Houston Texas Lawyer Blog

When Is a Motorcyclist at Fault for an Accident?

September 4, 2020 Motorcycle Accidents

Crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles happen for a variety of reasons. Often drivers of other vehicles are at fault, but sometimes negligent actions by motorcyclists can also be to blame. So, when is a motorcyclist at fault for an accident? Motorcyclists might be found to be at fault for accidents if they were drinking and driving, lane splitting, or engaging in other potentially dangerous behaviors.

Every accident is different, though. It takes careful review of the evidence in each unique case to determine fault. Even if you were driving in a way that could be seen as unsafe and negligent as a motorcyclist, the other driver may also have acted negligently. In some cases, crashes are caused by a single driver. In others, fault may be shared between drivers.

It’s important not to admit responsibility at the scene of a crash. Let the investigation take place and all the details of what happened be examined. And it is always wise to get the help of an attorney who is skilled at handling motorcycle accident cases. An experienced attorney will help you understand your legal options as a motorcycle driver or passenger. Depending upon your degree of fault, you might be able to get compensation.

When Is a Motorcycle Rider at Fault? Some Driving Behaviors will Increase the Chance of Liability

Here are some instances in which a motorcycle rider could be found to be at fault for an accident:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs — Like drivers of other vehicles, motorcyclists who drive while drunk or drugged lack the judgment and reaction time they would have if they were sober. They face serious consequences if in an accident while under the influence. Depending on the circumstances and injuries involved, motorcyclists who drive under the influence and cause crashes may face civil lawsuits in addition to criminal prosecution.
  • Driving between two lanes of traffic — Lane splitting, also called lane sharing or white-lining, isn’t currently legal in Texas. Even so, some riders do it because it’s convenient and gets them where they want to go faster. But if you lane split and are in a crash, you are almost sure to be blamed by the other driver for causing the accident. It’s very likely that the insurance company will agree and you will be at fault, and you may not get any compensation for your injuries.
  • Speeding — If you speed and go much faster than the flow of traffic, you risk other drivers’ misjudging how quickly you will come upon them. They could change lanes or make turns that can endanger you and possibly passengers on your motorcycle. You will often be found at fault because you were breaking traffic laws by speeding. The same is true if you weave in and out of traffic or otherwise drive aggressively.
  • Driving while distracted — Texting and distracted driving are top causes of accidents for all motor vehicle types. Motorcyclists are often injured or killed by distracted drivers. But sometimes motorcyclists put themselves at risk by texting or engaging in other distracted driving behaviors. Always keep your eyes and mind on the road to reduce your chances of a crash.

Motorcycle riders who are inexperienced can also potentially be found at fault in accidents. It takes skill and experience to properly handle a bike. Without that knowledge, the risks go up.

Unlicensed motorcycle riders may be especially liable in an accident. Texas law requires motorcyclists to be licensed and to go through a motorcycle safety course before licensing. If you break the law and ride without the proper license, you may be found responsible in a crash, even if you feel that you didn’t do anything unsafe.

Can I Still Get Compensation if I Am at Fault?

The answer to that question is “possibly.” Texas uses what is called a modified comparative negligence rule for traffic accidents. Under this rule, fault is determined by percentage. If you are found to be less than 51% at fault, you could still get compensation in a claim. The award you could potentially get would be reduced by the amount you are found to be at fault. For example, if you are 40% at fault and the award is $20,000, your award would be reduced by $8,000 and you would receive $12,000. But if you are more than 50% responsible for the accident, you will get nothing.

For this reason, it is essential to work with an experienced law firm that knows how to prove negligence to determine fault in motorcycle crash cases. An attorney will examine the other driver’s actions in the crash to discover whether they contributed to the accident. If it’s proven that the other driver shared the major portion of responsibility for the accident, you may be able to get compensation for your medical expenses, lost income from time missed at work, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Most Motorcyclists Try to Drive Safely but Still Get Blamed

Unfortunately, in many crash situations, drivers of other vehicles who may have actually caused the accident will try to blame the motorcyclist. Motorcyclists can be easy scapegoats because others may see them as thrill seekers or dangerous drivers. But we think that the majority of motorcycle riders are sensible people who want to be safe. They know that the odds aren’t good for motorcyclists when it comes to being in a crash with a much larger, heavier vehicle.

Motorcyclists are about 28 times more likely to die in a crash than motor vehicle occupants, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

A common defense used by drivers of other vehicles is to place the fault back on motorcyclists, saying that they didn’t see the bike because bikes are so small. But if a motorcyclist is obeying traffic rules and driving safely, it is the responsibility of other drivers to be careful and look out for them.

Our law firm understands all the defenses and tactics other drivers will use to get out of taking responsibility for their part in crashes. Even if you were negligent, we will bring our full resources to trying to prove that the other driver was primarily at fault for your motorcycle crash.

Contact Our Skilled Houston Attorneys for Help

The skilled attorneys at the accident and injury law office of Terry Bryant have handled hundreds of accident cases involving motorcycles. Call our experienced law firm today for a free consultation at (713) 973-8888.

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