Motorcycles are a popular mode of transportation in Austin. They get around easily, are easy to park and easy to handle in traffic. They consume less gas. And they are fun to ride. However, in an accident motorcyclists are also particularly vulnerable to injury. There is little between the rider and the other vehicle so when a cyclist is injured, often the injuries are severe. Complicated injuries can mean complicated personal injury claims.

Accidents happen for several reasons, sometimes another driver just does not see the motorcyclist and executes an unsafe lane change. Sometimes, the accident happens when the motorcyclist splits or shares the lane either with another motorcycle or with the driver of another vehicle. Texas law does not prohibit lane splitting but it must be done carefully and safely.  This area of law can be complicated and is highly fact-based.

Both liability and damages issues can be more complicated for an injured motorcyclist. It is highly recommended that you work with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney if you have been injured in Austin. An experienced attorney can make the difference between a successful claim and facing a mountain of medical bills on your own.

Liability Issues Facing Motorcyclists

There are several liability issues that motorcycle accident victims face when making a claim for their injuries. Issues such as lane splitting and the failure to wear a helmet or other protective gear take liability into difficult areas.

Understanding Negligence

First, it is helpful to realize that motorcycle accidents involve negligence. Motorcyclists get rear-ended, or side swiped during an unsafe lane change. Negligence is grounded in the concept of reasonableness and one’s failure to act reasonably. While, a legal action is often complicated, at baseline, you must prove that:

  • Duty: The other driver owed you a duty of care (to act reasonable and use caution)
  • Breach: The duty failed to satisfy this duty of care, either through some action or inaction
  • Cause: The driver’s behavior caused you to get hurt
  • Damages: You’ve suffered financial loss, physical injuries, or emotional distress

This may look easy to prove, but other issues such as lane-splitting and the lack of protective gear can impact liability in unexpected ways.

What is Lane Splitting?

The topic of lane-splitting is controversial. Lane-splitting is the practice of riding between marked lanes. This is done to pass slow-moving or stalled traffic. Motorcyclists do it all the time and there is at least one California study that shows that lane-splitting is actually safe, provided it is done when traffic is moving at low speeds. California is the only state in which lane splitting is legal.

It follows that, in Texas, lane splitting is not legal. Vehicles are only permitted to drive in a single lane and change lanes when the coast is clear.

So, when a motorcycle accident involves lane-splitting, often both the actions of the rider and the vehicle driver must be examined to determine liability. Was the driver taking on a cell phone or otherwise distracted? Was traffic moving at a slower or faster speed? Was the rider moving faster than the flow of traffic? The answers to these questions impact liability.

Failure to Wear a Helmet and Comparative Negligence Rules in Texas

The presence or absence of protective gear may also impact a rider’s ability to collect damages. In Texas, helmets are required. However, if you are 21 years or older, and have completed a Department-approved Motorcycle Operator Training Course or they are covered with at least $10,000 in medical insurance, you are exempt from this requirement. Lack of a helmet can make a difference to both injuries and liability.

Texas operates under a modified comparative fault system. Liability is allocated to everyone who contributes to an accident or injury. Not wearing a helmet can factor in here. Other parties can argue that the failure to wear a helmet is primarily responsible for the rider’s injuries. If the injured rider is allocated most of the blame – more than 50% – they’ll be barred from recovering compensation. Even if the rider is allocated some, but not most, of the blame, their damages will be reduced to reflect their contribution.

Texas is a Comparative Fault State With a 50% Bar to Damages

Texas is a comparative fault state with a 50% bar. That means that if you are partially at fault for the accident, you can still collect against another driver who is more at fault, up to 50%. If you are 51% or more at fault, you cannot collect damages. Any partial percentage of liability up to 50% decreases the percentage of damages you may collect. Thus, if you are 10% at fault, your damages will be reduced by 10%.

Liability can be complicated in these cases. If you have been injured, it is highly recommended that you work with an attorney who is experienced in handling motorcycle personal injury cases.

Complicated Damages Make it Even More Important to Be Represented

Motorcycle accidents can have serious injuries. Head trauma, broken bones, bones crushed by the weight of the motorcycle, torn knee ligaments, and permanent nerve injuries are all among the typical injuries suffered by an injured rider. Traumatic brain injuries may have long-lasting effects such as seizures. If you ride without a helmet, head and neck injuries, concussions, and fractured skulls are common. Road rash can remove the skin. These types of injuries deserve to be compensated. Get the help you need to fully recover and get back to your life.