Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in El Paso, TX
El Paso and West Texas provide no shortage of beautiful backdrops for motorcyclists to enjoy, from Big Bend National Park Loop to Mount Livermore Loop to Carlsbad Caverns National Park to White Sands National Park to Guadalupe Peak to Scenic Drive running along the Franklin Mountains. Despite the scenic surroundings, people of all ages can suffer injuries in motorcycle accidents all over West Texas, and it becomes urgent for victims to seek the help of an El Paso motorcycle accident lawyer.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports that 521 motorcyclists (including both motorcycle operators and their passengers) were killed last year, with 45 percent of the motorcyclists not wearing helmets at the times of their crashes. According to TxDOT, motorcycle accidents also included 2,275 suspected serious injury crashes, 2,821 suspected minor injury crashes, 1,435 possible injury crashes, 128 unknown injury crashes, and 8,322 total crashes.
Did You Know?
The US is sadly full of accident victims who are living with ongoing injuries. Automobile crashes are very pervasive today, especially accidents leading to injury:
- A roadway crash leading to paralysis can result in overwhelming medical expenses.
- Almost half of the people disabled in automobile collisions are not able to work.
- More than a million Americans are disabled due to automobile collisions.
Motorcycle Accidents Are Worse than Car Accidents
Motorcycles face two main vulnerabilities on the roadway.
Motorcycles Lack Crucial Safety Features
Motorcyclists are generally more seriously injured in accidents because motorcycles do not have steel frames, restraints, or airbags. In even a minor crash, a motorcycle rider can be easily thrown from their bike. Even with a helmet, motorcycle riders are at a disadvantage. Good safety gear like a USDOT helmet and a padded/reinforced motorcycle jacket is the bare minimum and still leaves riders highly vulnerable. Most motorcyclists are ejected from their bikes in a crash, meaning the rider is left lying on the road, which is clearly a dangerous and vulnerable position. The bottom line: motorcycle crashes are dangerous.
The weight difference between most cars (3,000-4,000 pounds) or semi-trucks (50,000-80,000 pounds) and a motorcycle (300-500 pounds) is tremendous. Sadly, motorcycle riders are 29x more likely to die in a collision than those traveling in cars.
Is Another Party Liable?
In a motorcycle crash, other factors may contribute to the collision if you look under the surface. Have you considered the following:
- Was all the safety gear functioning properly? For example, helmets that claim to be USDOT-approved may not actually be.
- Were all drivers involved licensed?
- Was the roadway properly maintained at the time of the crash?
- Could there have been a mechanical failure caused by a manufacturer defect or improper servicing by your mechanic?
- Was the roadway free of debris at the time of the crash? If, for example, a dump truck leaked some gravel or a garbage truck spilled some trash on the road, these parties may be partially or wholly liable.
- Have there been any manufacturer recalls that the motorcyclist was not aware of?
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcyclists often feel that other drivers or parties are liable for causing their accidents, but insurance companies frequently try to find reasons to blame motorcyclists for causing their own injuries. The uphill fight you will have with an insurer represents one of the major reasons you should invest in retaining legal counsel.
The truth is that any one of several possible explanations can exist for why a motorcycle accident occurred.
Some of the most common reasons include:
- Driver Fatigue — When another driver is operating on a lack of sleep or simply feeling exhausted, there is an increased risk of that motorist dozing off or even falling asleep behind the wheel. Drivers in such cases can easily drift into other lanes and collide with motorcycles.
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) — Any motorist in Texas who operates a motor vehicle while they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol can face criminal charges for causing a collision with a motorcycle. When a person commits a DWI and causes a traffic accident resulting in serious bodily injury, they can face third-degree felony intoxication assault charges. When a DWI offense causes the death of a motorcyclist, then the negligent driver can be charged with second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter charges.
- Distracted Driving — Distractions come in many forms, with cell phones often being the most common kind of distraction for most drivers because many people simply cannot resist checking their phones while they are behind the wheel. When another driver was texting, talking, or using social media while behind the wheel, an attorney will know how to seize the phone records that can prove a driver was distracted.
- Reckless or Aggressive Driving — Texas Transportation Code § 545.401 defines reckless driving as driving a vehicle in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. The Texas Department of Insurance states that aggressive driving is any unsafe behavior a person performs purposely with ill intent or disregard for the safety of others that puts other drivers or property at risk. TxDOT notes that aggressive driving violations can result in fines of up to $200 for each offense.
- Speeding — Any other driver who is operating in excess of posted speed limits is placing all other people on the road at risk because a speeding driver cannot come to a complete stop as quickly as somebody operating at a lawful speed. Many motorcycle accidents involve other drivers who were speeding at the time of collisions.
- Running Stop Signs or Stop Lights — All drivers are expected to stop for stop signs or red lights, but inattentive or possibly speeding drivers may go through these intersections without stopping. The obvious risk of doing this is colliding with passing motorcyclists at such intersections, and such collisions can often cause catastrophic injuries.
El Paso Motorcycle Accidents Other Common Reasons
- Improper Lane Changes or Turns — Motorcycles are much smaller than most passenger vehicles, so it is easy for drivers of passenger vehicles to not see motorcyclists while attempting lane changes or performing certain turns. Motorcyclists can be powerless to avoid collisions in such instances.
- Failure to Yield Right of Way — Another type of intersection accident involves other drivers not yielding the right of way to motorcyclists, and this is a particularly common kind of crash because other drivers seem to have a poor understanding of motorcyclist intentions.
- Motorcycle Defects — There may be cases in which motorcycle accidents stem from something being wrong with a motorcycle itself. While another driver is not liable for damages in such cases, a parts manufacturer, mechanic, or another party could be responsible for your injuries.
- Tailgating — Drivers who follow motorcycles too closely are at a far greater risk of causing rear-end accidents. These types of collisions are especially risky for motorcyclists because rear-end collisions often have the potential to throw motorcyclists several feet from their bikes and also risk them striking other objects.
- Inclement Weather Conditions — Not all motorists take proper precautions when the weather is bad, and drivers who operate unsafely in rain or other kinds of poor weather can be at risk of causing collisions.
- Potholes or Other Dangerous Road Conditions — Another kind of accident that may not involve the negligence of another motorist relates to certain kinds of dangerous roads. Local or state government agencies responsible for caring for these roads could be accountable if they did not perform necessary repairs or at least warn road users about hazardous conditions.
A Deeper Look at Motorcycle Lane Change Accidents
Lane change accidents are arguably the most common motorcycle crashes. A lane change accident is when a driver does not check their blind spot before leaving their lane and ends up crashing into another car, truck, or motorcycle. Typically, lane change accidents involving motorcycles happen because:
- One of the vehicles passed the other too closely
- Failing to look before changing lanes
- One of the drivers was traveling in the other one’s blind spot
- The motorcycle driver was splitting lanes and driving between the cars instead of behind them
- A DUI was involved
- Distracted driving
- Failing to use a turn signal or faulty brake lights
- Road rage
Regardless of whether the motorcycle driver or a car/truck driver is at fault, lane change collisions are particularly common among motorcycle crashes.
The Role of Blind Spots in Motorcycle Crashes
All cars, trucks, and motorcycles have “blind spots.” The blind spot is just behind the driver on either side of the vehicle. It’s necessary to turn your head and actually make eye contact with this spot in order to change lanes safely—it is not visible in either the rearview or side mirrors. Many drivers don’t bother to make an effort. Because motorcycles are smaller than cars, it’s harder to see them with a quick over-the-shoulder glance.
Visibility (Or Rather “Invisibility”) of Motorcycles
Statistics show that 3/4 of motorcycle crashes happen when the other driver doesn’t see the motorcycle. To increase your visibility on the road, wear neon motorcycle clothing. One study discovered that motorcyclists wearing fluorescent or reflective clothing were 37% less likely to be hit.
Proper motorcycle jackets are designed to be seen and to protect because they have carefully placed padding and protection plates. For example, a neon motorcycle jacket by Alpinestars with reflective piping is much safer than a leather jacket. Leather jackets don’t have special elbow and shoulder protection like an Alpinestars jacket would. We’ve all seen motorcyclists in the summer in shorts and a tank top. Sitting on a hot motor while wearing full motorcycle protection in the summer heat is not comfortable, but it’s safe.
Types of Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcyclists are often far more exposed to severe injuries than occupants of passenger vehicles because they do not enjoy many of the same forms of protection inherent to passenger vehicles. For example, there are no airbags on a motorcycle.
Motorcyclists can often be thrown from their bikes in collisions, and such incidents significantly worsen the extent of injuries because motorcyclists could strike or land on other objects, which makes injuries even worse. All motorcyclists have to be sure to quickly obtain medical attention after any accident so they can be sure to get a proper medical record connecting any injuries to the time of an accident.
Some of the injuries motorcyclists might suffer:
- Road rash
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Closed head injuries
- Skull fractures
- Fractures or broken bones
- Sprains and strains
- Herniated discs
- Joint damage
- Permanent nerve injuries
- Back injuries
- Knee injuries
- Leg injuries
- Neck injuries
- Arm injuries
- Internal injuries
- Burn injuries
Unfortunately, motorcyclists are also much more susceptible to sustaining injuries that end up being fatal. Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 71.004, wrongful death claims are exclusively for the benefit of surviving spouses, children, and parents of a deceased person, although an executor or administrator of an estate may bring an action if none of the aforementioned people begin an action within three months of death and have no objections to the other parties bringing a claim.
Damages in Motorcycle Accident Cases
Motorcycle accidents usually have the potential to result in victims being able to obtain damages, and damages are usually either economic or non-economic in nature. Economic damages are real financial losses that people can prove, while non-economic damages refer to non-pecuniary losses that are types of physical or mental harm.
Economic damages often include:
- Lost Wages
- Property Damage
- Medical Bills
- Rehabilitation Expenses
- Physical Therapy Costs
- Costs of Long-Term Care
Non-economic damages could include:
- Loss of Enjoyment of Life
- Emotional Distress
- Mental Anguish
- Pain and Suffering
- Physical Limitations
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code
Another less common kind of damage is punitive damages. The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code refers to punitive damages as exemplary damages and states that awards for such damages are only for penalties or punishments and are not for compensatory purposes.
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003, exemplary damage awards are only possible when clear and convincing evidence proves that harm was the result of fraud, malice, or gross negligence. Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.008 also provides that exemplary damages cannot be more than the greater of two times the economic damages plus an amount equal to any non-economic damages up to $750,000 or $200,000.
While punitive damages are not particularly common in motorcycle accident cases, most damages are not that common either because most insurance companies are going to try to settle cases rather than going to trial because trials can be prohibitively expensive. While insurers try to settle cases for much less than what victims are entitled to early on, they can become more willing to pay an appropriate amount when an attorney is handling the negotiations.
Medical Costs After a Motorcycle Accident
Someone injured in a motorcycle crash will be shocked at how quickly the medical expenses grow. In the United States, about 65% of all simple consumer bankruptcies are due to medical expenses. About half of the people who file for medical bankruptcy say that the biggest source of their debt was one or more hospitalizations.
Determining the Cost of Your Future Treatments
Estimating what an injury might cost you in the future is obviously a little daunting, but you need to figure out what that number is to the best of your ability. Be sure to consider the following:
- Understand the complete scope of your injuries. This can only happen with a thorough medical diagnosis. Don’t be shy about getting a second opinion (or a third).
- Motorcycle injury lawyers deal with claim amounts every day. Your attorney should have a pretty reasonable estimate of what your injury is worth.
- Expert witness opinions. Your attorney should reach out to professional experts for their opinion on your situation. Again, don’t shy away from a second or third opinion.
General Accident Medical Expenses
Taking a deeper look at one of the most expensive injuries that can result from a motorcycle crash, let’s look at a paralysis injury. ChristopherReeve.org states that the cost of hospitalization and treatment for a spinal cord injury following an accident is:
- Lower spine injury (paraplegic) – about $347,000
- Upper spine injury (paraplegic) – about $769,000
- High neck injury (quadriplegic) – about $1,064,000
Often people who suffer from paralysis require up to a year of hospitalization following a motorcycle crash. After that time, many still have to go to a nursing home before going back home. Once home, accident survivors still face ongoing nursing care, medical devices, lost wages, and so on. Once at home, a paralyzed motorcycle accident survivor should expect to spend much more.
Exemplary Damages Under Texas Law
Another less common kind of damage after a motorcycle accident is punitive damages. The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code refers to punitive damages as exemplary damages and states that awards for such damages are only for penalties or punishments and are not for compensatory purposes.
Under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 41.003, exemplary damage awards are only possible when clear and convincing evidence proves that harm was the result of fraud, malice, or gross negligence.
While punitive damages are not particularly common in motorcycle accident cases, most damages are not that common either because most insurance companies are going to try to settle cases rather than going to trial because trials can be prohibitively expensive. While insurance companies try to settle cases for much less than what victims are entitled to early on, they can become more willing to pay an appropriate amount when an attorney is handling the negotiations. Again, research has confirmed this time and again.
When to Call a Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Some motorcycle crashes don’t involve any property damage or injuries. If, however, you have been involved in a serious motorcycle accident, reaching out to a qualified El Paso motorcycle lawyer never hurts. How do you know if your motorcycle collision was “serious” or begs a call to a lawyer?
- The insurance company is not cooperating, being unresponsive, or giving you contradictory information. These are all tactics on their part to encourage you to throw in the towel and walk away. Don’t be fooled! A lawyer will know how to cut through hurdles and red tape.
- The police have mishandled the report. Is crucial information missing from the police’s accident report? Was important evidence destroyed or lost? These are big red flags that should hopefully encourage you to lawyer up.
- Your accident was caused by a manufacturer defect. If, for instance, the reason your bike skidded into oncoming traffic is because your steering froze up, you need to get the manufacturer involved in the case.
- The road you were traveling on at the time of the accident was not safe (full of unfilled potholes, eroded away, no lines painted on it, etc.). This means you’ll need to involve the city, county, or state in the case, as they are partly liable.
- Suppose you have sustained injuries that require hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, or corrective devices. These injuries cost money and require ongoing treatment. Call an El Paso motorcycle accident lawyer so you can get these expenses covered now and in the future.
Going to Court for a Motorcycle Accident
It is rare when any lawsuit today isn’t settled out of court. Litigation is a last resort because it’s expensive and time-consuming. On the off chance that you do end up in a courtroom, you’ll need a lawyer to represent you. Nevertheless, settling out of court generally is a win-win for everyone involved. There are other options, though, if settling doesn’t seem possible.
You can ask the other side to participate in ADR or Alternative Dispute Resolution. ADR includes both mediation and arbitration. Mediation is an out-of-court process where an objective third-party mediator helps you and the other party or parties reach a settlement. It isn’t necessary to stick with mediation if you don’t like it. Going to court is still an option.
On the other hand, if you agree to participate in arbitration, court is no longer an option. Arbitration also involves working with a third-party mediator, but, in this case, the arbitrator is like a judge, and both sides are bound to do what they say as far as restitution or anything else.
What Happens at a Motorcycle Accident Trial?
Like any court case you’ve seen in the movies, each lawyer will make an opening and closing argument, and witnesses will be examined and cross-examined. Paper and photographic evidence get submitted for the court’s review as well. Usually, for lawsuit cases, there is no jury–just a justice of the peace. After all the evidence is presented, the judge will access both sides and make a ruling. If you win the case, the judge will also need to decide how much money you’ll be awarded.
Motorcycle Safety FAQs
How can I be seen better on my motorcycle?
To improve your visibility on a motorcycle, one simple thing you can do is wave or make eye contact with other motorists. Yes, this seems a little basic, but it is effective. Slowing down is another great way to be seen. Zipping between cars or buzzing past them does not help your visibility on a bike. Turning your headlight on, regardless of the time of day, is another good way to improve your visibility on a motorcycle. Lastly, when two motorcycles ride together, this has a big impact on your visibility. The more bikers, the more visible, in fact.
Remember, as mentioned above, wear neon colors too.
What protective gear should I wear while riding my motorcycle?
A motorcycle jacket, USDOT-approved helmet, steel-toe boots, and long pants (preferably motorcycle pants) are recommended for protection when riding a motorcycle. If your helmet doesn’t have a face shield, eye protection is also recommended. Never ride a motorcycle in slip-on shoes, shorts, or without a helmet and properly padded jacket.
Is it really safer to ride in a group of motorcycles?
Yes! A lot of bikers are concerned about bumping into other motorcycles if they travel in a big group. Despite that “risk,” the benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages. Pay attention that you aren’t riding too close to your neighbor. Riding two motorcycles per lane width is still the goal in a group. Remember to use hand signals as well, and you shouldn’t experience any problems.
What else can I do to stay safe on my motorcycle?
Always check the weather forecast before heading out on your motorcycle. Extreme weather is becoming more and more common, so storms are moving in faster and hitting more intensely as the earth’s temperature continues to rise. If you’re planning a road trip on your motorcycle, be especially careful and plan ahead. On longer rides, continue to follow the weather forecast as you take your pit stops. Have a contingency plan in case the driving conditions become too dangerous for a motorcycle.
Is speeding really that big of a deal?
Yes! Speeding is even more dangerous on a motorcycle than it is in a car. It’s deceptively easy to get a lightweight vehicle like a motorcycle going fast. Don’t be fooled! Obey the speed limit law.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an El Paso Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
Did you or your loved one sustain severe injuries in a motorcycle accident in the greater El Paso area? Do not wait another moment to contact Cesar Ornelas Injury Law so you can have us take the important first steps in ensuring that you are able to recover every single dollar that is available to you.
Our firm not only has a location in El Paso but also serves Midland, Dallas, and Laredo in Texas, as well as Carlsbad and Hobbs in New Mexico. You may call us at (855) 930-1149 or (210) 957-2103 or contact us online to receive a free consultation so we can sit down with you and really go over all of the details of your case and gain a full understanding about exactly what you are now dealing with.