Riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, especially because of the high risk of suffering fatal injuries in an accident. But if another person’s negligent actions caused a motorcyclist’s death, the family can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Under what circumstances can a family bring forth a wrongful death suit?
Texas Code §71.002 establishes that liability for a wrongful death can stem from a party’s:
- neglect; or
- wrongful act.
These forms of negligence must have directly caused the fatal injuries; for instance, a drunk driver was speeding on the highway and swiped the back of the motorcycle, causing the rider to lose control and crash.
A claim for wrongful death must establish the defendant’s liability for the accident. In doing so, families must demonstrate that the defendant acted carelessly or recklessly.
What are some factors that may cause or contribute to motorcycle accidents?
Examining the details of the accident could reveal certain factors that contributed to the accident, or outright caused it.
For example, many accidents involve the motorcyclist losing control on the bike. A driver not paying attention to the road – such as if he or she is distracted by a cell phone, passengers, or is changing radio stations – could tap the back of the motorcycle, causing the rider to veer off the road.
Reduced visibility is another cause. Many times drivers simply don’t see the bike. They may be distracted, as noted above, or may fail to adequately check for oncoming motorcycles. Whatever the circumstances, inability to see the motorcyclist can increase risk of a fatal collision.
Of course, the motorcyclist’s own behavior might contribute to an accident or its severity. For instance, failing to wear a helmet could contribute to severity of a head injury. This is something claimants need to consider, even if the rider was within the law in choosing not to wear a helmet.
What types of damages could be recoverable?
If not wearing a helmet contributed to injury severity – this might be the case for head injuries, but typically not for injuries to other parts of the body not protected by the helmet – the rider may bear part of the responsibility for the fatal injuries.
As such, whatever percentage of fault the rider has for the injuries will be taken from the damages. So if a rider is 20 percent responsible and damages are $100,000, the award will be reduced by $20,000.
There are two types of compensation sought in a wrongful death suit. The first is economic: financial losses of the surviving family. Most common are the medical bills, such as those incurred when a motorcyclist required treatment before passing. It could also include reasonable funeral expenses.
If the loved one provided a source of income to the family, that may be recoverable too and include:
- anticipated future earnings;
- loss of medical coverage; or
- a pension plan.
The goods and services provided by the loved one might also have value. Noneconomic damages are another form of compensation. These address the emotional effects associated with the untimely death.
Examples of noneconomic damages include:
- loss of companionship;
- loss of guidance; and
- mental anguish.