Your motorcycle brings you closer to nature, closer to the road, closer to the elements; riding is just plain fun—and it is practical. A bike is maneuverable, cheap to own and operate, stingy on gas. It is a great way to tour and a convenient way to get to work without breaking the bank.
But there is a downside: motorcycles can be dangerous. If you crash, you have no protection. There is no buffer between you and the road. A crash with a car can send you flying—onto the pavement, into surrounding structures, or into the path of another vehicle. The injuries that occur in a motorcycle crash are usually severe and too often result in death.
It helps if you are a skilled rider, and taking a motorcycle safety course is always a good idea; but even if you have educated yourself, obey the law at all times, ride with skill and care, and take every possible precaution, you can’t control the other drivers out there.
Bikers Cause Most Motorcycle Accidents? That Common Myth that is Plain Incorrect!
Anyone who rides a motorcycle is a daredevil—a risk-taker. We’ve all heard it before; and insurance companies hold onto this belief, regardless of evidence to the contrary. In fact, a good proportion of motorcycle accidents are not caused by the biker but by a car or truck whose driver doesn’t make the effort to carefully observe what is happening on the road, and as a result, fails to yield the right of way to a motorcycle traveling in its proper lane. This is especially common when another vehicle’s driver changes lanes without checking properly to see if the lane is free, or when a vehicle making a turn crosses a lane into the path of a motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction. In many of these cases, there is little you as a biker can do to avoid a crash.
The federal National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides crash data on all types of motor vehicle accidents. Their figures reveal that the majority of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle, with a whopping 42 percent of those occurring when the larger vehicle turns left or changes lanes directly into the path of a motorcycle. As a motorcyclist, if you have the misfortune to have a car or truck turn into your lane, chances are good that you will be the one to suffer the worst of it. According to various estimates, you are anywhere from 27 to 36 times more likely to die in a crash on a motorcycle than if you were in a car.
In 2014, according to the NHTSA, 4,486 people were killed in motorcycle accidents nationwide, and another 92,000 were injured. This was a slight decline in fatalities from the previous year but a rise in the number of injuries.
Texas reported 450 motorcyclist fatalities in 2014, along with 2,022 incapacitating injuries, 3586 non-incapacitating injuries, and another 2092 possible injuries.
Negligent Motor Vehicle Driver Behaviors that Lead to Motorcycle Accidents in Texas
Although the data show that cars and trucks cause many motorcycle accidents that injure and kill riders, insurance companies appear to cling to the belief that the biker is nearly always at fault. After all, it is in their interest to avoid paying the injured parties for their damages! But we know this belief is far from the truth.
We’ve already mentioned some of the driver behaviors that can cause them to crash with motorcycles. Here is a list of the types of negligence on the part of drivers, businesses, and government entities that may entitle the victim to compensation:
- A driver making a turn or lane change without signaling
- A driver failing to observe oncoming traffic before turning or changing lanes
- A driver failing to check blind spots before changing lanes
- Tailgating – driving too close to the rear of a motorcycle
- A driver failing to drive appropriately for weather or traffic conditions
- A driver who is impaired by alcohol or drugs (including prescription and over-the-counter drugs)
- A driver who fails to observer traffic regulations
- A vehicle running through a stop sign or traffic light
- A speeding vehicle
- Hostile or aggressive driving
- A car or truck traveling outside of the correct lane or on the wrong side of the road
- A vehicle going the wrong way on a one-way street
- A car or truck entering a highway from the wrong ramp
- A distracted driver using a cell phone, texting, rubbernecking, shaving, arranging hair, etc.
- Someone opening a car door of a parked or idling car in front of an oncoming motorcycle
- Defects in a vehicle or one of its components
- Potholes, fallen obstacles, detached tire treads in the road
- Litter and debris on the road near a highway construction site
In the majority of accidents, it is another driver who is to blame for the accident and who may be held liable. But depending on the circumstances of the accident, the liable party could be a contractor working at a construction site, a trucking company or driver that dropped an obstacle onto the roadway, or a government agency that failed to repair potholes or to properly maintain the road. If a manufacturing defect in your motorcycle or in the other vehicle involved in the accident was a factor, the manufacturer or supplier of the defective component could also have liability.
Types of Injuries in Motorcycle Crashes
Because you are completely exposed on a motorcycle, you can suffer severe injuries to any part of your body in an accident. These are some types of injuries that Texas bikers often experience as the result of a motorcycle crash:
- Broken bones; dislocations
- Skull fracture
- Amputation injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Paralysis; quadriplegia; paraplegia
- Internal organ damage and internal bleeding
- Nerve damage
- Chronic pain
- Joint injuries
- Torn, stretched, or damaged soft tissue: muscles, ligaments, tendons,
- Lacerations, road burn, scarring, and disfigurement
- Facial Injuries
- Psychological trauma: phobias, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Your Right to a Just Recovery of Financial Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
If you or someone close to you has suffered a serious injury or death in a Texas motorcycle accident that someone else caused, either in full or in part, you have the right to make a claim against the responsible party for compensation.
But be prepared for a fight. Many insurance companies routinely deny motorcycle accident claims. Hiring a skilled and aggressive motorcycle accident attorney can make the difference between your getting a nothing at all or receiving a large financial settlement that can give you the means to get the medical attention you need and keep your bills paid while you are recuperating, while also compensating you for the damage to your quality of life.
In Austin and the surrounding area, you can get the top quality, committed, and aggressive representation you need by calling the law offices of personal injury attorneys Briggle & Polan, PLLC. The first thing you need to do is get immediate medical treatment; then call us to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Texas’s Helmet Law and How it Can Affect Your Motorcycle Accident Case
The worst and also most frequent injuries that occur in motorcycle accidents are head injuries—and these can be catastrophic. You will be safer wearing a helmet, but many bikers feel confined and uncomfortable wearing one. In Texas, if you are 21 years of age or older, you are allowed to operate or ride as a passenger on a motorcycle legally without wearing a helmet under certain conditions. You must have successfully completed an approved Motorcycle Operator Training Course and be able to provide proof of having at least $10,000 in medical insurance coverage that includes motorcycle accident injuries, which many policies do not. The police are not allowed to randomly stop you to check your insurance policy; however if you are pulled over for a traffic infraction or if you are involved in any type of accident, they may ask for proof and issue a citation if you can’t produce it.
Although you are entitled to make a claim against the at-fault party regardless of whether you were wearing a helmet or not, you need to understand how Texas’s doctrine of comparative negligence comes into play. In a trial, the jury is allowed to consider the fact that by not wearing a helmet you contributed to your own injuries. They will determine the percentage of your contribution and reduce your award by that amount. So if the jury determines the value of your damages to be $200,000 and your contribution to those damages to be 50 percent, you would only receive half of your case’s determined value or $100,000. So it makes sense, for many reasons, to do the safer thing and wear the helmet.
Steps to Take When an Accident Has Occurred
If your motorcycle has been hit by a car or truck, you may not be able to do much more than hope that someone calls 911 and has an ambulance dispatched. If you are conscious and can reach your cell phone, you should make that call immediately. If you can use your cell phone, you might also try to take photos of the accident scene or have someone else do it for you. It will be helpful if you can get the plate numbers of any vehicles involved in the crash, along with the driver’s name, registration, and insurance information. But that’s all. Don’t discuss the accident with the other driver or anyone else at the scene, other to give the most basic information to the reporting police officer. In particular, don’t discuss who caused the accident, don’t apologize for anything, and don’t comment on whether or not you are injured other than to request an ambulance if one is needed.
Your main focus at this point should be getting medical attention. You may or may not realize that you are injured at this point. The adrenaline rush that occurs with an accident can mask the pain for a time. If an ambulance has been dispatched to the scene it will take you to a hospital emergency room. Make sure the doctor knows that you were hit by a car while riding your motorcycle and where the impact was on your body. Follow the doctor’s instructions to the letter and make sure that you don’t miss your follow-up appointments. Continue with treatment as long as you are experiencing any pain or other symptoms.
Contact the offices of Austin injury attorneys Briggle and Polan, PLLC as soon as possible so we can begin the process of protecting your right to a monetary award in compensation for your injuries.
Remember Whose Side the Insurance Adjuster Is On (Hint-IT’S NOT YOURS!)
Expect an insurance adjuster from the company that covers whoever that caused your accident to contact you. Sometimes an insurer will even send an adjuster out to the accident scene! Never lose sight of the fact that the adjuster is not there to help you. The adjuster’s job is to keep the insurance company’s payouts to the least they can get away with. Don’t get involved with the adjuster. Your attorney will handle that part of your case. Never allow the adjuster to record a statement from you, and never sign any papers unless you lawyer tells you to. As soon as you have retained legal counsel, inform the insurance company. Your lawyer understands the law and the methods the insurance companies often use to avoid paying claims and will handle all dealings with the adjuster in such a way that your rights are protected.
Why You Need an Attorney for Your Texas Motorcycle Accident Claim
Insurance companies will often routinely deny a motorcycle accident claim—partly because of bias and the preconceived notion that the biker is always at fault, and partly because it’s just the nature of the insurance business. Insurance companies take in premiums, and the less the pay out on claims, the more their profits.
An insurance adjuster will often tell you that you don’t need a lawyer, and while in theory this is correct, in practice it is a huge mistake to try to negotiate a settlement on your own. Most people have no idea the value of their case—and the adjuster will be quick to take advantage. As a motorcycle accident victim, you will probably not receive a fair settlement without a battle. You will need a skillful and aggressive attorney to make sure that you are adequately compensated for all of your accident-related damages.
An experienced personal injury attorney understands the full value of your economic and non-economic damages and has the resources, knowledge, and commitment to the best possible outcome for your case, so call Briggle and Polan without delay. Research shows that injured parties with quality legal representation receive significantly higher awards than those who attempt to go it alone. Your future and that of your family will often depend on your getting enough money to get the treatment you need and maintain your lifestyle in the face of your injury and resulting disabilities.
Types of Damages from a Motorcycle Accident
You may potentially recover three types of damages as a result of your motorcycle accident: economic, non-economic, and exemplary damages (often called punitive damages).
To prove your economic damages—those which have a specific dollar value—you will need to produce medical bills, receipts, and employment records. These are some of the most common types of economic damages for which you may be compensated:
- Hospital and doctor bills
- Cost of physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychological therapy, and rehabilitation
- Transportation costs for getting to medical appointments
- Certain childcare expenses
- Cost of prescription drugs
- Lost wages; lost benefits; diminished potential for future earnings
- Cost of assistive devices—mobility devices, crutches, braces, etc.
- Cost of refitting your home and car to accommodate your accident-related disability
- Cost of personal care and household services for tasks you are now unable to perform
- All out-of-pocket expenses necessitated by your injury
Non-economic damages, also called “general damages,” are those things that affect your quality of life and are hard to assign a specific dollar amount. But these damages can devastate your life even more than your economic losses. These vary from person to person and reflect what your life was like and what made it worth living before the accident. If you enjoyed playing sports every weekend and are now a quadriplegic, your loss might be considered greater than if you had spent most of your time reading or writing before the accident. Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Loss of independence
- Emotional anguish
- Personality changes
- Cognitive impairment
- Inability to participate in sports or hobbies
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of ability to engage in sexual relations
- Damage to interpersonal relationships
In a few extremely egregious cases, a jury may award exemplary or punitive damages. Exemplary damages are an additional sum awarded by a jury, not as compensation for your losses, but to punish a defendant who has displayed an extreme, blatant disregard for the life or health of another. Their purpose is to make an example of the wrongdoer and deter others from similar behaviors. Exemplary damages are sometimes awarded when a driver causes a horrific crash and has a blood alcohol content that is not merely above, but several times the legal level.
Getting Quality Legal Help in Austin, Texas
If you have been injured in a motorcycle crash, or if a close member of your family has been killed in one, and you live in Texas, you can get the legal advice you need by arranging a free consultation with the personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Briggle and Polan, PLLC, in Austin. We understand that you have a lot to deal with following a serious accident. We will handle all the legal aspects of your case to spare you unnecessary stress and allow you to focus on your physical and/or emotional healing. These are some of the services we will perform:
- Investigating how and why the accident occurred
- When needed, calling upon traffic safety professionals and others to support your case, assist in proving liability, and provide expert testimony
- Filing all required documents and pleadings with the court in compliance with statutory deadlines
- Documenting your medical expenses, lost earnings, and other financial damages
- Entering into negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company to secure a settlement that fairly and adequately reflects everything you’ve lost, both your economic and non-economic damages.
- Conducting a jury trial if the insurance company won’t make a fair offer
- Working with your doctors to reduce liens for treatment on your case, allowing you to keep more of your award money
Contact our lawyers at Briggle & Polan, PLLC, today. Our attorneys have been recognized as Super Lawyers and Rising Stars in the Texas legal community. Your initial consultation is free, and you only pay legal fees after you have received money on your case. The quality of your future may depend on it your receiving an adequate recovery, so make that call now. 512-472-1926