Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

While motorcyclists only account for a small number of the vehicles on the roads, the number of serious or fatal accidents involving motorcycles is fairly high. While some motorcycle accidents are caused by rider error, many of the fatal motorcycle accidents we see each year are caused by other motorists and their inexperience with sharing the road with motorcyclists. In fact, one of the major causes of serious and fatal motorcycle accidents is another motorist’s failure to see a motorcyclist.

Black MotorcycleWhether a motorist drives a car, truck, or motorcycle, they have a duty to those with whom they share the road. This duty requires that the motorist operate their vehicle in a manner that is safe and responsible. Of course, this also includes refraining from distracted or intoxicated driving. When a motorist violates this duty and creates a danger on the road, he or she can be held liable for the damages that result through a Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit.

Injured motorcyclists should be prepared for a fight, however. Routinely, at-fault drivers and their insurance companies try and shift the blame onto the motorcyclist. For example, if a motorcyclist is injured while not wearing a helmet, an at-fault driver may attempt to use that fact against the motorcyclist. However, the fact remains that without the at-fault driver’s negligence, there would have been no accident in the first place.

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Motorcycle accidents are often misunderstood by many members of the general public, and this shouldn’t really come as a big surprise because most people don’t ride motorcycles as a primary means of transportation. However, it is more surprising – as well as more upsetting – when police subscribe to the same stereotypes that lead others to assume that any single-vehicle motorcycle accident was the rider’s fault.

Woman with MotorcycleWhile it is true that a large percentage of motorcycle accidents are caused by user error or aggressive driving, those are certainly not the only causes. In fact, other motorists failing to see or yield to a motorcyclist is one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents. However, news reports routinely place the blame for motorcycle accidents on the rider, rather than consider alternate causes. In some cases, police will also take a “short cut” and, rather than conduct a thorough investigation into what really occurred, will claim that a motorcyclist “lost control” of the motorcycle, leading to the accident.

This can be devastating to the family of a deceased motorcyclist, not only because it leaves them without anyone to answer their questions about what happened, but also because it leaves them with little to no means of recourse.

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Motorcycle accidents are caused by a variety of poor driving habits, most commonly distracted or inattentive driving. Each year, about a quarter of all serious or fatal traffic accidents are caused by distracted driving. While society does not condemn distracting driving, as it does drunk driving, the reality is that the two are about equal in the number of deaths they cause.

Motorcycle on HighwayWhether an accident is caused by a distracted or drunk driver, or any other time a motorist is responsible for causing a serious or fatal motorcycle accident, the motorcyclist as well as his passenger may be entitled to monetary compensation based on the other driver’s negligence. To prove this kind of case in Maryland or Washington, D.C., an accident victim must be able to prove not just that the other motorist was at fault but also that the accident victim himself was not at all at fault in the accident. This is due to the doctrine of contributory negligence, which is in effect in both Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Man Killed in Florida Motorcycle Accident

Earlier this month, a state trooper in Tampa Bay, Florida was killed when the motorcycle he was operating was struck by an SUV. According to one news report, an SUV was stopped at an intersection waiting for traffic to clear. When the driver believed the intersection to be clear, she pulled out to cross the intersection. However, as she did so, she ended up striking the motorcycle, which was carrying an off-duty state trooper and his wife.

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Insurance companies are in the business of providing insurance, meaning that they are expected to turn a profit. As a result, insurance companies are constantly looking for ways to minimize the amount they must pay out regarding claims made against the people the company insures. In a recent case, an insurance company was successful in convincing a court that a chain-reaction accident was a single “accident” under the policy, and thus any recovery by the multiple plaintiffs involved was significantly limited.

car-991635_960_720Hughes v. Farmers Auto Insurance Association:  The Facts

Back in April 2011, three vehicles were involved in a serious chain-reaction car accident that claimed the life of one and injured several others. According to the court’s written opinion, the driver of an SUV was traveling the wrong way on the highway when he struck an oncoming semi-truck. The truck’s driver had attempted to avoid the collision, but he was unable to do so, and the SUV struck the rear driver’s side portion of the truck.

Moments later, a motorcyclist approached the scene of the accident. The motorcyclist saw the truck pulled off to the side of the road with its hazard lights on, but he was unable to avoid a collision with the SUV, which now lay sideways blocking several lanes of traffic. The motorcyclist collided with the SUV. As a result of his injuries, the motorcyclist had to have one of his legs amputated below the knee. The driver of the semi-truck also suffered lingering pain in his shoulder. Sadly, the driver of the SUV died in the accident.

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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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