How compensation works for family members who lose loved ones in a deadly motorcycle accident
Former University of Texas Longhorn and Cincinnati Bengal running back Cedrick Benson was riding his motorcycle along RM 2222 in Austin, Texas when a minivan making a left turn from Mt. Bonnell Road pulled in front of his motorcycle.
The impact killed Cedric Benson and his passenger almost instantly.
Texas is a great state for bikers. The weather is warm and a barbecue joint is never far away. Unfortunately, there are risks associated with riding a motorcycle in the Lone Star State, and as Cedric Benson’s accident made clear, those risks can be life altering.
Fatal motorcycle accident statistics
Almost 5,000 people are killed in motorcycle accidents across the United States every year.
In Texas, 417 motorcyclists were killed in 2018 and 920 were seriously injured.
To put these numbers in perspective, motorcycle fatalities occur 28 times more often than passenger-vehicle fatalities.
Here are some other eye-opening motorcycle accident statistics:
- More than 50% of fatal motorcycle crashes result from collisions with other vehicles
- Texas had the 2nd most fatalities per 10,000 registered motorcycles in 2017
- Roughly 50% of motorcyclists killed weren’t wearing a helmet
Riders of "super sports" motorcycles have fatality rates nearly 4 times higher than those for drivers of standard motorcycles
Fatal motorcycle accident causes
A motorcycle accident can be the result of something innocent (such as a sudden rainstorm that causes the driver to lose visibility) or an intentional act (such as an angry driver who purposely runs a motorcyclist off the road).
However, most motorcycle accidents are the result of negligence, either on the part of the driver or someone else. Examples of negligent acts that might lead to a fatal motorcycle crash include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Road defects
- Reckless driving (including speeding or lane splitting)
- Distracted driving
- A defective motorcycle or motorcycle part
Regardless of the law, it’s a good idea for all motorcyclists to wear a helmet.
What is a wrongful death case?
If a motorcyclist is injured in an accident caused by someone else, the motorcyclist can sue the responsible party and recover damages.
But what happens if the motorcyclist is killed?
In Texas, certain family members of the motorcyclist can sue the person responsible for their loved one’s death under the Texas wrongful death statute.
If the surviving family members can prove the responsible party (or parties) liability, they can recover damages for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Lost care, maintenance, and support (including loss of victim’s work wages)
- Lost love, companionship, and comfort
- Lost inheritance (such as what the deceased would have accumulated and left to family members)
For some wrongful death cases, the surviving family members can recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish the negligent party. These damages are only available when the death was caused by gross negligence or an intentional act.
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Texas?
Not all family members can file a wrongful death claim. In Texas, only the following people can file a wrongful death claim:
- The spouse of the deceased
- Children of the deceased (including a legally adopted child if one of their adoptive parents is the deceased)
- Parents of the deceased (including adoptive parents)
You’ll notice that siblings, grandparents, and other more distant relations aren’t listed and as a result can’t file a wrongful death claim in Texas.
How to prevent fatal motorcycle accidents
Motorcyclists don't have the protection that cars and trucks have. To stay safe, the Texas Department of Transportation recommends that motorcyclists:
- Wear a helmet and other protective gear
- Turn on your headlights and ride defensively
- Avoid the center of the lane where debris and oil build-up
- Ride at a safe speed, and never ride if you've been drinking
- Take a course to learn or reinforce safe riding techniques
In addition, drivers of other vehicles should:
- Look twice for motorcyclists at intersections, entering highways, and whenever turning or changing lanes
- Always maintain a safe following distance
- When passing a motorcyclist, move to the other lane and allow a full lane for the motorcycle