There are more than 350,000 motorcyclists in Texas. That makes our state one of the most popular for motorcycle ownership. Maybe it is our great weather, or our independent streak, motorcycle ownership is popular. But enjoying the open Texas air on a motorcycle comes with risks.
In general, Texas only requires helmets for some motorcyclists. Before diving into the specifics of the Texas motorcycle helmet law, though, consider these Texas Motorcycle accident statistics.
Texas Motorcycle Accident Statistics
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT):
- One motorcyclist dies every day in Texas, on average
- The period from May through October is the deadliest for motorcycle riders
- 30% of motorcycle fatalities occurred in an intersection
- In 2019, 412 motorcyclists were killed in Texas
- More than 1,800 were seriously injured
Unfortunately, even the safest motorcycle riders can still be at risk because they share the road with other vehicles. Other drivers must be aware of their surroundings when sharing the road with motorcyclists. For drivers in other types of vehicles, motorcycles may be hard to see and it’s easy to misjudge the distance and speed of an oncoming motorcycle. Crashes regularly happen when drivers make left turns in front of oncoming motorcyclists.
Protecting Yourself While Riding
To protect motorcycle riders, TXDOT began the “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” campaign to protect motorcycle riders and to encourage safer driving choices. There are also choices motorcyclists can make to reduce their risk of injury or death.
McKinney motorcycle accident lawyers will tell you, helmets are one way to mitigate risks associated with driving a motorcycle. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) , motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and the risk of head injury by 69%. Even more sobering, non-helmeted motorcyclists are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injury, which increases the risk of death and costs associated with hospitalization. In 2009, the median charges for a hospital stay for motorcycle brain injuries ran around $31,979 – compared to median charges of $2,641 for injured motorcyclists that did not incur a brain injury.
Now that I have shared the grim statistics, I’ll give you the rundown on Texas motorcycle helmet laws. However, remember that you can protect yourself by wearing a DOT-approved helmet regardless of whether it is required by law.
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Texas Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Texas is one of the few states where some motorcyclists may ride without a helmet. There are certain conditions to our motorcycle helmet laws.
You may ride without a helmet in Texas if:
- You are 21 or older; and
- You can prove that you have completed motorcycle operator training and safety course; or
- You can prove that you have health insurance coverage.
The motorcycle helmet law is codified under Chapter 661 of the Texas Transportation Code. To many laymen, the wording of the Act may seem odd and difficult to understand. Essentially, the law states it is “an offense if [a] person operates or rides…on a motorcycle…and is not wearing protective headgear.”
To most people, that language would suggest that you must wear a helmet in Texas. But, upon closer inspection, the Act excepts certain people from the protective headgear requirement.
Those riders and drivers over 21, who either completed a motorcycle safety course, or have sufficient medical insurance, need not wear a helmet. The majority of motorcyclists in Texas fall into this exception, because a safety course is required to get your motorcycle license.
Helmet Requirements Are Secondary Enforcement
In Texas, helmet laws fall into a category known as “secondary enforcement.” This means that a law enforcement officer must witness a motorcyclist violating a primary offense, such as running a red light, before they can stop them. Texas law does not permit police officers to stop someone riding a motorcycle solely because they are not following the helmet law.
But some lawmakers are trying to change this. In 2019, HB 748 was introduced to allow officers to stop helmet-less motorcyclists. If the law passed, it would have permitted officers to stop motorcyclists without a helmet to ensure they are over 21, completed a safety course, and have adequate health insurance. To date, the bill has not passed but that does not mean legislators won’t make another attempt to change the law.
Opponents argue that this could violate rights of motorcyclists and subject them to harassment if they meet one of these exceptions but are stopped frequently while riding without a helmet. If you own a motorcycle, keep up with proposed changes to the law to keep yourself out of any legal trouble and so you know what to expect on Texas roads.
Legal Consequences of Not Wearing a Helmet
None of us ever intend to be in an accident (whether it’s on a motorcycle or in a car) but accidents happen. Even the most well-trained and careful motorcyclists are sometimes at the mercy of careless and reckless drivers. When you suffer injuries from an accident, you may be able claim damages in a personal injury lawsuit. But motorcyclists beware, failure to wear a helmet can affect your personal injury lawsuit.
If you are injured on a motorcycle and not wearing a helmet, the other driver may claim that your lack of helmet use made your injuries worse. This could allow them to claim your injuries were at least partially your fault, reducing your recoverable damages. Deciding not to wear a helmet will not bar you (or your loved ones) from compensation. But helmet use is important—both for your health and your financial recovery!
A Texas jury may reduce the amount of compensation awarded to you, if they determine you are partially responsible for your own injuries. In Texas, this is called comparative fault. For instance, if a jury determines that you were 30% responsible for the accident and you suffered $100,000 in damages, they can reduce your compensation by 30% or $30,000.
You could only recover $70,000, or 70%, of the money lost or spent for your medical care, lost income, disability, motorcycle repairs, and other damages. This could leave you paying up to $30,000 out of your own pocket. No one wants this kind of financial stress while they are undergoing treatment and overcoming serious injuries.
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How to Find a McKinney Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Near Me
As a McKinney Motorcycle accident lawyer, I have seen the devastation that can result from motorcycle accident injuries and death. I would not wish that pain and suffering on anyone. Some of the injuries and lasting effects our team has witnessed include:
- Traumatic brain injuries with lasting physical and cognitive impairments
- Spinal cord injuries with paralysis
- Other back, neck, and head injuries
- Burns and soft tissue injuries, often from “road rash”
- Fractures, crush injuries, and amputations
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of quality of life
- Reduce ability to work and earn a living
- Inability to return to previous activities or their career
- Damage to relationships, including with their spouse
- Serious mental and emotional effects for the victim and their family
- The need for ongoing or around-the-clock care and support
- Fatal crash injuries
Many lawyers claim to be Texas motorcycle crash lawyers. However, these accidents and the injuries they cause are unique, so you want to ensure you hire someone who really knows what they are doing and has handled many cases similar to yours. If you experience the devastation of a motorcycle accident, you want the best motorcycle accident lawyer you can find.
In Texas, motorcyclists who suffer injuries they did not cause may be eligible for damages. It may be possible to recover these damages through an insurance claim based on the at-fault driver’s insurance or a lawsuit. The recoverable damages could include:
- Medical care for related injuries, including future needs
- Lost income and reduced ability to work in the future
- Property damages including the motorcycle and protective equipment
- Related expenses, with receipts
- Pain and suffering
Motorcycle accident lawsuits can be complex and confusing. It helps to have an experienced McKinney motorcycle accident attorney on your side. Our firm is here to help make the process as painless as possible.
It is important to act fast as there is a two-year limitation from the time of injury to pursue legal charges per Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 16.003. After this time frame, it will be hard to build a case.
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Speak to a Lawyer From Underwood Law Office Today for Free
If you have suffered injuries in a Texas motorcycle accident, we can help you determine the best way to move forward. We provide complimentary case reviews and represent victims of motorcycle accidents and their families on a contingency fee-basis. We do not ask for any payments for our services upfront. We are here to help you improve your financial situation and get justice based on your collision case.
To learn more, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.