Texas is a land of wide-open spaces, and those of us who ride motorcycles here know about the wide-open spaces between lanes of cars on Texas highways. When those lanes of cars aren’t moving, it can seem like a good idea to slide your bike into that gap and move through the traffic like a fish through water. But even though lane splitting is not explicitly illegal in Texas, it’s not strictly legal, either. As a result, if you’re injured while lane splitting you could end up in a legal pickle. If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident due to lane splitting, an attorney specializing in motorcycle accidents can be your best friend.
What Does Texas Law Say About Lane Splitting?
Although there is currently an effort to pass a law that would legalize lane splitting, at the moment Texas law does not expressly permit or prohibit lane splitting. On the other hand, the act of lane splitting technically violates a handful of points in the Texas Transportation Code. For example, Section 545.060 requires that all drivers on multiple-lane roads “drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane,” and prohibits moving from that lane unless it can be done safely. Lane splitting seems to be a violation of the requirement to drive within a single lane. Additionally, Section 545.057 prohibits passing cars on the right-hand side unless they are about to make a left turn. Because a lane-splitting motorcycle passes cars on both sides, lane splitting could technically be considered a violation of this statue as well.
Does That Mean I Can’t Sue if I’m Injured While Lane Splitting?
Even though lane splitting might not be legally authorized on Texas highways, motorcyclists who are injured while lane splitting may still be able to file a claim in court. The biggest obstacle they will face is an idea sometimes called “contributory negligence.” Contributory negligence is a legal term describing a situation in which a person is partly at fault for their own injuries that were caused by another person. For example, suppose a person who has been drinking walks onto a roadway where pedestrians are prohibited and is hit by a speeding car. Clearly the driver should not have been speeding, but neither should the pedestrian have been drinking and walking on the roadway. Since both people were partly at fault, should the pedestrian be able to sue the driver for his injuries? If so, for how much?
This is a problem that every state deals with slightly differently. Texas uses a system known as “proportionate responsibility.” Under this system, a person’s recovery for his or her injuries is reduced by the amount he or she was at fault for the accident. For example, if the pedestrian in the example above had $1,000 of injuries but was found to be 20% at fault, then his damages of $1,000 would be reduced by 20% ($200), so he could recover $800. Additionally, under this system a person cannot recover damages if he or she was more than 50% responsible. So if the pedestrian was found to be 50% at fault he could recover $500, but if he was found to be 51% at fault he would recover nothing.
For motorcyclists in Texas, proportionate responsibility is a challenge when trying to recover for damages sustained while lane splitting. To successfully recover their damages, motorcyclists must demonstrate to the court that their lane splitting did not contribute to their accident, or if it did that it was only to a small degree. The amount of money they can recover depends on their ability to convince the court of this. If you’ve been injured while lane splitting, you should definitely have the assistance of an experienced attorney when trying to recover damages. Our firm’s attorneys specialize in motorcycle accident cases, and many of our attorneys are riders themselves. If you need to speak with an attorney who knows motorcycles and motorcycle law, schedule a consult with a Texas personal injury lawyer.