Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

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motorcycleA recent Texas appellate case arose from a truck accident. The defendant testified that, on the accident date, he was driving in the left lane. It was rush hour, and following behind two other vehicles, he was coming to a construction zone. Since he hadn’t considered the recommended following distance, there was no room for other cars and trucks to merge in front of him. An 18-wheeler in front of the two vehicles he was following stopped, and traffic immediately stopped. The traffic was tight, such that driving into the right lane wasn’t possible. The two vehicles turned onto a grassy median, and the defendant followed them.

Later, the truck driver would testify that what happened was so fast, he wasn’t sure why he left the road instead of simply stopping. He veered off because he assumed something was in front of them on the road, and he didn’t want to risk touching the back of the truck. He hit the brakes as he left the road, and he believed he had to do so to avoid a collision. He didn’t look left before following, and he was going at the same rate as the cars around him.

When he moved left, he did see the plaintiff’s motorcycle located about a car behind him in his mirror. He believed that the motorcycle was moving fast on the shoulder and that it was illegal to use the shoulder. The motorcyclist drove onto the grass and lost control of his bike. The bike hit the defendant’s truck. The defendant didn’t think the back of his truck had left the shoulder yet, and he claimed that the plaintiff wasn’t in his path when he went left.

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scooterIn a recent Texas appellate case, a motorcyclist was traveling up United States Highway 54. As he exited 54, he hit a Texas Department of Transportation sign that had fallen into the roadway and was killed. The sign sat off the roadway and was secured to two posts that went down to a concrete base. There were fuse plates that were designed to come off under enough force, like a vehicle hitting the sign. The purpose of these is to reduce the risk of injury. However, it also made the sign particularly susceptible to being damaged by wind and other forces.

A motorist had hit the prior sign, so a new sign was put up at the exit where the motorcyclist was killed. Six months later, high winds affected a number of signs on the highway. The Department of Transportation crew saw that the sign wasn’t level, and they took a look. Two of the fuse plates had broken, so they replaced the fuse plates. They tightened the bolts by hand, although for certain signs they used a torque wrench.

In this case, a 911 operator got a call that a street sign was in the lane of traffic on the exit ramp. The sign was secured by only one post, and there were winds blowing at 40-60 mph. Other calls were also made to 911, and somebody even warned that somebody would be killed by running into the sign.

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motorcycleIn a recent Texas appellate case, the plaintiff sued the City of Houston after one of its police officers hit his motorcycle. The officer was in a parked police car in 2009 when he heard a radio broadcast from another officer, stating that there was a motorcyclist who was driving recklessly and standing up on the motorcycle while speeding. The first officer radioed that he would try to help the first officer. While going to assist, the first officer saw the plaintiff’s car leave a parking lot and turn onto the road in front of him. As the officer came up to him, he changed lanes to the left lane and then changed back, coming to a stop in front of the police officer. The officer hit the motorcycle while trying to go around him.

The plaintiff sued for personal injuries. The City argued that it was entitled to government immunity, based on the Texas Tort Claims Act. The plea to the jurisdiction was granted, and the plaintiff appealed. The parties didn’t disagree on appeal that the officer was in the course and scope of his job when he answered the radio call for help. The appellate court determined that the officer was engaged in a discretionary function at the time of the accident, but the defendant hadn’t established the officer was acting in good faith. The claim that the officer was responding to a call about a motorcyclist fleeing from the police was not grounded in evidence. The radio transcripts showed that the dispatcher had asked for help with a motorcyclist driving recklessly.

The appellate court explained that the defendant had to show good faith by proving a reasonably prudent officer could conclude that the need for a response to the recklessly driving motorcyclist outweighed the risk to the public by the police officer speeding. It determined that based on the record, the defendant hadn’t established the officer’s good faith, since the motorcyclist wasn’t fleeing arrest.

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motorcycle-stunter-tyre-burnout-1301096-m.jpgTo cut down on the number of motorcycle accidents, especially fatalities, the Texas Department of Transportation has launched a campaign called Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles.

Last year, 494 motorcycle riders died in collisions and overall, there were 4,339 crashes involving other vehicles. San Antonio was the city with the most fatalities, at 37, followed by Houston with 32, Dallas with 24, Austin with 12, and Fort Worth with 11. The Share the Road campaign hopes to increase car driver awareness of motorcycles. Due to motorcyclists’ “smaller profile,” it can be difficult for drivers of other vehicles to judge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle. As a result, too often a driver will say that he or she never saw the motorcycle before a collision.

Part of the Share the Road campaign will be a Bike Counting Game, which car drivers will be encouraged to play with motorcycles. The game will involve one passenger in the car spotting a motorcycle and calling out to the other occupants of the vehicle. That prevents the driver of the car from going into “automatic” mode and not focusing on the other types of vehicles on the road. Motorcycle riders claim that two things they frequently see drivers do are text while driving and overall remain focused on just what is ahead of them. As a result, motorcycle riders must remain defensive at all times. Some report getting nicked and almost driven off the road by inattentive drivers.

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1196523_51194802.jpgTraffic Fatalities Increased in 2012

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released its 2012 Fatality Analysis Reporting data. Unfortunately, after six consecutive years of declining fatalities on U.S. highways, the data indicates that highway crashes and deaths increased in 2012. Specifically, fatalities increased to 33,561 in 2012, which is 1,082, (or 3.3%) more fatalities than in 2011. In addition, the number of injured persons increased by 145,000 from 2011. Almost three-quarters of the fatalities occurred in the first three months of 2012, and most of those individuals involved in the fatalities were motorcyclists and pedestrians. For the first half of 2013, early estimates on crash fatalities reveal a decrease in deaths for the same time period in 2012.

Notably, the increase in crashes and resulting injuries and fatalities does not appear to be associated with one particular issue, and crashes for some traditional risk factors, including young drivers, actually fell in 2012. Other notable statistics include:

• There were 10 times as many unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities in states, such as Texas, without universal helmet laws (1,858 unhelmeted fatalities) as in states with universal helmet laws (178 unhelmeted fatalities). These states were nearly equivalent in total resident populations.

• Though fatalities from alcohol-impaired driving increased from 2011 to 2012, fatalities from crashes involving young drivers (16- to 20-year olds) and alcohol decreased by 15%.

• For the past decade, males have consistently made up about 70% of motor vehicle fatalities.

• There was a 3.7% increase in the number of people killed in crashes involving large trucks, and 61% of large-truck occupants killed in 2012 died in single-vehicle crashes.

Overall, while 13 states experienced decreases in overall traffic fatalities and eighteen states experienced decreases in drunk driving deaths, Texas was not part of either group. In fact, Texas had the largest increase in fatalities of any state, with an 11% increase in overall traffic fatalities and 6.6% increase in drunk driving deaths.

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There was recently an interesting article authored by a parent whose son was injured in a motorcycle accident. The accident occurred in Washington, D.C. when a cab pulled out in front of the son’s motorcycle, failing to yield the right-of-way. The son slid underneath of the cab, which stopped to avoid running him over.

According to the parent, his son received minor injuries and road rash. Why would a cab driver pull out in front of his son? What was the driver thinking? Nothing seemed to matter other than this guy could have killed his son. The cab driver’s answers would do little to temper this parent’s anger.

Unfortunately, the facts and circumstances of this motorcycle accident are all too common. Generally, it is almost always another vehicle failing to yield the right-of-way to a motorcycle versus the other way around. Often motorcycles are challenged when motorists change lanes in front of them or into the side of them. Many motorcyclists suffer serious injuries as a result. Motorcycle accidents invariably result in serious life threatening injuries or death. Riders are simply too exposed and unprotected to sustain an impact with a car or truck without being badly injured or killed.

So, why do other motorists have such a difficult time seeing a motorcycle? The answer might be contained in a Texas Tech University perception study. Perception experts have discovered that drivers misjudge the speed and distance of a motorcycle because of its smaller size.

When a driver sees another vehicle coming, the mind attempts to calculate how far away it is and how fast it is going to avoid a collision. During the process, the mind uses certain depth perception clues to make this determination. Simply put, the mind decides that the bigger the object is, the closer it is. With a motorcycle, this is not always true due to its size.

The conclusion of the study conducted in Lubbock, Texas is that motorists, in general, are causing accidents by pulling out in front of smaller vehicles and motorcycles. The reason is that they perceive these smaller objects are farther away than they actually are.

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1301095_motorcycle_stunter_tyre_burnout_ sxchu.jpgA recent study at Michigan State University found states that repealed mandatory motorcycle helmet laws saw not only an increase in motorcycle accident fatalities, but also an increase in organ donations. This was especially true among adult males who are reportedly more likely to ride a motorcycle than their female counterparts. The study found organ donations following traffic accidents increased by about 10 percent in the first years following a helmet law repeal in Texas and five other states.

Motorcyclists who ride without a helmet are generally young, healthy, and at an increased risk of sudden brain trauma. For example, organ donations in Florida increased by about 33 percent following a repeal of the state’s helmet law in 2000. 89 percent of the growth was adult males between the ages of 18 and 49. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of cyclists who were fatally injured in a crash doubled between 2000 and 2003, just as overall helmet use plummeted.

Many believe motorcycle riders who do not wear a helmet increase their chances of suffering a catastrophic brain injury. In Florida, both organ donations and motorcycle fatalities fell between 2008 and 2010. This decline was allegedly in response to increased helmet use education and training. According to Brian Carpenter, the President of the South Florida Riders Club, although a motorcyclist is likely to die in any high speed accident, wearing a helmet can mean the difference between life and death when traveling at a lower rate of speed. Carpenter, a proponent for state helmet laws, said the group’s motto is “All gear, all the time.”

Still, others believe the issue is one of freedom. According to James Reichenbach, President of ABATE of Florida, most motorcycle fatalities are the result of inattentive and careless motorists. Reichenbach believes helmets impair a motorcyclist’s ability to see, hear, and respond to threats on the roads.

As traffic on Texas roadways increases, motorcyclists must be proactive in order to protect themselves from injury. By adhering to some basic motorcycle safety tips, you may be able to reduce the possibility of being involved in a catastrophic injury accident. The most fundamental safety tip a motorcyclist can follow is to wear appropriate protective gear while riding. A sturdy jacket, pants, boots, and gloves may reduce your risk of cuts, abrasions, and “road rash.” Additionally, wearing a helmet may save you from a catastrophic brain injury or wrongful death.

If you were injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be eligible to receive financial compensation for your medical expenses, pain, suffering, any resulting disability, loss of income, and other damages. If your loved one was killed by another driver while riding a motorcycle, you may be able to recover for their wrongful death. A knowledgeable Texas personal injury lawyer can answer your questions.

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