioned above. Don’t talk about the accident, apologize, or discuss what injuries you may or may not have suffered.
4. Get medical attention
Even if you don't feel like you need medical attention, make sure you get checked out. Many injuries aren’t readily apparent at the time of an accident, and the fact that you checked in with a doctor will go a long way in supporting any future injury claims.
Keep a folder with copies of all your medical bills and property damage. In addition, keep a journal that tracks how you feel on a day-to-day basis. This journal could help support your claim for pain and suffering.
5. Hire a motorcycle lawyer
Demonstrating fault in motorcycle cases can be challenging. If you're looking to file a claim, it may be wise to retain counsel.
Fortunately, most initial consultations are free. To get the most out of your initial consultation, you’ll want to be prepared.
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more