Many motorcycle owners throughout the country use a technique called “lane splitting” to navigate slower-moving traffic and avoid collisions. Texas does not have any official laws that clearly state whether lane splitting is illegal, but it isn’t explicitly legal, either. All motorcyclists should know the risks of lane splitting in Texas and what to do after an accident.
Were you recently injured in a lane splitting accident? If so, you may be eligible for compensation. Speak to a Houston motorcycle accident lawyer to learn how you file a claim.
How Lane Splitting Accidents Happen
Lane splitting is the act of riding the white lane between two adjacent lanes of slower traffic. A motorcycle is narrower and more maneuverable than larger cars, so it can be very easy for a motorcycle to pass in this manner. In some cases, lane splitting can actually help prevent accidents.
For example, a motorcyclist may notice a vehicle moving into his or her lane about to crash with the bike, and then speed ahead to the open space between the two lanes ahead to escape. Lane splitting also cuts down on traffic congestion and prevents riders from lingering in dangerous stop-and-go congested areas for too long, where the risk of a serious accident is extremely high for riders.
In light of the nebulous nature of the legal status of lane splitting in Texas, all motorcyclists should know what to expect from a lawsuit after a lane splitting accident. Lane splitting may be helpful or even lifesaving in some situations, but is not always safe and can also cause serious problems.
A motorcyclist lane splitting at high speed may startle the drivers in the adjacent lanes, causing one or both of them to swerve dangerously. A driver may also change lanes without signaling first, potentially putting a motorcyclist about to lane split at serious risk. When lane splitting accidents happen, the concept of comparative negligence comes into play as a major factor in any future lawsuits.
Texas Negligence Laws for Lane Splitting Accidents
When a lane splitting accident occurs, it’s likely for all parties involved to share fault for the accident. While lane splitting is neither legal nor illegal in Texas, drivers have a responsibility to maintain control of their vehicles. If a driver causes an accident with a lane splitting motorcycle and claims the motorcyclist startled him or her, the motorcyclist would likely absorb some liability for the damages but the driver would as well. Drivers have a responsibility to respond appropriately to changing traffic conditions, even startling changes.
If the driver contributed to the accident, started to speed to prevent the motorcycle from passing, or otherwise intentionally contributes to a lane splitting accident, then it is very likely the motorcyclist will only absorb a small percentage of fault for the damages. Texas follows a comparative negligence statute. This means that plaintiffs can still recover damages even if they are partially to blame for those damages.
If you were a driver that accidentally hit a motorcyclist, speak to a car accident attorney in Houston to find out what your legal options are.
Comparative Negligence and Damages in Personal Injury Cases
Under the comparative negligence law in Texas, a plaintiff who is partially at fault for the claimed damages in a personal injury case can still recover compensation as long as his or her fault is less than that of the defendant. The plaintiff then loses a portion of the case award equal to his or her fault percentage. For example, a plaintiff found 10% at fault in a $50,000 lawsuit would only lose $5,000 or 10% of the total award.
While lane splitting can be a lifesaving maneuver in some situations, Texas riders should do everything possible to avoid this practice until there are firm laws in effect concerning proper lane splitting technique. A lane splitting accident can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities as well as costly property damage, so a plaintiff needs to know that his or her own fault won’t impact recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. It’s best to avoid lane splitting entirely unless a driver absolutely finds it necessary to avoid a sideswipe or rear-end collision.