Having a motorcycle can be one of the most liberating feelings. However, as fun as motorcycles are, they have a laundry list of risks associated with them. In 2016, there were 5,286 motorcyclists killed in the US. This was a 5.1% increase from the 5,029 motorcyclists killed in 2015.
It’s safe to say motorcycle accidents are dangerous and potentially life threatening. If you or a loved one is involved in a motorcycle accident, you can probably expect to not only damage your bike but sustain injuries of your own. From medical expenses to towing and motorcycle repairs, you could be out thousands of dollars.
Not everyone has extra cash they can afford to fix a motorcycle and pay medical expenses. Even if that was the case, being on the receiving end of a motorcycle accident shouldn’t be your burden to pay for. You are entitled to compensation if you are the victim of a motorcycle accident. In this guide, you will learn more about motorcycle accidents and how to navigate your way through the process of making a case.
Understanding Texas Motorcycle Laws
If you are an active motorcyclist or intend on becoming one, you are mandated by law in Texas to take a training course to obtain a Class M motorcycle driver’s license. If you are a motorcyclist under the age of 21, you are required by law to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle. Motorcycle helmets are one of the most significant pieces of safety gear for bikers. In 2017, 52 percent of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash.
When buying a helmet, be sure to choose one which is appropriate for your head. It should fit snug but not comfortably. The helmet should also fit tightly against your forehead with a thumb’s width between your head and the helmet. If you are unsure about your helmet’s fit, you can perform a shake test. In a shake test, you do just that. Shake your head with the helmet on to see if it moves around at all. If it falls off, you must get another helmet that fits properly.
TxDOT approved helmets are ones with a one-inch thick inner liner, supportive chin strap, and weigh at least 3 pounds. Riders over 21 may ride without a helmet, but they must have completed a safety course or are covered by an applicable insurance plan. Not all states are as strict about motorcycle helmets as Texas and as a result, if you are in a car accident and were not wearing a helmet there will not be any legal implications. To reiterate, wearing a motorcycle helmet is a safety measure that could protect you from sustaining a very serious brain injury or death. Winning a case or not, safety is first and foremost when operating any motorized vehicle.
All states, including the lone star state, have equipment requirements for motorcycle riders. In Texas specifically, anyone who rides a motorcycle must have the following equipment:
- Wheel assembly
- Exhaust system
- Tail lamp
- Stop lamp
- License plate light
- Vehicle identification number
- Side mirrors
- Steering capabilities
- Braking capabilities
Your motorized vehicle aside, you are also expected to follow a series of rules to ensure the safety of you and your fellow drivers.
- You are not permitted to have a passenger on your bike unless it is designed to carry more than one person and has footrests and handholds for the passenger.
- You are not allowed to transport a child under the age of 8 and less than 4ft 9in tall.
- You are prohibited to lane split. A lane split occurs when two motorcyclist ride side-by-side in one traffic lane.
- You must complete an approved Texas Department of Public Safety motorcycle operator training class. If you have any questions about where to find such a class here is a resource to help guide your search.
- Individuals who are 18 years old or older should consider taking the intermediate course to learn safety tips for riding a motorcycle.
- Motorcyclists are required to take the written test before they are given their license.
TxDOT recommends a series of safety tips to motorcyclists to reduce their chances of being involved in a road accident. Abiding by these tips will not only keep you safe, but you can leverage being a safe driver if you are involved in a road accident.
What Is A Motorcycle Accident?
This might seem like a silly question to ask but understanding the ins and outs of a motorcycle accident can only help you in the long run. You might discover information that might not be of much use to you now but might come in handy later.
A motorcycle accident is similar to a car accident, however additional factors, such as the cause of motorcycle accident, injuries, and liability issues, make motorcycle accidents distinct from car accidents. For example, motorcycles being lighter than cars inherently make motorcycles riskier to ride. There are more risks of being a motorcyclist than a car driver. Risks include:
- Reduced visibility
- Greater risk of being affected by road hazards such as uneven road surfaces or debris
- Less protection than being inside a car
- Less stability due to fewer wheels
- Motorcycles require more skill to ride than a car
- Possible high-risk behavior
Because of these additional risk factors, determining liability in a motorcycle accident can be a difficult task if you are involved in a road accident. Liability in most motorcycle accidents usually falls under the law of negligence. Negligence is determined when a motorcyclist acts carelessly on the road which results in endangering or injuring other drivers. When on the road, it’s expected you drive with consideration for your fellow drivers as to not intentionally cause harm or else you are held liable.
When it comes to motorcycle accidents, the driver in a car or truck would be considered negligent. Given the risk factors above, drivers of cars and trucks have to be more careful when it comes to motorcycles as a result. But this doesn’t excuse motorcyclist from being at fault as some cyclists can be guilty of speeding and swerving on freeways and streets or being intoxicated on the road to name a few.
In 2017, 1,024 people were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol in Texas. This was 28% of the total number of people killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Statistics like this are why it’s important to be a safe motorist in addition to being able to determine liability. If you are a safe driver and find yourself involved in a road accident, you should consider filing a negligence claim.
Making a Case: Negligence & Strict Liability Claims
Because drivers are expected to drive in a way to not endanger fellow motorist, a car being in the wrong and causing you harm as a motorcyclist can be grounds for a negligence claim. When filing a negligence claim there are four pieces of information you as a plaintiff must consider:
- Does the law require the person being sued to be reasonably careful?
- Was the person being sued not careful?
- Did the actions of the person being sued cause your injuries?
- Were you injured or suffered a loss or losses?
Unless you can prove these 4 pieces of information you will not have a fruitful negligence claim. There can be cases when nobody on the road was negligent and it was a manufacturing error. In cases like these, most states recognize the standard of strict liability and it can be easier for motorcyclists to meet this standard than the negligence standard. However, this route may require you to have to sue more than one party.
Take, for example, failed brakes. When those failed brakes result in the injury of a motorcyclist, they may be able to sue not only the manufacturer of the brakes but the installer as well. Whoever may be seen as at fault for negligence will be held responsible if proper documentation and due diligence is properly done. Now that you have established a possible course of action, you have to find representation.
Filing a Claim and Choosing Legal Representation
Some individuals might find themselves realizing a prior motorcycle accident may have been caused by faulty parts and realize they are entitled to financial compensation for their injuries and additional damages. While it’s great news, the question must be asked how long is too long to wait before filing a claim.
Under the law, injury victims are entitled to seek financial compensation from those responsible for the damages and injuries sustained with minor exceptions, such as if an injury victim is responsible for their own demise. Despite this, it doesn’t mean injury victims can make a claim whenever they feel like it. The statute of limitations on a personal injury claim limits the amount of time you have to file a claim if you are seeking to collect financial compensation for damages. Most injury claims must be filed within 2 years of the accident taking place. Once you decide to file a claim, it’s important for you to choose a lawyer to represent you.
Choosing a lawyer regardless of your situation can be overwhelming. Law is a very saturated field and with so many different lawyers and specialties, it can be difficult to see which lawyers understand your case and which ones are just looking for some cases to rake up their numbers. However stressful it may be, by asking your prospective lawyer how experienced he or she is in your case you can drastically reduce the number of lawyers wanting to throw their cards your way. From there you can ask your lawyer about the statistics regarding cases similar to yours. Really going the extra mile and doing the research can save a lot of time and money.
What a Settled Claim Can Look Like
Finally, we’ve reached what a settled claim can potentially look like. There are several variables which will affect how long it will take to receive a settlement. Factors such as the time the claim was filed, addressing fault, and injuries sustained require time to be evaluated. Time is one of the biggest factors because the longer you go without filing a claim the longer it will take to research, which can be crucial to your claim. This can result in you waiting several months or up to a year before achieving a settlement. The quicker you file a claim the better it is in many instances. If you have all of your ducks in a row and you file a claim you could expect to achieve a settlement within a few weeks.
Congratulations, you have reached a settlement. But you are hearing that the defendant in your case might not be able to pay. This can be seen as one of the biggest momentum killers when it comes to settling a claim, especially if you are up to your eyeballs in debt from treatments and repairs. Fortunately, there are a few safeguards in place to ensure you get the financial compensation you were seeking.
You could possibly seek several alternatives, including developing a repayment plan, garnishing wages, or legally seizing the funds from a banking institution. There are even some instances where your lawyer might have to recover additional funds from the insurance company. The situation which would typically bring on this alternative is if an insurance company disputes some of the details of your accident in an attempt to give you less than your settlement.
These alternatives are applied on a case by case basis and only the specifics of your case can determine which methods will be used to ensure you get the financial compensation you’ve been fighting for. While obtaining a settlement is an amazing feat, there are going to be some situations where the settlement isn’t enough to cover everything or worse, an at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance and there is no settlement.
This is when proper motorcycle insurance comes in. Having bike insurance can pay for itself and more in motorcycle accidents. While Texas doesn’t mandate it, it’s recommended you carry either a UM or UIM insurance coverage to protect yourself from uninsured drivers on the road. There are a few options to look for and we’ll talk about them in a little bit, but we are not an insurance agency. We are providing this information as a starting point for your research.
UM coverage is short for uninsured coverage. It protects you if you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have insurance. UIM coverage is short for uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage protects you when an at-fault driver’s insurance will not cover the full extent of damage or medical expenses. In this scenario, the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay up to the policy limits and the UIM will take care of what’s left.
UM and UIM insurance coverage are typically broken up into bodily injury and property damage. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI) coverage will cover medical expenses, lost wages, and injury-related expenses for you, any permissive drivers, and your passengers. It can also provide coverage for injuries sustained in hit-and-run accidents as well.
Meanwhile, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD) coverage will cover your car. Unlike UMBI however, UMPD coverage will not protect against damage caused by hit-and-run collisions. Again, while we are not insurance lawyers, consider looking into obtaining motorcycle insurance in case you are in a situation where you get in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have the proper insurance.
Were you involved in a motorcycle accident? Contact Shamieh Law
Getting involved in a motorcycle accident is a very dangerous experience. Motorcyclists account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all occupant fatalities. On top of that, two-wheeled motorcycles accounted for 93% percent of all motorcycles in fatal crashes in 2016. If you were fortunate enough to not have been killed or you are the loved one of someone who is seeking financial compensation for damages and medical expenses, you will have a lot of questions regarding what path you should take. Let Shamieh law help.
Shamieh Law is experienced in dealing with claims from motorcyclists. We’ll make sure the ones responsible are held accountable and get you the compensation you deserve. We’ve been recognized for 2 years straight by the American Institute of Personal Injury attorneys for the attention to detail we give to each of our clients. In addition, our founder Ramez Shamieh has been recognized as a lawyer on the rise in Texas Lawyer magazine, has been on Super Lawyer’s rising stars list for 5 years straight, and D Magazine has nominated Ramez Shamieh as one of the best attorneys in Dallas under 40 in 2018. When you contact Shamieh Law, you’re dealing with the best in the business. Contact us today.