It’s a well-known fact that riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. Whether it is the risk of another motorist failing to take notice of a nearby motorcycle or the possibility that another motorist misjudges the speed at which a motorcycle is traveling, the dangers of riding a motorcycle are several. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that given the nature of these dangers, the threats that motorcyclists face greatly increase after dark, when visibility decreases and motorists are more likely to be intoxicated.

MotorcycleIt is true that motorcycle accidents are over-represented when compared to auto accidents as a whole. However, this does not reflect the general skill level or responsibility of motorcyclists as a group. Instead, this fact simply shows that motorcyclists are more likely than other motorists to be involved in an accident.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that many motorcycle accident victims are viewed with skepticism immediately after an accident. In fact, often, motorists hoping to avoid responsibility for their own negligent actions will try to shift the blame for an accident onto the motorcyclist, knowing that there is a societal stigma against motorcycle accident victims. It is therefore incredibly important for anyone who has recently been involved in a Maryland motorcycle accident to discuss their case with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether a claim for damages may be appropriate.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in New York affirmed a jury verdict in favor of a 12-year-old boy who was struck by a car while riding his bicycle on a four-lane road. In the case, Turturro v. City of New York, the court ultimately denied the City’s challenge that it was entitled to governmental immunity. However, had this case arisen in Maryland, the jury would have been unable to award the plaintiff anything, due to a difference in the substantive law between the two states.

Bicyclist at SunsetThe Facts of the Case

Turturro was riding his bicycle on Gerritsen Avenue at around 6:30 in the evening. At the specific location where the accident occurred, the road was four lanes wide with two lanes in each direction, and the speed limit was 30 miles per hour. Turturro filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver as well as the City of New York.

Evidence presented at trial suggested that the motorist who struck Turturro was traveling at approximately 54 miles per hour. Turturro also presented evidence showing that the specific location where the accident occurred was a known high-risk area for speeding and drag racing. In fact, Turturro showed the jury several letters written by members of the community to the City, asking for something to be done about the problem.

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A 12-year-old North Carolina girl is dead and another woman has been hospitalized after a tragic accident late last month when they were struck by a passing truck while they were legally riding on the side of the road. According to a local news report, the driver of the truck has not been charged with a crime related to the death, and the cause of the accident appears to remain under investigation. The driver of the truck, a 36-year-old North Carolina man, stated that he was not able to see the cyclists in the road before he hit them. The accident occurred at just after 5:00 in the evening.

BicycleThe Girl and Her Mother Were Riding Single File on the Side of the Road

According to another report of the accident, the 12-year-old who was killed was riding bicycles with her mother at the time of the crash. According to the survivor, the two cyclists were riding near the right shoulder of the roadway and were unexpectedly hit by the truck. Neither bicyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, although it is unclear if the outcome would have been different were they wearing helmets.

Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Laws

It’s a proven fact; helmets save lives, and anyone riding a motorcycle or bicycle should wear a helmet at all times. In fact, all motorcyclists and passengers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia are required to wear helmets in order to legally operate their vehicles on public roads. However, bicyclists are not required to wear a helmet, although doing so greatly increases the chance of survival in the event of an accident. Maryland’s helmet law has stood up to several legal challenges and remained intact by justifying the restriction of rider freedom by the increase in safety and decreased severity of accidents. Sources vary on exactly how effective helmet laws are in preventing fatalities, but whether a biker is wearing a helmet at the time of the accident has nothing to do with the determination of whether another driver was negligent in causing the accident in the first place.

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One of the most common causes of serious or fatal motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle is that vehicle’s failure to yield to the motorcyclist. Whether it is because the motorist is unfamiliar with sharing the road with motorcyclists, fails to see the motorcyclist, or misjudges the speed at which a motorcycle is traveling, the root cause is the same:  negligence on the part of the motorist.

Highway at SunsetWhen a motorcyclist is injured in a motorcycle accident, the unfortunate reality is that people will often initially look for ways to blame the motorcyclist. For whatever reason, all motorcyclists get a bad reputation, although very few motorcyclists drive recklessly. In fact, less than half of all motorcycle accidents are caused by motorcyclist error. Regardless, from the police who investigate the accidents to the news media who report on them, it is all too common to see accidents prematurely labeled as the motorcyclist’s fault.

Motorcyclists who have been injured in a serious accident may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries through a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. Even if the police investigating the accident seemed biased and failed to issue a citation to the other motorist, a personal injury lawsuit may still be possible.

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Earlier this month in a Chicago suburb, a fatal bicycle accident claimed the life of one woman. According to a news report covering the tragic accident, police decided not to issue any citations to the other driver involved because there was no evidence that the driver violated any provision of the motor vehicle code.

IntersectionEvidently, the intersection where the accident occurred has a history of problems, since there are six entries into the intersection, and several of the roads come into the intersection on a curve. The article notes that the city where the intersection is located has conducted a study to come up with ideas on how to improve the safety of the intersection. For example, the city recently put up yield signs, requiring east- and west-bound drivers to yield to north- and south-bound drivers.

Authorities determined that the driver of the car that struck the bicyclist was not at fault for the accident because it appeared as though the bicyclist failed to yield to the car. At this point, no citations have been issued.

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A 19-year-old Connecticut woman was arrested last month after she collided with a man on a scooter while driving her car on a state highway near New London, Connecticut. The rider was ejected from his scooter, suffered serious injuries, and remains hospitalized in critical condition. According to a local news report, the driver of the car remained at the scene of the accident and appeared intoxicated when police and emergency officials arrived. Evidently, she was charged with DUI and released on a promise to appear. Although her current charges do not incorporate the serious injury that she caused to the motorcyclist, prosecutors may decide to press more serious charges, especially if new evidence is uncovered or the victim’s condition worsens.

ScooterDrunk Drivers Are a Danger to Everyone on the Road, Especially to Motorcyclists and Scooter Riders

Thousands of people are killed every year in alcohol-related road accidents. Although most drunk driving injuries are suffered by people in cars and trucks, motorcyclists are at a greater danger individually than people in other vehicles.

Any motorcycle or scooter enthusiast knows that other drivers sometimes fail to notice them or yield the right of way. Alcohol intoxication is described by the World Health Organization as causing symptoms that include loss of coordination, reduction in motor and visual abilities, delayed reaction time, and poor judgment. All of these effects of alcohol make the dangers motorcyclists face from cars even worse. A drunk driver with impaired judgment and delayed reaction time may decide not to check her mirrors before changing lanes or may drive at excessive speeds and without regard for others on the road. Motorcyclists and other two-wheeled vehicle riders must be vigilant to always look out for other drivers who are driving dangerously and may be drunk.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 35,092 people killed in car accidents in the United States in 2015. This was a seven percent increase from 2014, and the biggest increase in almost 50 years. There was also an increase in injuries, amounting to 2.44 million people injured in 2015.

Motorcycle at SunsetWith the exception of that year, traffic fatalities have generally decreased over the past decade. Education has improved seatbelt use and resulted in a decrease in impaired driving. However, this year marked an increase in fatalities and injuries across almost all segments of the population. The increase could be a result of an increased use of handheld devices. Indeed, the use of handheld devices among drivers has increased substantially over the past 10 years.

In addition to an increase in overall traffic fatalities, motorcyclist fatalities in the United States increased by eight percent, or 382 people, in 2015. It was the greatest increase since 2012. This resulted in a total of 4,976 motorcyclist fatalities. Motorcyclists are more likely than passenger car occupants to be killed if an accident occurs. Research has showed the fatality rate for motorcyclists is about six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. Research has also found that just 33 percent of the motorcyclists were speeding near the time of the fatal accident. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.4 million private and commercial motorcycles on the roads in 2014. Motorcycles can be dangerous, and there have been efforts to increase rider safety classes in recent years. Some states even provide insurance discounts for motorcyclists who complete motorcycle training courses.

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Motorcycle accidents have many causes, but no cause is more common than a vehicle’s failure to yield to a motorcycle. This is due in part to a motorcycle’s slim profile, making them less visible and more likely to be overlooked by other motorists. The most common failure-to-yield accident is one involving a vehicle making a left-hand turn into a motorcycle. In fact, left-turn accidents account for roughly 40% of all serious motorcycle accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle.

MotorcycleLeft-turn accidents are common in a number of routine traffic situations, including:

  • When a motorcycle is proceeding straight through an intersection, and a car is making a left turn in front of the motorcycle;
  • When a motorcycle passes a vehicle on a single or multi-lane highway; or
  • When a motorcycle attempts to make a left turn in front of another vehicle.

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A woman who was riding on the back of a motorcycle is dead, the driver of the motorcycle is seriously injured, and another woman is facing charges for driving while intoxicated and causing an accident resulting in serious injury or death. According to a local news article discussing the tragic crash, the driver of the car was making a left-hand turn out of a parking lot when she crashed directly into the motorcycle. Neither the driver nor the passenger was wearing helmets at the time of the crash, and the article stated that head trauma was a contributing cause to the passenger’s death.

Vespa with HelmetMaryland’s Helmet Law

The state of Maryland has passed a law that all motorcyclists on public roads must be wearing an approved helmet, as well as all passengers riding on the back of a motorcycle. It’s a simple fact that helmets save lives every year, and some sources estimate that 700 deaths each year could be prevented if motorcyclists and their passengers wore helmets at the time of the accident.

Although helmets are effective and should be worn by motorcyclists and their passengers, other drivers are not protected from liability when they cause an accident involving a motorcyclist without a helmet. The fact remains that according to the National Transit Safety Board, over half of fatal motorcycle accidents result in the death of one or more riders who were properly wearing an approved helmet. This statistic can be explained in part by the fact that more riders wear helmets than not, especially in Maryland since the passage of the helmet law.

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While most car accidents involve the negligence of at least one driver, the cause of some single-vehicle car accidents can be traced back to a poorly designed or improperly maintained roadway. In some cases, this may mean that the roadway obscures the vision of motorists, making it more difficult, or even impossible, for them to see what lies around a corner. In other cases, a rough or deteriorating road surface makes it difficult for vehicles to maintain control or come to a safe stop.

Sunny RoadUltimately, the duty resides with the state or federal government to design and maintain a safe network of roads and highways. However, liability for the design or maintenance of a roadway is not always present and depends on a number of factors. Generally speaking, if a government agency has knowledge that a road is dangerous, the government should take action to remedy the danger. Many times, this comes down to presenting a court with statistics of car accidents that have occurred on the same stretch of road, or submitting evidence that an inspection of the road was completed but no action taken.

Road to Be Redesigned after Several Fatal Accidents

Earlier last month, a bicyclist was killed on a stretch of road in Chicago when she was struck by a passing cement truck. According to a local news source covering the tragic accident, the 18-year-old bicyclist accidentally turned into the side of the passing cement truck. The exact details are unclear, but authorities believe that the bicyclist misjudged the length of the truck and initiated her turn too soon.

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