Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

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The state’s high court recently ruled in a Texas personal injury case involving the notice requirements in lawsuits against government entities. According to the court’s opinion, two individuals were riding on a motorcycle when they hit a large mound of dirt on an unlit asphalt road in Killeen, Texas. While both driver and passenger initially survived the crash, they ultimately died as a result of their injuries. The accident victims’ relatives sued the city, claiming that the mound of dirt was a “special defect” for which the city was responsible. The city argued that the plaintiffs failed to give formal notice of the claim, as required under the Texas Tort Claims Act. In response, the plaintiffs argued that the city already had actual notice of the claim and therefore the plaintiffs should be excused from providing additional notice.

Under section 101.101(a) of the Texas Tort Claims Act, a claimant must provide a government entity with notice of a claim against it within six months of the “incident giving rise to the claim.” The notice must describe the incident, the time and place where the incident occurred, and the damage or injury that resulted. However, under section 101.101(c), a claimant does not need to provide notice if the governmental entity has “actual notice” that the claimant was injured, the claimant’s property was damaged, or that a death has occurred.

In a 2004 Texas Supreme Court case, the court held in order to have actual notice, the government must be subjectively aware of its alleged fault in the resulting death, injury, or property damage. The plaintiffs argued that the case should be overturned because this requirement was not part of the statute. However, the court declined to overturn its previous decision, and held that in this case, the city had actual notice.

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In late June, seven motorcyclists were killed and four seriously injured in a tragic accident that occurred when a pickup truck inexplicably veered out of its lane and into oncoming traffic, crashing into a group of ten motorcycles. Since the fatal accident, reports have surfaced indicating that the driver of the pickup truck involved in that fatal collision was also involved in a number of other incidents, including a Texas truck accident a few weeks earlier.

According to a local news report, on June 3, 2019, just three weeks before the fatal motorcycle accident, police responded to reports of a crash on Interstate 10 in Baytown. When they arrived, officers found a red Mack truck rolled over onto its side. The driver of the truck told police that another motorist cut him off, and that he lost control of the truck when he attempted to avoid a collision. Police officers were unable to locate any sign of the other vehicle, but did not cite or arrest the truck driver because there was no indication of intoxication or any other wrongdoing. However, the man was fired after this incident.

After looking into the man’s record more closely, reporters discovered that he was arrested back in February of 2019 for possession of a crack pipe. The man was placed on a deferment, meaning that the charges would be dropped if he stayed out of trouble. Just a week before the fatal motorcycle accident, the charges were dropped.

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Earlier this year, a company by the name of Lime was given permission to open its electric-scooter sharing operating in Dallas. The scooter-share program is similar to the ubiquitous bike shares that have opened up across the country, however, instead of bicycles, the company allows customers to rent motorized scooters.

The differences between the risks involved with riding a bicycle and a motorized scooter have resulted in many expressing hesitations. Residents protested the scooter share, arguing that it will result in an increased number of inexperienced operators, worsen the city’s already notorious traffic situation, and present additional risks to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Earlier this month, Dallas suffered its first fatal rental scooter crash. According to a local news report, the accident is being investigated as a single-vehicle crash, although the accident victim’s family believes that another vehicle was involved.

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In a recent appellate case, a Texas motorcycle accident plaintiff challenged the trial court’s admission of evidence related to causation and prior extraneous offenses. The motorcyclist was driving in the right lane on a service road when an 18-wheeler truck swung into the middle lane to make a right turn. He tried to pass on the right, and a truck cut him off to make a turn. He steered into a curb, flew over the handlebars, and was seriously injured under the tires of the truck.

He was speeding when he tried to pass. The truck company, but not the driver, admitted the right turn was wider than necessary. The lower court refused to permit testimony from the only eyewitness that the motorcyclist and the truck driver were equally at fault. An officer who investigated the accident determined that the motorcyclist had tried to pass the truck unsafely. Both sides presented expert testimony. After a two-week trial, the jury determined there was more than $7 million in damages. It found that the truck driver was 25% negligent and that the motorcyclist was 75% negligent. A take-nothing judgment was entered.

The motorcyclist appealed. He argued it was improper to admit the officer’s testimony that he caused the crash by passing unsafely on the right as well as presenting evidence of his prior bad acts. The company and the truck driver argued he waived those complaints because he discussed the evidence in his opening statement and also introduced it at trial. Specifically, the plaintiff’s attorney had commented that he was no Boy Scout and had evaded arrest, among other things, and that the police officer didn’t talk to the only eyewitness in stating that the motorcyclist passed unsafely to the right.

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A 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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In 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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In 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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To 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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Traffic 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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