Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

The phrase “intentional accident” does not make a lot of sense. Indeed, when most people think of an accident, they think of one party being negligent, such as by forgetting to stop at a stop sign, failing to see another oncoming motorist, or being ignorant of a traffic sign. However, some accidents are seemingly intentional in nature and require a second look.

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Road rage is an increasingly common phenomenon across the United States. Studies have hypothesized regarding the causes and reasons why road rage is seen more today than in the past, with most theories coming back to the fact that we live a fairly high-stress lifestyle as Americans and that there are so many motorists on the road today. However, there is never an excuse to intentionally cause an accident or put other motorists at risk.

Road rage and other forms of aggressive driving are especially dangerous to the motorcyclists on the road. With little to protect them from a fall, motorcyclists often endure serious, life-threatening injuries after being involved in an accident. To think that another person intentionally puts someone at this level of risk is astonishing, but it does happen.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Iowa issued an opinion involving a multi-vehicle motorcycle accident that required the court to determine if two collisions separated by a few seconds should count as one “accident,” as defined in the at-fault party’s insurance policy. In the case, Hughes v. Farmers Auto Insurance Association, the court ultimately determined that the chain-reaction collisions should count as just one accident. Thus, all injured parties will be subject to the single per-accident limit of the at-fault party’s insurance policy.

on-the-road-1513470The Facts of the Case

The original collision occurred when a semi-truck collided head-on with an SUV that was traveling the wrong way down the highway. After the initial collision, the semi-truck was pushed off to the shoulder of the road, and the destroyed SUV remained in the middle of the highway. Just a few moments later, a motorcyclist came down the highway and was unable to avoid a collision with the SUV’s wreckage. Sadly, the driver of the SUV was killed in the accident. The motorcyclist and the truck driver were both seriously injured as a result.

The motorcyclist and the truck driver both filed claims with the deceased driver’s insurance company, seeking compensation for their property damage as well as for their injuries. Prior to settling those claims, the two plaintiff parties asked the court to issue an order that the two collisions constituted two separate accidents under the SUV’s insurance policy.

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While there are many different types of motorcycle accidents, one of the more common types is when a motorist misjudges the speed at which a motorcyclist is traveling and cuts off the motorcyclist, leaving the rider little choice but to jump off the bike or crash into the other vehicle. These accidents are often incorrectly labeled “rear-end” accidents by the media and police, since that would imply that the motorcyclist was at fault.

road-995582_960_720Whenever a driver is rear-ended, there is a presumption, rightly or wrongly, that the driver who crashed into the rear of the other vehicle was at fault for the collision. Indeed, many times this is the case. However, in motorcycle accidents, there is often more to the story.

Due to a motorcycle’s slim profile and most drivers’ lack of experience sharing the road with motorcycles, many motorists have a difficult time gauging the speed at which motorcyclists are traveling. This can cause a driver to pull out in front of a motorcycle without leaving the motorcyclist adequate time to slow down. In these cases, it is likely the motorist rather than the motorcyclist who is at fault for the accident. Of course, if the motorcyclist is speeding at the time, that can complicate matters because then the motorcyclist will have lost the right-of-way.

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Unlike accidents involving just cars or trucks, the fault in motorcycle accidents is often unfairly placed on the motorcyclist without any evidence that the motorcyclist caused the accident. Looking at news headlines reporting on motorcycle accidents makes this clear. The language used often focuses on how the motorcyclist could have avoided the tragic result had he been wearing a helmet or slowed down to avoid the collision. These articles are clearly written from the perspective of someone who drives a car.

vehicle-690529_960_720However, the reality is that fault in these tragic accidents should not be hastily assigned in the moments after the accident. The fault in motorcycle accidents, like accidents involving other motorized vehicles, cannot be readily determined solely based on the type of vehicle one of the drivers was operating at the time of the accident. Instead, an in-depth investigation should take place, and fault should only be assigned after examining the surrounding circumstances and applying the relevant traffic laws. And while helmets should always be worn to protect against the worst-case scenario, the mere fact that a motorcyclist does not have a helmet on at the time of an accident does not mean that the accident was his fault in the first place. That is not how the law operates.

When a motorcyclist is involved in an accident that was not their fault, they may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries they sustained through a Maryland or Washington, D.C. personal injury case.

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As Spring approaches, more and more people will pull the bikes out of the garage, dust them off, and start using them as a primary mode of transportation. Indeed, bicycles are a great way to get around in the suburbs and the city. However, riding a bike on a crowded street does present an added level of risk that should be accounted for.

cycling-655565_960_720Whether it is a distracted driver who isn’t paying as close attention to the road as they should, or a motorist who does not respect the bicyclist’s right of way, bike accidents are common. Not only are they common, they are also often very serious. This is especially true when the other vehicle involves in a large truck or other commercial vehicle.

While a bicyclist has a duty to take precautions while on the road, that duty also extends to other motorists who share the road with the bicyclist. In fact, under Maryland law, a bicyclist is required to use the road – and not the sidewalk in most circumstances. And when a bicyclist is on the road, it should be treated as any other motor vehicle. This means that drivers should not try and pass the bicyclist unless it is safe to do so, and drivers must yield to the bicyclist if he or she has the right of way. A driver’s failure to do so may result in a serious or fatal accident for which they can be held legally responsible.

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The small roads in residential neighborhoods are not designed for large trucks. Most often, these roads do not have bike lanes, are much narrower than their larger counterparts, and require motorists to make tighter turns. Each of these factors present a difficultly for large trucks operating on residential roads.

house-605227_960_720While it may be difficult for operators of large vehicles to drive on smaller residential roads, sometimes it is necessary. Whether it is a school bus navigating a neighborhood or a moving truck full of a homeowner’s possessions, large vehicles sometimes find themselves on narrow roads. When the need does arise for a large vehicle to use a smaller road, it is imperative that the driver of that vehicle be aware of the layout of the surrounding area, the potential for foot or bicycle traffic, and the limitations of the vehicle in making necessary turns.

If a driver causes a collision while on a small road, anyone harmed as a result may have a claim for damages against the driver, even if it was an “honest mistake.” Indeed, there is no reason that the injured victim be the one who should pay for the mistake of an inexperienced driver.

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Motorcyclists should always take all precautions against getting seriously injured or killed while riding. However, the question often arises:  if a motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet and is in an accident caused by another motorist, can they still recover compensation for their injuries? The answer, as with many questions in the law, is “it depends.”

motorcycle-1149389_960_720While it is not possible that a motorcyclist will be completely prevented from filing a lawsuit because he or she was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, there is a possibility that the defendant in the lawsuit will argue that the plaintiff’s failure to wear a helmet should come into play at some point in the litigation.

Generally speaking, a victim of a motorcycle accident may seek compensation for their injuries through a negligence lawsuit. In any negligence lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove four elements. These are duty, breach, causation, and damages.

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The vast majority of vehicles one encounters out on the road are passenger cars and trucks. Since drivers see these vehicles day in and day out, hundreds of thousands of times, drivers begin to feel comfortable assessing the speed at which these vehicles are traveling. Drivers make these assessments at any time they need to gauge how much time they have to complete a turn or clear an intersection.

motorcycle-1041070_960_720However, motorists are notoriously bad at assessing the speed of oncoming motorcycles. This is likely because drivers see motorcyclists less often and are not as familiar with gauging a motorcycle’s speed. In addition, their smaller profile often leads a driver to assume that a motorcycle is actually moving more slowly than it really is. This can have drastic consequences when a motorist is waiting at an intersection to make a turn and incorrectly estimates the amount of time they have to clear the intersection.

In these situations, the motorist may be at fault for the accident, as long as the motorcyclist is not traveling in excess of the posted speed limit. If the motorcyclist is speeding, he or she may be deemed to be at fault. In the alternative, even if the motorcyclist is not “at fault” in the accident, the fact that the motorcyclist contributed to their own injury may act to bar the motorcyclist from financial recovery in Maryland or Washington, D.C. This is because both jurisdictions apply the strict doctrine of “contributory negligence,” which denies an accident victim the ability to recover compensation for their injuries if they are at all at fault for the accident.

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Marijuana has been all over the news over the past few years. With efforts to legalize the medicinal – and even recreational – use of the drug cropping up all over the country, the number of accidents caused by marijuana intoxication will likely increase as more and more states loosen regulations on the drug. However, it is important for all to keep in mind that the drug being legal under some circumstances in a state does not give motorists the right to drive while under the influence of marijuana.

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Marijuana, like alcohol and other drugs, affects a driver’s ability to safely operate their vehicle. According to one United States government source, marijuana use can affect a driver’s judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. Some studies have linked marijuana use to a decrease in concentration and an overall decrease in a driver’s ability to safely operate a car or truck. In fact, according to the same U.S. government source, marijuana is the most commonly found illegal drug in the blood of those who have caused serious or fatal traffic accidents.

Bicyclist Struck and Killed by Driver High on Marijuana

Earlier this month in Staten Island, New York, one man was killed when he was struck by a driver who was allegedly high on marijuana at the time. According to one local news source, the victim had recently gotten off work and had borrowed a friend’s bicycle to make a quick trip to a nearby deli to pick up some food for dinner. On the way to the deli, however, a driver attempting to make a left turn out of a strip mall struck the bicyclist.

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Motorcycle accidents can be especially tragic, given the speeds involved and the high likelihood that riders will be ejected from the vehicle. The reality is that, while many motorcycle accidents are not caused by the motorcyclist themselves, some are. And motorcyclists, like all other drivers on the road, owe a duty to other motorists around them. This includes a duty that arises to those riding as passengers on the motorcycle who are legally in the driver’s care.

sportster-1-1546860When a motorcyclist is involved in a serious or fatal accident, and a passenger of theirs is injured as a result, that passenger (or the passenger’s family if the passenger does not survive) may be entitled to compensation from the person operating the motorcycle or that person’s insurance company. To be sure, these lawsuits can be emotional, since the parties often know each other. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is most often not the motorcyclist himself who is paying out any award amount, but the motorcyclist’s insurance company. Indeed, this is exactly the reason Maryland state law requires that motorcyclists maintain adequate insurance on their vehicles.

In tragic cases in which the driver of the motorcycle is killed as a result of the accident, an injured or dead passenger does not necessarily lose their ability to recover compensation. These lawsuits are not uncommon in Maryland courts.

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