Articles Posted in Motorcycle Accidents

motorcycleAs most people know, a common place to have an accident is in or near a construction zone. For this reason, it is wise to slow down and leave plenty of room in front of one’s vehicle when driving in such areas.

Rush hour traffic also can be a frequent occasion for an accident because there are more vehicles than usual on the road, many drivers are distracted, and a disproportionate number of automobiles tend to speed.

Recently, an east Texas court was called upon to determine whether a jury made a mistake with regard to assigning fault in a multi-vehicle accident that occurred near a construction zone in rush hour traffic.

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pointing fingersUnder Texas tort law, a person who is hurt due to the negligence of another individual, a business, or a governmental entity has the option of filing a civil lawsuit seeking compensation for damages such as pain and suffering, lost wages, and medical expenses.

In order to establish a prima facie case of negligence, the plaintiff must provide proof of four distinct elements:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

Once this hurdle is met, other issues, including the amount of damages necessary to fully compensate the plaintiff for his or her injuries, must be decided. One of the most common issues that arise in Texas car accident cases is that of proportionate responsibility.

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exit signGenerally speaking, when someone is hurt due to the negligence of another party, the injured person has a right to pursue compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages via a negligence lawsuit. (If the accident victim is killed, his or her family may seek compensation through a wrongful death claim.)

When the party that allegedly caused an injury or death through its negligence was a governmental entity, however, it can be much more difficult for the injured person (or deceased person’s family) to receive fair compensation. This is because special laws protect the government from suit or limit its liability.

These laws are based on a holdover from the English common law. Under the sovereign immunity doctrine, “the king can do no wrong.” Although neither the United States nor the State of Texas has ever been under the authority of a king (at least after the signing of the Declaration of Independence), many of the provisions of sovereign immunity still hold true.

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cell doorWhen a driver’s negligence or recklessness causes a vehicular accident that results in an injury or death, the at-fault driver can be held financially liable for damages resulting from the accident. In personal injury cases, these damages include lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. In wrongful death cases, the deceased accident victim’s family may be able to recover funeral and burial expenses, lost companionship and society, and other damages.

In addition to a civil lawsuit sounding in negligence, there may also be a criminal prosecution if the at-fault driver’s conduct was more than simple negligence. Typically, the criminal case does not yield any financial recovery for the accident victim (although the court may order the defendant to pay reparations in some cases), but a finding of guilt in the criminal case can be of assistance in proving fault in the civil case.

The decision to bring criminal charges after a motor vehicle accident rests with the State, namely the police and the district attorney. The exact charges depend upon the facts of the accident.

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Litigation arising from motor vehicle accidents can be much more complex than it may initially seem. Sometimes there are multiple defendants against whom a finding of liability may be sought.

The theories against these defendants may be different. Recently, separate lawsuits were filed against a careless teen driver and his parents, who allowed him to drive alone when he only had a permit rather than a full license.

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rider-1403149The success of any motor vehicle negligence case depends in large part on the facts surrounding the accident and the knowledge and experience of the plaintiff’s counsel. In order to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the injured victim must also anticipate and address any potential defenses that the defendant could assert. Properly assessing one’s case and preparing a strong strategy can make a huge difference in a plaintiff’s recovery. For these reasons, if you have been injured in a car accident, it is vital that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable injury attorney from the local East Texas area as soon as possible.

A recent Texas court of appeals case nicely illustrates the importance of understanding how procedural laws can affect the course of a negligence case. In Northcutt v. City of Hearne, the plaintiff brought a personal injury case against the City (on behalf of the deceased – James H. Bell), seeking wrongful death and survival damages. According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that Bell was driving his motorcycle on Highway 79 when an Officer was on the side of the road in a private driveway, setting up a “speed trap.” The Officer turned on his lights and drove onto the shoulder of the road, allegedly causing Bell to swerve to avoid a collision.

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Underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage is coverage which you have the option of buying in order to provide you additional coverage in the event you are injured by a motorist who has insufficient or no coverage. The Texas Financial Responsibility Law only requires that Texas drivers carry the minimum required insurance coverage which provides $30,000 per person and a total of $60,000 per accident in liability coverage. Because it is common for Texas hospitals to charge in excess of $30,000 for an emergency room visit even in cases involving relatively insignificant injuries it is not uncommon for a motorist in even a modest accident to need more than the minimum limits. Furthermore, Texas unfortunately has a large number of people who violate the Financial Responsibility Law and drive uninsured. In both of these situations the victims’ UM insurance kicks in and provides additional coverage. At the point that the victim makes a UM claim then the victims own insurance company in effect becomes the additional insurer of the at-fault driver thus providing additional insurance coverage available to the victim.

UM insurance has a number of characteristics which are different from first party liability insurance. UM insurance does not pay punitive damages. If you are injured by a drunk driver you would and should normally collect punitive damages from the drunk. However, it would serve no social policy purpose to collect punitive damages from your own insurance company and thus punitive damages are uncollectable under a UM policy.

When you make a UM claim you are, in effect, assigning a portion of your claim against the underinsured or uninsured driver. Thus, before you settle with and release the UM driver you must obtain the permission of your UM carrier because by releasing the at-fault driver you destroy the ability of your UM carrier to collect their UM payments from the at-fault driver. If the at-fault driver is solvent and you release them without the permission of your UM carrier then you may be waiving your right to make a UM claim.

The increase in oil and gas exploration and production in Texas is a mixed blessing. Along with an increase in jobs comes a substantial increase in loss of life, limb and property. Commercial auto losses and workers compensation claims are on the rise.

TXDOT data reflect that in 2013 the Eagle Ford Shale region had 236 fatal crashes and a total of 3,430 serious and/or fatal accidents, many involving oilfield trucks, which represents a 7% increase over 2012 statistics.

The Permian Basin area experienced 4,371 serious injury accidents including 358 fatalities representing a 13% increase over 2012.

The City of Denton recently passed a complete ban of texting while driving. The new law goes into effect on May 20 and carries a fine of $200. The cost of the fine is nominal compared the potential effect that a texting while driving ticket can have on insurance rates. The insurance companies that insure motor vehicles are fully aware that drivers who text while driving are many times more likely to cause a serious injury auto accident than the general motoring public.

The texting driver is operating under a visual distraction, a cognitive distraction and a motor skills distraction. When taken together these distractions have a multiplier effect rather than a mere additive effect and operate to create a total, complete distraction.

Texting is arguably worse a DWI/DUI driver because the intoxicated driver usually has their visual, cognitive and motor skills available to a decreased degree. The texting driver has all three of these critical faculties temporarily distracted from the operation of the motor vehicle. It is likely only a matter of time until texting while driving is banned statewide.

The Texas Supreme Court recently granted the petition in Nabors Well Services, Ltd. v. Romero and agreed to consider whether the non-use of a seatbelt by the Plaintiff in an auto accident case should be admissible to reduce the Plaintiffs’ damages. Many Texans will recall a time when the decision whether to wear a seatbelt was considered to be a personal decision. When the seatbelt laws were first proposed they were vigorously opposed as an unjustified governmental intrusion into individuals’ private lives. One of the compromises made to gain the passage of the laws was the agreement that the failure of an accident victim to wear a seat belt would not be used to reduce the victims’ damages. The concern was that insurance companies would use the failure to wear a seatbelt as an excuse to refuse to pay legitimate claims.

The seatbelt law was repealed in 2003 but until now the Texas Supreme Court has not considered the issue. The Texas Supreme Court is a political body and it is often difficult to predict what politicians will do but it seems likely that the Court will allow insurance companies to admit and argue the failure of an injured party to wear a seatbelt to reduce damages.

For more information contact www.earldrottlaw.com.