Work-Related Car Accidents: Who Is Responsible?

Work-Related Car Accidents: Who Is Responsible?

In just one year, American companies paid out $25 billion as a result of work-related car accidents. Settlement amounts ranged anywhere from $65,000 (for injuries) to $650,000 (for fatalities.) Where does this money come from, you ask? After these accidents, injured victims and their families were compensated by the companies’ commercial vehicle insurance policies.

Workplace vehicle accidents are more common than you think. As Houston car accident attorneys, we frequently assist victims of FedEx truck accidents and UPS truck accidents. But whether they’re minor or major, wrecks involving company vehicles are complicated, adding more stress to the already-confusing process of filing a personal injury claim after an auto accident.

In work-related car accidents, who is responsible? Is an employer liable for an employee’s car accident? It all depends on the circumstances. Below we address some common scenarios and insurance options.

Table of Contents:

Texas Workplace Injury Laws

Texas workplace injury laws operate under two systems: workers’ compensation and non-subscriber

If your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, it will pay for your on-the-job injuries, no matter how the accident happened. Once they have opted into workers’ comp, employees do not have the right to sue their employer for work injuries.

On the other hand, a “non-subscriber” refers to an employer who does not subscribe to the workers’ compensation system. They have the potential to be sued by their injured employees.

What’s The Difference Between Workers’ Comp and Liability Insurance?

When dealing with company car accidents, different types of insurance may come into play. Here’s an overview:

Workers’ compensation covers employees who are injured at work. This coverage includes medical bills from injuries sustained in work-related car accidents, as well as some or all of the wages victims miss out on while healing. Note: If an employee is hurt while driving their personal vehicle for work-related purposes, they may still be eligible for worker’s compensation. 

Liability insurance pays for damages sustained by third parties. (A “third party” is anyone who is unaffiliated with the company, such as a pedestrian or driver struck by a company vehicle.) In most work-related car accidents, the employer’s liability insurance coverage protects employees from having to pay the injured victims personally. Liability insurance covers medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It also covers an employee’s legal fees if they are sued by the third-party claimants.

General liability policies pay for damages from a variety of situations, such as slips, falls, and other accidents that occur on company property.

Commercial vehicle policies are company auto insurance policies. These policies work similarly to your own personal car insurance, but they tend to have much higher coverage limits! 

If you drive for work and your employer does not provide adequate coverage via the above policies, protect yourself! Did you know your personal car insurance carrier may be able to deny your accident claim if you were using your personal vehicle for work? You can avoid this by investing in additional insurance coverage called a “rider.” A rider is an add-on to your car insurance policy that covers accidents that happen while you’re using your vehicle for business purposes. While your rates will go up, your employer may be willing to reimburse you for the cost of this coverage.

As with all insurance policies and their fine print, exceptions and conditions will still apply. Whether you’re an employee or a third-party victim, the insurance company will try every trick in the book to avoid paying you for your expenses. A Houston car accident lawyer can protect your rights and secure the maximum possible settlement for you.

Fault for Company Car Accidents | Houston Car Accident Lawyer

What to Do After A Crash with A Company Vehicle

Every car accident is different, but the aftermath of a company car crash can be especially tricky. After a wreck with a commercial vehicle, follow these steps for best results:

  • Call for help. In addition to receiving medical care, you’ll want to call 911 to summon police to the scene. A police accident report can be crucial evidence in a car accident case!
  • Take photos and collect info. Take plenty of photos of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. Collect identifying information including the driver’s name, the name of the company they work for, their employee ID number, license plate number, and proof of insurance.
  • Fill out an accident report. In addition to getting a police report, you should also ensure an accident report is filled out by the company who owns the commercial vehicle. You or your company car crash lawyer can obtain a copy of this report.
  • Determine fault. After any accident, the most important step — beyond treating any injuries, of course — is determining who caused the accident. Be aware: there can be multiple at-fault parties. Your Houston car accident lawyer can help you determine fault by collecting evidence.
  • Figure out who will pay. Once fault is determined, you can figure out which insurance policies can help cover the victims’ expenses. See the next section for more details!

Work-Related Auto Accident Scenarios

How does an on-the-job car accident work? Some unique legal issues may arise. Let’s figure out who is responsible in these three hypothetical scenarios:

→ “I was hit by someone who was driving a company vehicle.” 

Truckers may cause a tragic truck accident while driving for work. You also commonly share the streets with taxi cabs, buses, cement mixers, and a variety of other commercial vehicles. What happens if one of these vehicles hits you?

An employer’s responsibilities include paying for injuries and property damage caused by any of their employees while operating company vehicles. If you are involved in a car accident with a commercial vehicle, you can file a claim against the company who owns the vehicle.

Context is key here. An employer is responsible for an employee’s accident in a company vehicle during work hours. However, an employer is not responsible for an accident that happens during a commute, lunch, or personal errand.

If an employee hits you while driving their own personal car on the clock, you will first turn to that employee’s own personal car insurance. If the employee does not have adequate coverage to compensate you, you can then turn to their vicariously liable employer for compensation for your injuries and property damage.

When you’re coping with the aftermath of a commercial vehicle accident, you’re not alone. A Houston car accident attorney is here to guide you through the process, identify all possible lines of insurance coverage, and help you maximize your settlement award. To find out more about what happens in work-related car accidents in Texas, get a free consultation from our team right now.

→ “I was in an accident while driving a commercial vehicle for work.”

According to Texas state law, an employer can be held liable for injuries resulting from an accident involving an on-duty employee. However, there are limits to this coverage.

Company insurance will not cover you if you:

  • were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • committed a crime during the trip (yes, even speeding counts!)
  • were running personal errands (known as a “frolic” in legal jargon)
  • were an independent contractor using your own personal vehicle (for food delivery drivers, outside sales, etc)

In these cases, your employer may be exempt from liability.

Many employers have a company vehicle accident policy. The specifics of this policy will vary from business to business. For example, in Uber and Lyft accidents, the rideshare apps have their own policies and insurance coverage. 

If you lease a company-owned vehicle — like a taxi cab — your contract will specify exactly what you can be held liable for while operating the vehicle. For more help untangling your employer’s company vehicle accident policy, consult a company car crash lawyer. 

If your employer owns the car you’re driving, the company insures that vehicle. Therefore, the company’s insurance will pay the other victims if you are found at-fault for an accident. 

Additionally, if you cause a car accident while driving a company vehicle and your employer has workers’ comp coverage, you’ll still receive benefits, because fault does not affect workers’ comp. Your employer’s insurance will also compensate the third-party claimants and protect you from being sued by them.

However, if your own negligence caused an accident in a commercial vehicle and your employer does not have workers’ comp coverage, you’re out of luck. You will have to pay for your own expenses.

If a reckless driver hit you while you were driving a company vehicle, you can file a personal injury claim against them. Their auto liability insurance should pay for your damages. All Texas drivers must carry liability insurance. 

You may be able to sue the other driver for damages in addition to receiving workers’ comp benefits through your company. However, workers’ comp may try to take some or all of the money you receive from the other driver! For example, if you receive $10,000 in workers’ comp benefits and later receive a $15,000 settlement from the at-fault driver’s insurance, your employer can pursue $10,000 of that settlement as payback. A company car crash lawyer can help you negotiate wisely and hold on to as much money as possible.

In the interest of protecting their finances, employers may try to dodge the blame or accuse their employee of acting irresponsible or “outside the scope of employment.” Many companies will require drug testing for drivers recently involved in accidents. They may also investigate your driving record for a history of previous accidents. 

If you’ve been in a work-related car accident, you may be feeling defeated and overwhelmed as you deal with multiple stubborn insurance companies. Help is available. Meet with a car accident attorney in Houston – free virtual case evaluations are available NOW!

→ “I was in an accident while driving my personal vehicle for work.”

Unfortunately, employer liability does not include coverage for any property damage to an employee’s personal vehicle. You will have to use your own car insurance coverage in this case, as well as file a claim with the other driver’s insurance carrier.

If you are at-fault and the other driver’s damages exceed the limits of your liability insurance coverage, the victim can then go after your employer.

Note: If an employee gets hurt while driving their personal vehicle for work-related purposes, they may still be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. 

If you’ve been involved in an accident while driving your personal vehicle for work, a Houston car accident lawyer can help.

When Is An Employer Liable for A Company Car Accident?

Company car crash laws vary from state to state. So when are employers liable in Texas car accidents involving their employees? 

An employer may be liable for a commercial vehicle accident if they:

  • failed to maintain their fleet of work vehicles
  • did not provide adequate training
  • did not require employees to have proper license or certification

Additionally, if an employer pressured their employee to break a law or violate FMCSA regulations, the employer can be held accountable. For example, say you are a truck driver and your employer overloaded your schedule, violating the “hours of service” rules. If you become exhausted by this schedule, fall asleep at the wheel and cause an accident, your employer could be liable.

Employers are also responsible for making sure their company vehicles are safe to drive. This means performing routine maintenance and safety inspections on their fleet. If you were driving a company car and had an accident due to a mechanical failure, your employer may be liable.

With proper training, fleet maintenance, and caution, most commercial vehicle crashes are preventable. But what about when negligent employees cause car accidents? Are their employers responsible then? To answer this question, we’ll take a look at vicarious liability.

What is Vicarious Liability?

Vicarious liability is also known as “respondeat superior,” which is Latin for “let the master answer.” 

As you might’ve guessed, vicarious liability means an employer is liable for the actions of their employees. Under vicarious liability, an employer can be found at fault for any employee’s negligent actions during work or while the employee is driving for work-related purposes. 

A victim can sue an employer for any damage an employee causes while on the clock, even if the accident happens outside of the company’s premises. For example, if a truck driver hit you, you would sue the trucking company, not the driver. 

Tip: Get the most out of your commercial accident lawsuit. Suing an employer is almost always more successful than suing an employee.

Work-Related Car Accidents & Fault | Houston Car Accident Attorney

Commercial Auto Accident Damages

Damages from a work-related accident claim include:

Medical expenses. 

When we meet with car accident victims, their number one concern is paying for their medical bills. A Houston car accident lawyer can help! However, under Texas workers’ compensation law, your employer will be able to choose who you can see from a specific network of workers’ comp doctors.

Pain and suffering. 

An accident can be traumatic, especially if it left you with a disability or disfigurement. We understand you’re coping with significant mental anguish, and we believe you deserve compensation for it. Unfortunately, workers’ comp does not cover pain and suffering, but it can be included in your lawsuit against a non-subscriber.

Wrongful death and burial expenses.

These damages are paid to a victim’s family in the event of a fatal workplace accident.

Lost income.

If you’re hurt in a work-related auto accident, you’ll probably need to take some time off to recover. If you have to miss more than seven days of work, Texas workers’ compensation income benefits will partially cover these lost wages. 

Note: the Texas state weekly average wage limits how much you can receive from WC income benefits. Currently, the maximum weekly benefit rates for workers’ compensation income benefits is $938.

Employee Car Accident FAQ

“In a work-related car accident, will my employer pay my medical bills?” 

Workers’ compensation should help pay for your medical bills, regardless of who was at fault. If you were hurt while driving a company car and your workers’ compensation claim was denied, contact a company car crash lawyer ASAP.

“I was in an accident while going to work. Does this count as a work-related accident?”

Accidents that happen while commuting or driving between job sites aren’t always legally considered “acting within the scope of employment.” This means commuting injuries are generally not included under the umbrella of work-related accidents. 

“My car was hit in my workplace’s parking lot. What can I do?”

If your car is damaged in a workplace car park, lot, or garage, your employer is not liable. Instead, you must pursue the insurance of the individual who hit you.

“What happens if an employee hits someone during a business trip?”

If an employee causes a wreck while on a business trip, the employer can be held responsible for damages, although it might depend on whether the employee was actually working or not at the time of the crash.

“What is an employer’s responsibility for employee drunk driving accidents?”

If an employee drives drunk and causes an accident, their employer’s insurance must compensate any third-party victims. The employer’s insurance will not help the drunk driver pay for any of their damages.

Why Hire A Houston Car Accident Lawyer?

Big companies often have skilled commercial vehicle accident lawyers on their side, so why shouldn’t you? If you were hurt in an accident with a commercial vehicle, a Houston car accident attorney can help you:

  • investigate the accident and determine fault
  • collect evidence and interview witnesses
  • obtain copies of police reports, accident reports, and company insurance policies
  • calculate the value of your losses
  • file an insurance claim or lawsuit
  • negotiate with insurance companies to secure your maximum settlement amount

Don’t waste any more time trying to comb through the fine print alone and unaware.

In addition to our nationally-recognized dedication to personal injury victims, our firm has extensive experience with workers’ comp cases. An auto accident lawyer in Houston can put you on the right path and protect your rights every step of the way.

Get your free case evaluation now!

How Does A Car Accident Lawsuit Work?

How Does A Car Accident Lawsuit Work?

When you’ve been hurt in a car accident, the last thing on your mind is “how does a car accident lawsuit work?” But when the dust settles and you’re left with thousands of dollars of bills, how will you get help? An auto accident lawsuit may be the only way.

Many people hesitate to begin the process of a car accident claim or car accident lawsuit simply because they are afraid of the unknown. This page aims to clear up some of that confusion. Let a Houston auto accident lawyer walk you through the whole process! Read below to learn more about how a car accident claim works.

Let’s take you from crash to compensation. 

Considering A Car Accident Lawsuit?

If you get hurt in a car accident caused by someone else’s carelessness, it is your legal right to file a claim for compensation for your losses.

In a perfect world, you would submit a claim and swiftly receive a check in the mail that covers all your expenses. However, it’s not that simple. 

Car accidents often involve extensive investigation, negotiation, and even lawsuits. 

It might seem like a hassle, but consider this: a settlement award from a car accident claim can help you pay for your medical bills, auto repairs, rental car, replacement vehicle, lost wages, emotional stressors, and much more.

Below are the typical steps in a car accident claim.

Flow chart describing how a car accident case works.

Phases of A Car Accident Case

Filing a Car Accident Claim

After any auto accident, inform your car insurance provider. You’ll find some relief if your policy includes collision coverage, but you can also go after the at-fault driver’s insurance, so call and let both your own car insurance company and the other driver’s car insurance company know that you are filing a claim. Even though the other driver may be responsible for the crash, their car insurance company will be the one paying you. 

TIP: Write down your claim number and the name of the claims specialist assigned to you, if applicable.

Consulting A Lawyer

After a car accident, it’s always a good idea to get legal advice. Insurance companies have their own attorneys who know the ins and outs of car accident laws; why shouldn’t you? We wish you luck on your quest to find the best car accident attorney. Houston has plenty of options to choose from, but if you’d like a 100% FREE consultation right now, contact us. There’s zero risk! 

When you meet with an auto accident lawyer for an initial consultation, whether virtually, over the phone, or in person, be prepared to answer some basic questions about the accident, your injuries, your expenses, and more. The car accident lawyer will evaluate your case and let you know your chances of success. If you both want to move forward with a claim, you will be asked to review and sign a retainer agreement. Next, your car accident attorney will reach out to insurance companies and any other relevant parties to let them know you have legal representation. They will make phone calls and send letters in order to report your accident and make sure your claim is officially filed.

TIP: Since most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, you pay nothing upfront. The retainer agreement will specify the fee amount that your attorney will take from the final settlement. We only get paid if you get paid!

Reviewing Insurance Policies

When it comes to car accidents, Texas is a comparative fault state, also known as a “tort state,”  for car accidents. This means when you get into a car accident, you compare who is more at fault. If a driver is found to be primarily at fault for an accident, they must take financial responsibility for it. Liability insurance exists to help cover accidents like these. Your lawyer can determine the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

TIP: While only liability insurance is required in the state of Texas, you should double-check your policy to see if it can help. Collision coverage and personal injury protection (PIP), for example, could cover some or all of your expenses. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage pays if you’re hit by someone who did not have insurance, or didn’t have enough to pay the full cost of your damages. It also pays if you’re in a hit-and-run accident.

Receiving Medical Treatment

Your health is our number one priority. Even if you weren’t whisked away from the scene of the crash in an ambulance, and even if you feel “fine” now, you need to be properly examined. If you don’t catch them early enough, many soft tissue injuries can worsen over time and leave you dealing with chronic pain.

When speaking with your doctor, be fully honest about your pain levels. Don’t try to grin and bear it. In order to have a clearer estimate of your total medical expenses, we advise you to complete all recommended medical treatments before pursuing your case.

If you’re afraid you can’t afford medical care, don’t worry. A Houston car accident lawyer can connect you to medical providers at no upfront cost. We can even help schedule your appointments and arrange transportation! How can we do this, you ask? By submitting a letter of protection.

A letter of protection, also known as an LOP, is basically an “I.O.U.” which guarantees a medical provider will receive their payment from a pending claim settlement or future lawsuit award. This means medical providers agree to treat you right now and postpone their payment collection until your case is finalized. While you recover, the medical bills will go to your attorney for proper recordkeeping, but you can also request your own copies.

TIP: Follow your doctor’s orders and never miss an appointment! Avoid gaps in treatment, or else they may be held against you.

Collecting Evidence

Before you file a lawsuit, you must first lay the foundation for your case. The ultimate goal of this phase is to determine liability and prove how you have suffered.  A Houston car accident lawyer can do this by collecting evidence like medical records, police accident reports, bills, witness testimonies, surveillance footage, and more. 

We will obtain all available evidence to strengthen your case. We will also enlist the help of investigators and experts like crash reconstruction specialists. 

As you continue your medical treatments, your lawyer will order copies of your bills and medical records to include in your case. A prognosis report from your doctor may also be submitted as part of an expert witness testimony.

TIP: A picture tells a thousand words! Send your lawyer any photos you took at the scene of the accident, as well as photos of any property damage or injuries and bruises you suffered.

When you file your claim, insurance adjusters will begin their own investigation, too. This involves inspecting both vehicles (which might have been towed to a repair shop or a salvage yard) and trying to collect statements from anyone involved. Whether they are a salaried staff adjuster or an independent adjuster, rest assured they are acting in the best interests of the insurance company.

TIP: Investigators from both sides will dig deep. This means the negligent driver’s insurance claims adjusters might even check your social media accounts! Watch what you post and stay tight-lipped about your accident while the investigation is ongoing.

Submitting A Letter of Demand

After you complete all recommended medical treatment and physical therapy, your Houston car accident attorney will obtain copies of your medical records and bills. They will also request payroll information from your employer to determine the amount of wages you lost as a result of the accident. These documents are included in a letter of demand addressed to the at-fault party’s insurance. The at-fault party will accept or reject this demand, or make a counteroffer. 

Receiving Offers & Dealing with Insurance Adjusters

If the insurance company agrees to pay you the amount specified in the letter of demand, your case is resolved. However, if you receive a rejection or a counteroffer to your demands, your lawyer will begin negotiating your settlement, updating you every step of the way. 

Remember: insurance adjusters exist to make you settle for less. Soon after the accident, you may get a call from the insurance company of the at-fault driver. They might even ask you to take a few hundred dollars and sign a release. Do not accept this. You could be blocked from pursuing the compensation you really deserve. Once you release the other insurance company from responsibility, you can never reopen your claim.

TIP: Do not give a recorded statement to an insurance adjuster. It’s best to avoid them entirely and direct all communication to your lawyer instead. 

Negotiating A Fair Car Accident Settlement

Your lawyer will enter negotiations, fighting to prove you deserve full compensation. If you and the at-fault party’s insurance company eventually agree on a settlement amount, you will be required to sign a release of all claims, also known as a liability waiver.

Beware: This document prevents you from seeking any further compensation, no matter what complications you encounter in the future. Before you agree to a settlement amount and lose your chances of a higher dollar amount, always make sure you’ve consulted with your attorney and are confident in your decision. Next, your car accident lawyer will submit a settlement package to the insurance company. The settlement package will include a summary of your expenses.

Here’s some good news: Most car accident claims are settled without a lawsuit. Still, we want you to be prepared for all outcomes. What if the insurance company won’t agree to a settlement? If your lawyer is unable to negotiate a fair settlement offer, you still have options.

TIP: Patience pays. Often, an insurance company’s first offer is too low to cover your expenses. Don’t accept it just because you’re in dire need of funds. An auto accident lawyer can usually obtain a far larger settlement for you. As long as you can prove how much your damages have cost you, you have the right to negotiate any settlement offer.

Filing A Lawsuit 

If a fair settlement cannot be reached,  you and your lawyer may make the decision to file a car accident lawsuit against the at-fault driver and their insurance company. 

While the majority of personal injury claims are settled without a trial, our team is always prepared to go to court and fight for you. 

A lawsuit begins with a document called a complaint, which identifies the plaintiff and the defendant and outlines the claim. The complaint also includes a demand for judgment, asking that the defendant pay damages. The defendant will receive a court summons and must respond to the complaint document with a document known as an answer, wherein they admit or deny fault.

TIP: Make sure you choose a Houston car accident lawyer who has courtroom experience. A good litigation attorney is a triple threat – they must serve as an investigator, writer, and public speaker!

Discovery

Once a lawsuit is filed, the case goes into discovery. The discovery period is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit where both sides investigate the facts of the case. While your lawyer already prepared for this during the “evidence collection” period, discovery may include additional depositions, interrogatories from the other side, or requests for documents. 

Mediation

After discovery but before trial, you, your lawyer, and representatives from the insurance company may meet with a mediator. A mediator is an unbiased third party who will assess all sides of the story. Their goal is to help you come to an agreement outside of court. If a mediator can help you finalize a settlement amount, you will be asked to sign a release of all claims, which ensures you will not sue for more money later.  If mediation is unsuccessful, the case goes to trial.

Trial & Verdict

At trial, an injured victim and their attorney must prove negligence by showing that the other driver failed to exercise appropriate caution and care. Additionally, they must prove how much money the injured victim lost. 

After both sides have stated their claims, there may be some additional presentation of evidence or questioning. The jury will then be asked if the other driver was negligent and if their negligence caused your injury. The jury will then be asked if you were negligent and if your negligence caused your own injuries. If the jury answers yes to both questions, they are required to allocate fault between you and the other driver.

Since Texas is a comparative fault state, as long as the injured person is not more at fault than the other driver, the injured person will win the lawsuit (If they are partially to blame for their injuries, damages/awards may be reduced). 

At this point, the plaintiff or the defendant may appeal the judgment if they believe an error was made. An appeal is a request for a higher court, known as an appellate court, to review the case. There is no jury in an appellate court; instead, multiple judges analyze the facts from the previous trial.

TIP: Personal injury cases are civil cases, meaning they involve private disputes between people. Criminal cases, such as drunk driving, involve actions that are considered harmful to society as a whole. These are separate matters that will be tried differently. However, if the at-fault driver was arrested or issued a citation, you can use this as supporting evidence in your civil case.

Collecting Payment

There’s money coming your way! Yay! If your car accident claim settles out of court, a disbursement check is made out to your car accident lawyer, who deducts their agreed-upon attorney fee percentage, other legal expenses, and liens for any unpaid bills (remember that letter of protection?) Finally, you will receive the rest of the compensation via a check made out to you.

If your car accident claim went to court, the other driver may not have the funds or the insurance coverage to pay you the full amount you were awarded. In this case, a Houston car accident lawyer can help you secure payment.

Car Accident Lawsuit FAQ

How Long Does An Auto Accident Lawsuit Take?

Every auto accident claim is unique, and many factors come into play. Your claim could be resolved fairly quickly, or it could become a long, drawn-out process, especially if it goes to court.

Personal injury lawsuits can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to settle. Sometimes, a trial may not happen until more than a year after the lawsuit is filed. An appeal can also complicate things: it may take more than a year for an appellate court to review a case that came from a trial court.

If you’re considering pursuing a lawsuit after an auto accident, the sooner you leap into action, the better! 

What Are Average Auto Accident Lawsuit Settlement Amounts?

Auto accident lawsuit settlement amounts vary greatly, even when you are comparing two similar accidents with similar injuries. Your settlement award will depend on your unique circumstances.

If you would like to learn more about your car accident settlement amount and the legal options available to you, give us a call now.

What Are Expert Witnesses?

Expert witnesses are professionals who can provide important input and insight to strengthen your personal injury claim. While they may not have been present at the scene of the crash, they can still analyze all the available evidence regarding your auto accident and give their opinions.

A Houston car accident attorney often reaches out to expert witnesses such as:

  • Medical professionals, who can explain how your injuries from the car accident have impacted your life. They can also give a prognosis for your future and your recovery.
  • Accident reconstruction specialists, who can create a model or a digital rendering to show how your accident happened and who was at fault. 
  • Civil or mechanical engineers, who could help you prove that a defective auto part or a poorly-designed road contributed to your accident.
  • Economists, who can help estimate damages like future lost wages or loss of earning capacity.

What Can I Do if My Claim is Denied? 

As car accident lawyers, we’ve seen plenty of unsavory behavior from insurance companies: lowballing their customers, missing deadlines, postponing investigations, or flat-out refusing to pay. 

Still, as much as they’ll try to squirm out of it, insurance companies owe a responsibility to their policyholders. They must uphold their end of the contract you’ve signed with them.

If your claim was unfairly denied, you can sue the insurance company. You can either take them to small claims court yourself, or partner with a lawyer for best results. 

An insurance company might deny your claim for the following reasons:

  • You missed payments.
  • You let your policy lapse.
  • You failed to report another accident you were in.
  • You missed a deadline. (The Texas statute of limitations for car accidents is two years from the date of the incident. This means you must file your claim before the two-year time frame is up. The sooner you file, the easier it will be to collect and preserve evidence.)

Whatever the reason may be, you are owed an explanation. More importantly, you still have options. Let a Houston car accident lawyer deal with all the headaches insurance companies will try to cause for you.

Conclusion

There you have it: the phases of a car accident claim and lawsuit. What a journey! 

Still have questions? Want answers from a Houston car accident lawyer? Get your free consultation now and get the info you need to bounce back from your accident. 

It is a car insurance company’s modus operandi to trick you and pay you as little as they possibly can. Don’t get taken advantage of. Rely on expert legal counsel and aggressive representation every step of the way by reaching out to a car accident lawyer in Houston as soon as you can.

The Most Dangerous Season: Holiday Driving Facts & Safety Tips

The Most Dangerous Season: Holiday Driving Facts & Safety Tips

The holidays can be a dangerous time to hit the road. No matter what our country is celebrating, there’s always a spike in car accidents during the holiday season.

This year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many families are opting to avoid crowded airports and train stations. Instead, they’ll be taking road trips in their personal vehicles to visit relatives for the holidays. Among Americans with travel plans this year, a whopping 85% say they are most comfortable traveling via their personal automobile (while still avoiding planes, public transit, and rideshare apps.) For many cautious folks, this may be the first time all year they’re mixing households, and driving seems like a good way to continue minimizing contact with strangers. 

Unfortunately, more traffic means more chances for wrecks. 

Read on below to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting this holiday travel season, the latest facts about Texas holiday car accidents, and how you can keep your family safe through it all. 

If you’re in need of a Houston car accident attorney, we’re here for you 24/7. We offer free consultations, 365 days a year.

― COVID-19: Playing it Safe ―

Across the country, coronavirus cases are rising in all age groups. Many families are reacting accordingly: a survey by Morning Consult found that 47% of American respondents were canceling family holiday plans this year. 74% said their gatherings would be smaller than usual, and 49% planned to check out virtual alternatives.

Still, we know many people plan to take the risk and see their families in person. Here in Texas, we’ve seen the potential outcome before: In May, a family’s gathering in Dallas resulted in 18 people contracting COVID-19, three of whom were hospitalized. The following month, a family’s Father’s Day celebration at a Houston restaurant infected seven people and killed one. Elsewhere in Texas, a small dinner party hosted by a couple for their parents resulted in all six of them catching the coronavirus and spreading it to other family members, one of whom died.

The pandemic is undoubtedly adding to everyone’s travel anxiety. However, it’s important to note that years of data show holiday travel also poses risks outside of the pandemic.

― What Holiday Has the Most Car Accidents? ―

2020 has been wild, but no matter what year it is, motorists will still face some holiday hazards.

Is inclement weather to blame? Not necessarily. A study published by AutoInsurance.org found that summer holidays tend to have more fatal crashes and drunk driving crashes.

So why is holiday travel dangerous? What is the most dangerous holiday to drive, and where? To find out more about holiday travel risks, a study by ValuePenguin looked at the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s fatal car accident data over a span of four years. Some of their findings:

  • Memorial Day Weekend came in first, with an average of 312 fatal accidents per year. Labor Day weekend and 4th of July weekend followed close behind, with 308 and 307 respectively. (The average number of fatal accidents in a normal/non-holiday 3-day span was 250.)
  • Houston, San Antonio, and Los Angeles were the most dangerous cities to drive in during holidays.
  • I-10, which stretches through Texas on its way from California to Florida, is the most dangerous road to drive on during the Thanksgiving/Christmas period.
  • Overall, the southeastern region of the United States was more likely to have accidents.

Additionally, delivery truck drivers are often on tighter deadlines during the holiday season. When they make poor decisions to try to meet these deadlines, such as speeding or driving while fatigued, they can cause serious truck accidents.

Most Dangerous Holidays for Car Accidents | Houston Car Accident Attorney

― Drunk Driving & the Holidays ―

With all the revelry of a holiday, there’s also an influx of drunk drivers and drunk driving accidents around these days. In Texas, holiday periods see more than a 33% increase in drunk driving crashes, drunk driving incapacitating injuries, and drunk driving accident fatalities.

We’re sure you’ve heard of Black Friday, but what about “Blackout Wednesday?” This questionable unofficial holiday is how some people choose to spend the day before Thanksgiving, kicking off their four-day-weekend by grabbing drinks with their hometown pals.

According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data for one recent year, 41 Americans died in drunk driving accidents between 6PM on “Blackout Wednesday” and 6AM Thanksgiving morning. That’s an average of almost one death every 15 minutes.

Bartenders aren’t the only ones who prepare for this day. Police are on high alert as well. In fact, many police departments across the nation are extra vigilant during all holidays, on the lookout for drivers under the influence. If you drive drunk, you not only risk getting arrested or having your car impounded, you risk the lives of others. Don’t risk it. We encourage you to appoint a designated driver whenever you and your crew leave home.

― Most Dangerous Holidays to Drive in Texas ―

What holiday has the most car accidents? Are certain holidays more dangerous than others for Texas drivers? To take a closer look, our Houston car accident lawyer team analyzed holiday car accident statistics collected by TxDOT from 2015 to 2019. Here’s what we discovered.

Fatal Holiday Car Accidents in Texas | Auto Accident Lawyer Houston

[source: The Texas Department of Transportation]

 

Over the five years we studied, the 4th of July period had the most fatal car accidents in Texas. Thanksgiving came in second. Memorial Day ranked third, although people were more likely to drink on this holiday and the preceding weekend.

Drunk driving was a consistent issue: alcohol contributed to over one-third of all fatal holiday car accidents.

Safety Tips for Avoiding a Holiday Car Accident

Wondering how to reduce your risk of a crash after reading all those holiday car accident statistics? Here are our holiday road trip recommendations for staying safe out there.

  1. Get a tune-up.
    You should get a car inspection before any big road trip, but especially if you’ll be encountering snowy weather. Replace dull wiper blades, change your oil, and check your brakes, tire pressure, battery life, filters, and fluid levels. Make sure you check your lights so you stay visible to other drivers on the road at night!
  2. Make a plan.
    Before all else, research your destination and make sure you’ll be allowed in. Some states have travel restrictions — like mandatory quarantines — in place. If you are able to go, you still need a game plan. If you end up running late to a holiday gathering, you may be tempted to speed to make it in time for dinner. Plan ahead to avoid this scenario. Use a map app to estimate how many hours the drive will be, add in more time for snacks and leg stretches, then add in even more time for good measure.
  3. Be prepared for emergencies.
    A good packing checklist will ensure you don’t forget anything. Pack the following for your trip: 
  • face masks for every passenger
  • first-aid kit
  • jumper cables
  • flashlights
  • flares or reflectors
  • spare tire and kit (jack, wrench, etc.)
  • hand sanitizer
  • disposable gloves
  • wet wipes and paper towels
  • snacks and water
  • power bank or solar-powered phone charger
  1. Keep your tank full.
    Get gas, even when you think you don’t need it. Gas stations might be few and far between, so take every opportunity to avoid getting stranded. Wear disposable gloves when pumping gas to protect against germs.
  2. Avoid fatigued driving.
    Do not drive for more than 8 hours straight. Take turns with other licensed passengers if you can.
  3. Avoid driving at night.
    Aim to reach your destination before sundown, even if that means waking up at 4AM. Studies show driving at night is more dangerous, and you’re more likely to overlook motorcycle riders or encounter drunk drivers at night. Which brings us to our most important tip…
  4. Drink responsibly/have a designated driver.
    That spiked eggnog can sneak up on you. If you’ve partied too hard, do the responsible thing and call an Uber or a cab. On the other hand, if you are hosting a gathering involving alcohol, confirm that every guest is 100% sober or has a designated driver when they depart. If not, don’t be afraid to snatch some keys and inflate some air mattresses!
  5. Know who to call.
    Finally, in case of emergency, you need to know someone’s got your back. If you need a car accident attorney in Houston, we’re here for you!

Happy Holidays from Houston Car Accident Lawyer

When it comes to holiday car accidents, alcohol isn’t the only culprit. Drivers may be frazzled by the general hustle and bustle of the holidays, distracted by unruly kids in the car, or sleepy from gorging on too much turkey. You might even get into a fender bender in a crowded department store parking lot!

This season, take solace in the fact we are all working toward the common goal of avoiding a holiday car accident. By staying cautious this year, you can ensure everyone makes it to their family’s table in the years still to come. Do your part. Plan ahead, and never make the decision to get behind the wheel if you’re fatigued or under the influence.

If you or your family have been injured in a holiday car accident, you deserve the best car accident lawyer. Houston car accident lawyers are here for you. 

Our experts are available 24/7, 365 days a year, to provide 100% FREE consultations. Call now to get the answers you need, and the compassion you deserve.

Ninth Court of Appeals Upholds TX Car Accident Settlement (Why That Matters)

Ninth Court of Appeals Upholds TX Car Accident Settlement (Why That Matters)

A recent car accident case ruling by the 58th District Court in Texas was contested and brought before the Ninth Court of Appeals. The court upheld Judge Kent Walston‘s initial ruling. 

Today we take a closer look into this case and the legal principles at play, including the difference between negligence and negligence per se, and what it might mean for your car accident settlement.

History

A brief history lesson before we delve into the implications of this ruling:

Legislature has divided the state of Texas into fourteen separate courts of appeals districts. Each court has one chief justice and at least two justices. 

The Ninth Court of Appeals was created in 1915 to serve the Beaumont, Texas region. The Ninth Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over cases in the counties of Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Newton, Orange, Polk, and San Jacinto. 

During a meeting of the 78th Texas Legislature, it was decided that in 2005 the number of justices on the Ninth Court of Appeals would increase from three to four. The current justices are Chief Justice Steve McKeithen, Justice Charles Kreger, Justice Leanne Johnson, and Justice Hollis Horton. Carol Anne Harley serves as the Clerk of the Court.

The Accident

On May 18th, 2014, Sasha and Chad Rebert were driving along Highway 82 in Jefferson County, Texas. Two cars were behind them. 

Both of those cars then attempted to pass the Reberts on the left, failing to realize the Reberts were making a left turn. 

The first passing car avoided collision, but the second car — driven by Julio Miranda-Lara — hit the Reberts’ driver’s side.

The Case

Chad and Sasha Rebert brought a lawsuit against Julio Miranda-Lara. The case went to trial, where a jury found Miranda-Lara solely at fault for the accident. He was ordered by Judge Kent Walston of the 58th District Court in Texas to pay for the Reberts’ personal injury damages. 

Miranda-Lara appealed this decision, arguing that the court made three errors: 

  • Allowing traffic accident officer Randy Daws to testify with his opinions without expert knowledge. (Officer Daws was allowed to testify repeatedly, and without objection, that Miranda-Lara was passing unsafely on the left and caused the accident.)
  • Providing influential instruction on the concept of “negligence per se” to the jury.
  • Refusing to provide Miranda-Lara’s requested instructions regarding emergencies and unavoidable accidents to the jury.

What is Negligence Per Se?

What is the difference between negligence and negligence per se? These terms come into play most often in personal injury cases. They represent two different legal strategies, each involving different “standards of proof.” 

Negligence is defined as a failure to exercise reasonable care. This breach of the duty of care then results in damage or injury to another person. In court, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached the duty of care, and that the breach was the actual and proximate cause of injury. After adequate investigation, the defendant may then be deemed “negligent,” also called “liable” or “at-fault.” Negligence can occur when a person behaves carelessly, whether or not they break a law in doing so.

Negligence per se, on the other hand, focuses on the violation of a specific law. In these cases, plaintiffs argue that the defendant’s negligence can be automatically assumed or inferred because they broke a law. (“Per se” is a Latin term which translates to “in itself.”) Laws are in place to protect the public, so therefore it can be assumed that breaking any law places another person in danger and violates the duty of care. 

Typically, it is easier to prove negligence per se than negligence, because the law is on your side. Your personal injury lawyer can cite laws instead of untangling the motivations, rationale, and state of mind of the defendant.

The most common use of negligence per se is traffic violations, wherein drivers are automatically considered negligent for violating the traffic code.

In cases of negligence per se, a plaintiff will usually have to establish the following:

  • The defendant violated a regulation or law enacted for safety reasons
  • The plaintiff belongs to the class that was intended to be protected by the safety regulation or law
  • The violation caused injury/damage to the plaintiff

Certain excuses are permitted for violations, including:

  • A defendant’s incapacity made it reasonable for him to violate the statute
  • A defendant neither knew nor should have known of the occasion for compliance
  • A defendant was unable to comply even when using reasonable diligence or care
  • The defendant was confronted by an emergency that was not caused by his misconduct
  • Compliance would have involved a greater risk of harm to the defendant or others

How does this apply to the Reberts and Julio Miranda-Lara? A law in section 545.053-545.056 of the Texas Transportation Code states that if a vehicle is passing on the left, its driver must pass at a safe distance and ensure the left side is “clearly visible and free of approaching traffic for a distance sufficient to permit passing without interfering with the operation of the passed vehicle or a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.”

In the third issue of his appeal, Miranda-Lara alleges the trial court failed to include situations in which driving left of center is authorized (like emergencies and unavoidable accidents). This meant the jury believed nothing in his situation authorized such a maneuver. 

However, the appeals court pointed out that Miranda-Lara himself testified that he “attempted to pass in the left lane because the truck in front of him did so even though he could not see oncoming  traffic in front of the truck he was following,” thereby making the maneuver dangerous, unauthorized, and illegal.

The Ruling

The Ninth Court of Appeals concluded that Miranda-Lara failed to timely object to the evidence presented by Officer Daws and, therefore, failed to preserve error in his first issue. 

On August 31st, they overruled the second and third issues with the following statement: 

“Because we cannot conclude that the improper inclusion of the negligence per se instruction probably caused the rendition of an improper verdict, it did not constitute harmful error. We overrule Miranda-Lara’s second and third issues.”

Negligence per se only applies to laws that do not leave any room for the defendant to make a discretionary call. If the statute requires the defendant to exercise their own judgment in applying it, then it doesn’t reach the level necessary for negligence per se. 

Miranda-Lara argued that the cited section of the Texas Transportation Code could not trigger negligence per se because it required the driver in question to use their own discretion. The court of appeals did find that the trial court should not have used the negligence per se instruction because the code does require a driver to exercise judgement, as opposed to more absolute laws with clear statements like “don’t drive on the wrong side of the road” or “you MUST stop at a stop sign.” Rules like those do not give the driver any discretion to exercise their judgment, making negligence per se applicable. 

However, the court also has to apply a standard of harm to its own proceedings. If there was an error – as there was here – did it cause any harm? 

In this case, the Ninth Court of Appeals said that it did not, as there was no evidence in the record that showed the jury applied anything other than the ordinary care standard to find the defendant negligent. If there’s no harm, then there’s no foul, and the plaintiff keeps the original verdict.

Finally there’s the fourth issue, wherein the defendant wished to rebut the aforementioned instruction by providing the jury with additional instruction on how they could incorporate “emergency and unavoidable accident” defenses. However, there was no evidence supporting either of these theories. Therefore, it was determined the judge did not make an error by not including them.

In the end, Miranda-Lara’s appeal was rejected and the Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

Conclusion

What does this mean for Texas car accident lawyers and their victims? 

This case shows us that it is difficult to apply negligence per se when it comes to laws that leave room for interpretation. The words referenced in the Texas Transportation Code in this case relied on a driver’s own discretion. This was a matter of subjectivity, not a clear and objective breaking of a law.

While you can use laws like these in a roundabout way to prove someone’s negligence, it is not a strong enough approach to apply negligence per se.

How Long After A Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

How Long After A Car Accident Can You Claim Injury?

Every day in Houston, an average of 188 motor vehicle accidents occur. Many drivers and passengers are injured in these crashes, but not all of them get the help they need to pursue a personal injury claim. We want to change that. We’re here to educate you on your time-sensitive legal options, should you ever end up hurt in a Houston car accident.

So just how long after a car accident can you claim injury? The answer to this question can be found in your state’s statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is a time limit placed upon an injured person as they decide whether or not to take legal action. It is also known as a “prescriptive period.” When the time limit runs out, a claim may no longer be filed, or it may be dismissed. 

Statutes of limitations vary from state to state. They also vary depending on what type of case you are dealing with. Particularly violent crimes, for example, have no statute of limitations.

― Texas Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents ―

The statute of limitations in Texas for all personal injury claims is two (2) years from the date of the incident. This is how long you have to file a claim after a car accident in Texas. This holds true for auto accident injury claims filed by motorists, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

The Texas statute of limitations for property damage claims — such as damage to your vehicle or other belongings in the accident — is also two years.

Additionally, if a faulty auto part contributed to your car accident, you may be able to recover damages from the parts manufacturer. The Texas statute of limitations for defective product liability cases is also two years.

Wrongful Death Car Accident Claims

If you’ve lost a loved one to a fatal car accident, there is a two-year statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim in Texas. If they passed away later as a result of their accident injuries and subsequent complications, the two year time limit begins on the date of their death, not on the date of the accident. Unlike personal injury claims, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims can be extended up to one year in certain complex cases.

Receiving Compensation from the Government

Did you know a government entity may be responsible for your car accident? If you were driving on government-owned property and encountered missing signage, missing guardrails, broken traffic lights, potholes, or other road maintenance issues, you may be able to file a claim against the government.

The Texas Tort Claims Act allows you to sue the government for accidents involving motor vehicles operated by government employees or for accidents occurring on government-owned property deemed hazardous.

Beware: if you were injured by a government entity, the statute of limitations changes. When seeking damages from the Texas government, you are required to file a “notice of claim” within six months from the day of the accident. Some municipal governments have even shorter time limits for providing notice. For example, here in Houston, there is a 90 day limit.

Exceptions to Statutes of Limitations

While courts rarely permit extensions to deadlines specified by a statute of limitations, there are exceptions. Some of these exceptions include: 

  • if a minor is involved in the accident
  • if the defendant absconded
  • if a disabled or catastrophically-injured victim needs help filing a claim or was incapacitated for a period
  • if military deployment prevented a victim from participating in their case

A Houston car accident lawyer can determine if any exceptions apply to your case.

Texas Statutes of Limitations Graph

Statutes of limitations exist to encourage the diligent and timely prosecution of a crime. Law enforcement believes anyone with a valid claim will want to pursue it promptly. We understand this is not always the case, but we still strongly encourage you to take swift legal action if you’ve been in a car accident. Let us explain why.

― Why You Should File Your Car Accident Claim NOW ―

Car accidents are undoubtedly terrifying experiences. The shock you initially feel may be followed by days or weeks of mental fog. 

But time is running out to file and build your auto accident case. The insurance company won’t part with its money easily, and it will demand substantial proof before paying you what you deserve. 

While two years might seem like a long time, it takes a while for a good personal injury lawyer to investigate, collect evidence, and build a strong case that gets you the money you need! Reaching out to them one week before your statute of limitations expires isn’t doing either of you any favors. The sooner you file, the better your results will be.

Filing your claim now will help you achieve the following things:

Recover from your car accident injuries. 

Whether or not you were gravely injured, you’re bound to be feeling all the stress, pressure, and chaos a car accident brings. The choices you’re faced with may seem expensive or overwhelming, and as the days go by, you may just want to put the whole thing behind you. However, this is not a wise choice. Some injuries can take weeks to show up. We often receive requests from clients who had an accident over a year ago, but are just now realizing the toll it has taken on their lives. 

Trust us: trying to “tough it out” or “wait and see” if you bounce back from your injuries is never a good idea. 

You deserve proper medical care ASAP. Even if you were only in a littlefender bender,” you may not realize you have soft tissue injuries that will become more and more painful over time and require physical therapy.

Avoid gaps in medical treatment. 

This one is critical, because gaps in treatment are often used to discredit injured victims and drastically reduce their settlement offers. Insurance companies will argue that you weren’t really hurt if you didn’t seek prompt, thorough medical treatment and follow up with all recommendations. We know things can get in the way of your medical care – work, family, scheduling conflicts, money woes, and more. But the insurance company won’t be so understanding. 

Preserve evidence. 

As days go by, important proof can be lost. Evidence at the scene of the crash can be contaminated or swept up. Witnesses are harder to track down, and their testimony becomes less reliable with the passage of time. Additionally, it becomes more difficult for your lawyer to access medical records and other important documents to support your case. 

Pay your car accident bills.

Car accident bills can pile up in the blink of an eye. If your vehicle was totaled or if you needed a surgery, the expenses are only just beginning. You’ll need a rental vehicle as well as help with childcare or chores, you’ll miss time from work, and you’ll be in pain. A car accident lawyer will take all of these factors into account and fight for the true value of your claim, securing enough money for you to pay off all expenses related to your car accident.

Filing a car accident claim on time

― How Much is My Car Accident Claim Worth? ―

Every car accident is different, so there is no average amount that can be placed on car accident claims settlements. Each one will be worth a different amount, even if the impacts and injuries seem identical!

If you win, the damages you are awarded are intended to reimburse you for the losses you’ve suffered. These categories of loss will include:

  • Medical bills, ambulance rides, physical therapy, and other health expenses 
  • Lost wages or loss of future earning capacity 
  • Pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life
  • Property damage, including damage to your vehicle

By assessing all of these losses and how they have impacted your life, a car accident lawyer can help you discover the true value of your case. Don’t miss your opportunity!

― Do Car Accident Claims Go to Court? ―

Not all car accident claims go to trial. In fact, the good news is that most car accident claims settle out of court. A skilled Houston car accident attorney knows how to negotiate with insurance companies to get you the settlement offer you deserve. 

However, in the event of particular unfair and stubborn insurance agents, our team of Houston car accident attorneys has extensive litigation experience and is fully prepared to stand up for you in the courtroom. 

We see the “big picture,” and we consider the full extent of your pain and suffering as a car accident victim. Don’t back down or settle for anything less than what you deserve.

Note that the statute of limitations does not include the length of a potential trial; rather, it only applies to the time you have to take the first step toward legal action and get the ball rolling.

― Don’t Wait Another Moment to File Your Claim ―

Figuring out how to file a car accident claim can be a headache. You shouldn’t have to deal with the tedious details, phone tag, and long hold times from insurance companies when you’re already under so much stress. Over the years, we’ve seen innocent victims miss out on the car accident compensation they deserve, simply because they were uninformed or hesitant to reach out to us sooner.

Now is the time to take action, not chances!

With over 20 years of experience, we know how to deal with car accident claims of all kinds. A Houston car accident lawyer at our firm can act fast, collecting all the evidence you need to build a strong case and receive the compensation you deserve.

To summarize what we’ve learned:

  • The Texas statute of limitations for car accidents is two years from the date of the accident.
  • This time limit applies to personal injury claims, property damage claims, defective auto parts, and wrongful death suits.
  • If you are filing a claim against a government entity who caused your accident, special time limits may vary from city to city. In Houston, you only have 90 days to file a notice of claim against the government.
  • Filing a claim as soon as possible after an accident increases your chances of successful settlement. 

One missed deadline can alter your future. If you don’t act now, you may lose your right to compensation and be stuck coping with your injuries and losses alone.

Contact a lawyer for a free consultation as soon as possible after your accident. The sooner they start building your case, the greater advantage you will have. We’re here for you 24/7, with experts ready to provide free, confidential consultations!

Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?

Is Lane Splitting Legal in Texas?

Can you lane split in Texas? It’s a question many Texas motorcycle riders have asked themselves at one point or another, and today we’re here to give you the scoop. 

Proponents of lane splitting readily rattle off its benefits. They claim it saves time, keeps motorcycle riders cooler in the Texas heat, alleviates traffic congestion, and is generally safer.

Others disagree, saying lane splitting is risky, distracting, and not a habit our roads were designed for. They believe it will increase the chances of motorcycle accidents, especially on our highways. 

So what are the facts?

First things first: 

What is Lane Splitting?

Lane splitting refers to a motorcycle rider’s maneuver of riding in between cars, along the dashed lines that delineate different lanes of traffic.

Many riders resort to this behavior because motorcycles do not have designated lanes (heck, Houston has a shortage of bicycle lanes!) Sometimes they’re especially tempted to lane split when faced with bumper-to-bumper traffic under the scorching sun.

While this may seem like a swell idea — you’re beating Houston traffic, you’re creating your own space, and your front and back are no longer vulnerable to the movements of surrounding cars — it can actually lead to an increase in motorcycle accidents. Why? It’s simple: drivers are not expecting to encounter a motorcycle riding in between lanes. 

Still, some motorcycle riders argue lane splitting is the only way to ease traffic congestion. (What’s the saying? Gotta bend a few rules to make an omelet? No, that can’t be right…)

After all, as the Texas Department of Transportation’s Roadway Design Manual admits, “providing safe mobility for pedestrians and cyclists while reducing delays for motorists are potentially conflicting objectives.” 

Dangers of Lane Splitting

Not only does lane splitting startle and upset drivers, it puts motorcyclists at risk.

A car may be hastily changing lanes and neglect to look out for a motorcycle zooming past them, or they may see the motorcycle but misinterpret the speed at which it is traveling, thinking they have adequate time. (A study conducted by UC Berkeley discovered when lane splitting motorcyclists exceeded the speed of surrounding traffic by more than 15 miles per hour, their risk of injury spiked.)

Motorcycle accidents can be devastating, even at low speeds. The higher speeds of Houston freeways can mean “game over.”

But at times, even the most experienced motorcycle riders may “cut corners” — literally and metaphorically! — with daredevil antics. One such risky behavior is lane splitting. 

Unfortunately, Texas roads are the site of many motorcycle deaths. Numbers don’t lie: every year, the Lone Star State sees between 400 and 500 motorcycle accident fatalities and approximately 2,000 serious motorcycle accident injuries, according to the latest statistics.

Obviously motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles, leaving their passengers more vulnerable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle riders are a whopping 28 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic accident.

But let’s get down to business: is lane splitting legal in Texas?

Texas Motorcycle Lane Splitting Laws | Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Houston

Can You Split Lanes in Texas? 

Nope. Lane splitting is illegal in Texas.

Motorcyclists must follow many of the same rules of the road as drivers, but lane splitting is a violation unique to the former, thanks to their narrowness and smaller size. 

According to the Texas Transportation Code, if a roadway is divided into lanes, users of that roadway must stay within the designated confines of the lane and may not move between lanes unless it is safe to do so. This code applies to motorcycle riders as well as automobile drivers. Although the act of “lane splitting” is not explicitly named, it is prohibited by this code.

Motorcycle riders in Texas can be ticketed by police for illegal passing or dangerous lane changing. However, keep in mind that even if you get into a motorcycle accident in Houston and receive a ticket, you may still be entitled to compensation from that accident. Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer in Houston to learn more about your rights and your legal options!

In the past, Texas considered legislation to allow lane splitting under certain speed limits. In December of 2018, Texas State Senator Kirk Watson introduced SB-273, which would’ve allowed motorcycles to lane split on Texas freeways as long as the surrounding traffic was moving at 20 miles per hour or less and the motorcyclist did not exceed the speed of traffic by more than 5 miles per hour. Ultimately, the state of Texas decided against this proposition.

Currently, California is the only state in our country where lane splitting is legal.

While we’re on the topic, let’s brush up on a couple of other Texas motorcycle laws.

Texas Motorcycle Laws

Texas law does not require motorcycle riders to wear helmets if they are over 21 years of age and have taken an approved motorcycle safety class, or if they have health insurance that covers motorcycle accidents.

Interested in the safety classes? Recently, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation took over the Motorcycle and ATV Operator Safety Program, which was previously handled by the Texas Department of Public Safety. This program officially licenses schools and instructors to teach students how to safely operate motorcycles and off-road vehicles.

Did you know when it comes to Texas insurance requirements, motorcycles are considered the same as cars? Minimum liability limits are $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident.

Additionally, just like cars, motorcycles in Texas must pass an annual safety inspection.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

Lane splitting aside, there are still plenty of dangers a motorcycle rider must face every time they hop on their bike. What can they do to “ride defensively” and stay safe? Here a few quick tips, straight from an experienced Houston motorcycle accident attorney at our law firm.

  • Suit up! Even though Texas does not have motorcycle helmet laws, safety gear is still important. The World Health Organization determined wearing a helmet reduces the risk of death by almost 40% and reduces the risk of head injury by almost 70%. Whenever you ride, always wear your helmet, as well as protective apparel like a leather jacket, gloves, and closed-toe boots.
  • Stay alert! Avoid riding in the blind spots of other vehicles, watch out for turning cars and trucks, and check weather forecasts to avoid getting caught in hazardous road conditions.
  • Don’t speed! Speeding can be fatal for a motorcyclist, especially if they’re taking a sharp turn. Always obey speed limit signs.
  • Stay insured! A harsh truth: Texas’ minimum liability insurance for motorcycles probably won’t cover all of your medical bills if you get into an accident. Consider purchasing additional coverage like personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist coverage.
  • Remember motorcycle maintenance! Check your motorcycle’s tire pressure and keep an eye out for punctures or cracks in the rubber. Change the oil, coolant, and air filters on a regular basis. Give your motorcycle a quick inspection before you ride, each and every time. It could make all the difference!
  • Assume people don’t see you! Most drivers on the road aren’t expecting to see a motorcycle in their path. Always proceed with caution, use your turn signals, and wear reflective clothing at night. You can also add adhesive reflectors or reflective tape to your bike for maximum visibility!
  • Never drink and ride! Never ride your motorcycle after drinking alcohol. Your balance, judgment, vision, and reaction time are all affected, putting everyone on the road in danger.

A 5-Star Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Houston Is Ready to Help You Now

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident while lane splitting in Texas, you still have rights. Was a negligent driver or other liable party involved? A Houston motorcycle accident attorney can dive in and determine if you are eligible for compensation. Our legal experts are available 24/7 and are ready to evaluate your case for free!

Our firm has experience handling all sorts of accidents, from catastrophic semi-truck accidents to minor bicycle accidents. No matter what you’re dealing with, we’re here to help. Our client-first mentality means your needs are our priority. 

Reach out now for a 100% free consultation.