If a Driver Broke the Law and Made You Crash, Here’s What You Can Do
Riding a motorcycle is one of the most exhilarating transportation modes, but it comes with danger. You do not have the protection that a car or pickup truck offers you—instead, you’re riding out in the open. Riding a bike without crashing takes concentration and knowledge of accelerating, shifting, and braking at the right time. You must also take the test and get a motorcycle endorsement on your license before you can ride a motorcycle on the streets.
Differences Between Motorcycles and Other Passenger Vehicles
When driving a motorcycle, you need additional skills, including a good sense of balance. You also need to remain aware of what’s going on around you. Motorcycles respond to your inputs much quicker than cars and are much more sensitive to the road. You might not feel a small pothole in the road while in a car, but it can greatly affect you when on a motorcycle.
Other forces that affect motorcycle riders more so than you would notice in a car include:
- Rain on the road;
- Irregular road surfaces that you find in construction zones;
- Whether a road consists of cement or asphalt;
- Cracks in the cement or asphalt; and
- Sand and gravel on the road.
Because of the small size of motorcycles, they often prove less visible to other drivers than larger vehicles. You also have much less protection than drivers of cars enjoy. While these factors make motorcycle riding more dangerous than driving a car, you can minimize these risks and still have fun.
Before Learning to Drive a Motorcycle
Before learning how to drive a motorcycle, make your learning experience more successful by knowing Houston’s and Texas’s motorcycle laws. You should also know what factors keep you safe, including starting with the right safety equipment, keeping your bike maintained, and not adding modifications that make it harder to control the motorcycle, such as apehangers and forward-mounted controls.
To ride in Texas, you must have:
- A horn;
- At least one mirror, but preferably two;
- Properly maintained brakes;
- Properly maintained steering;
- Good tires;
- A taillight and stoplight (or a combination tail and stop light);
- A license plate light;
- A headlight; and
- Footrests and handholds for any passengers.
Houston Motorcycle Laws
Texas has several motorcycle laws that you must follow when riding. The laws help keep riders safe. Below, we discuss these laws in further detail.
Motorcycle Helmet Law
Texas allows you to ride without a helmet, but only if you have reached the age of 21. Those under 21 must wear a helmet that meets the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #218. Passengers must also wear a helmet if they haven’t reached the age of 21 yet or if the driver hasn’t.
If you choose to ride without a helmet and you are 21 years or older, you must also complete a motorcycle operator training course certified by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) and have adequate medical insurance. You must carry proof of medical insurance on your person whenever riding a motorcycle. The insurance card must provide your name, the name of the insurance company, the policy number, and the coverage dates.
You must pass a TDLR-approved motorcycle operator training course before you can get the motorcycle endorsement (Class M license) on your license. However, if you have a motorcycle endorsement from another state, you do not have to take the course. Your endorsement will transfer to your Texas license.
If you take the course on a motorcycle with three wheels, you can only ride three-wheeled bikes, unless you take the course on a two-wheeled motorcycle.
If you are between 18 and 24 years old, and you do not have a current driver’s license of any class, you must take an Adult Driver Education Course. You do not have to take the Class M knowledge test if you took a TDLR-approved motorcycle-training course, but you do have to show the certificate of completion to have the knowledge test waived.
Additionally, if you are 18 years old and older, have an unrestricted Class A, B, or C license, and took the motorcycle operator training course, you do not have to take the motorcycle skills test. Anyone under the age of 18 must take the TDLR-approved motorcycle course.
You must register your motorcycle with the County Tax Assessor-Collector in your county. You will receive a license plate that you must attach to the rear of the bike. As with a car, you must have a current registration sticker on the plate.
As with other motor vehicles, your motorcycle must go through an inspection process every year. You may have to present the Vehicle Inspection Report when you register your motorcycle within 90 days of the inspection.
You must carry proof of insurance with you when riding a motorcycle. You must also have insurance in place when you apply for an original Texas driver’s license, register the bike, and take the bike for inspection.
Additional Safety Recommendations
While Texas laws do not mandate eye protection, you should have motorcycle goggles or a face shield on a full-face helmet to protect your eyes. You should also wear appropriate clothing while riding, including pants, boots or hard shoes, and long sleeves. The safest clothing you can wear includes leather and boots.
Always drive defensively. People in cars often do not see motorcycles because they forget to look for motor vehicles smaller than passenger cars. While you have to pay attention to other drivers when driving a car, you have to pay even more attention when riding a bike.
What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident
If a motorcycle accident injured you, and you do not think you can move without causing additional injury, do not try to move.
If you think you only suffered minor injuries, you should:
- Call first responders and check on others involved in the accident.
- Take photos of the accident. Be sure to take pictures from all angles. Include damage to roads, including skid marks. Regardless of who damaged other property, such as yards, fences, mailboxes, and utility poles, take pictures of that damage.
- Obtain contact information, registration information, and insurance information from other drivers involved in the accident.
- Obtain contact information from any witnesses, including passengers in vehicles involved in the wreck.
- Allow emergency medical technicians to check you over.
- Give the police officer your version of the events leading up to and during the wreck.
- Ask how to get a copy of the police report and when it will become available; your motorcycle accident lawyer will need a copy.
- Contact a motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. The attorney can help you file a claim. Keep in mind that most insurance companies give you very little time to file a claim—some as short as a couple of weeks.
If you plan to contact the insurance company yourself, keep in mind that insurance companies want to maximize profits, not enrich accident victims. Thus, the at-fault insurance company in your case will do anything, including twisting what you say, in an attempt to deny your case or offer you such a low amount that it might not cover your medical expenses, never mind other damages.
When you speak to the insurance company, you should give it your name, the date, the location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. If the representative tries to pressure you into talking about the accident, continue referring the representative to your motorcycle accident lawyer.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Because you have next to no protection on a motorcycle, injuries often prove more severe or catastrophic. Motorcycle accidents can also prove fatal. If you do not wear leathers, a helmet, and eye protection, the risk of suffering catastrophic injuries or a fatality increases.
Motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Road rash.
- Cuts, scrapes, bruises, bumps, and scrapes.
- Face and eye injuries.
- Strains and sprains.
- Pulled and torn muscles and other soft tissue injuries.
- Simple and compound fractures.
- Crushed bones.
- Amputated digits and/or limbs.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Internal injuries.
- Chemical and thermal burns.
You could also suffer from secondary injuries, such as amputation, because doctors cannot save a limb or because a severe infection sets in. Minor infections constitute secondary injuries that can require additional medical treatment.
Additionally, motorcycle accident injuries could exacerbate existing injuries or conditions, which would require additional medical care. The defendant should have to pay for the additional medical expenses and pain and suffering for worsening pre-existing conditions because you would not have these additional expenses and pain if not for the defendant’s actions or inactions.
The Value of a Motorcycle Accident Case
Recoverable damages depend on the severity of your injuries and whether your doctor expects them to cause long-term or permanent disabilities. You can recover two types of compensatory damages: economic damages and non-economic damages. In some cases, accident victims can also collect punitive damages.
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. Someone, whether you or the insurance company, pays for these damages.
Economic damages include:
- Medical Expenses. Medical expenses include surgeries, follow-up appointments, appointments with medical professionals, costs for secondary injuries, prescriptions, and ambulatory aids. If your injuries caused long-term or permanent disabilities, this category includes updates to your home, including ramps and grab bars and updates to your vehicle, including hand controls. You can collect past medical expenses from the time of the accident to the time you settle or win a trial award. If your doctors expect your injuries to turn into long-term disabilities, your attorney will work with medical professionals to determine an estimated cost of future medical expenses.
- Wages. You can collect lost wages from the time of the wreck until the time you settle or win a trial award. If doctors expect your injuries to prevent you from working for years or the rest of your life, you can also collect lost earning capacity until retirement age.
- Personal Property. The defendant also bears liability for repairing or replacing personal property damaged or destroyed in the wreck. Personal property includes your motorcycle, helmet, clothing, and anything that you had with you at the time of the accident, such as a cell phone or a laptop.
- End-of-Life Expenses. If you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, your loved one’s estate could recover funeral, burial, and/or cremation expenses. The estate might also recover other expenses, such as probate court filing fees.
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. However, the court orders the defendant to pay non-economic damages in an attempt to make the victim whole again.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress.
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life changes, such as taking medications for the rest of your life, because of the accident.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy or participate in family activities and events, including eating dinner with the family, playing with your children, or going on vacation with your family.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part or bodily function.
- Amputation, excessive scarring, and/or disfigurement.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, such as lawn maintenance, home repair and maintenance, grocery shopping, and house cleaning.
If you can prove that the defendant acted in a grossly negligent manner or intentionally, you could recover punitive damages. The court only orders punitive damages if it orders compensatory damages, and only as a punishment for the defendant’s behavior. While it may prove difficult to recover punitive damages, in some cases, it may prove worth the extra hassle.
If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a motorcycle wreck, a free case evaluation with a motorcycle accident lawyer can help you decide if you have a case worth pursuing.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.