On September 28, a trial began in Round Rock, where the defendant faces charges related to the unintentional death of a man whose motorcycle he hit while driving under the influence of alcohol in late 2015. While driving while intoxicated is never something that a person should do, it is worth noting that had the victim been in an automobile instead of on a motorcycle, he might have survived the impact. Many motorcyclists in Texas are unaware of just how significant the risks of motorcycling can be, and this case can show some of them.
Stats Show High Motorcyclist Death Rate in Accidents
If one examines Texas Department of Transportation data, one can see there were approximately 495 motorcyclist and passenger fatalities in 2016 on Texas roads. Approximately 53 percent of those killed were not wearing helmets, but even those who were sustained significant injury – in other words, the helmet was sadly not relevant to the accidents in which these lives were lost. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from the past five years show that per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to die in any given crash than an automobile driver or passenger. There are numerous reasons for this.
Perhaps the most obvious explanation is simply that automobile drivers and passengers have much more between them and an impact than motorcyclists do. Motorcyclists have no barrier between themselves and the road or another obstacle. With no check on that force, injuries can be very severe. Another common reason for the increased deaths is that sometimes motorcyclists try to take advantage of practices like lane splitting (when a motorcycle tries to share a lane with an automobile, which is prohibited in Texas) and maneuver themselves into a position where they cannot be seen by the driver of the car next to them – or in front of them, or whichever direction from which the accident occurs.
It Can Be Difficult to Prevail at Trial
While the family of the victim may have a somewhat easier time obtaining closure from the defendant in the criminal trial, most of the time, for motorcyclists (or their families, in wrongful death actions) who bring civil suits for their injuries, it may not be as easy. In a civil suit brought by a motorcyclist plaintiff, it can be quite difficult to sway a jury – not that the automobile driver was negligent, but that the plaintiff did not somehow visit their own injuries on themselves. The bias against motorcycle riders runs quite deep in some areas, even in Texas where bikes are common.
While jury bias of this nature is technically not permissible, it does pop up sometimes, and it must be counteracted. While this case does not center around the victim’s choice of vehicle being a factor in his death, it is common to see defendants in other cases allege that the plaintiff’s choice to ride a motorcycle played a role in their injuries – in some rare cases, it is sometimes alleged that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury by merely riding a motorcycle, though in Texas this affirmative defense has been largely abolished.
Call Our Motorcycle Accident Attorneys
Only time will tell what the defendant’s fate will be, but motorcyclists, in general, can only exercise due care and hope for the best. If you have been in a motorcycle accident or have questions about one, the skilled New Braunfels motorcycle accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm will do our best to assist you. Contact the office today to set up an appointment.