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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When an collision between two vehicles occurs, those in the immediate vicinity of the accident may have a difficult time avoiding the effects of the accident. These multi-vehicle crashes, or chain-reaction accidents, have a capability to inflict massive damage and threaten the lives of all involved. This is especially true regarding motorcyclists, who, due to the nature of their vehicles, have less protection and may require additional distance to come to a complete and controlled stop.

Motorcycle CrashThat being the case, a motorcyclist who is unable to avoid a collision is not necessarily at fault for his inability to do so. Neither is a motorcyclist to blame for the injuries they sustained in an accident, even if the injuries would not have been as severe had the motorcyclist been driving a car or a truck. Instead, courts will look at whether the motorcyclist did anything to cause the accident. If it is determined that the motorcyclist was merely a victim and did not contribute to the accident, the motorcyclist or their surviving family members may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at-fault driver or drivers.

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Motorcycle accidents are an unfortunate reality in Maryland and the surrounding area. With the many busy highways and winding country roads across the state, it is inevitable that motorcycles – like other vehicles on the road – will be involved in serious accidents. Sadly, these motorcycle accidents often result in the death of those aboard the motorcycle, both drivers and passengers. Too often, these accidents are preventable.

MotorcycleDrivers of cars and trucks are responsible for the majority of motorcycle accidents. Whether it is failing to notice a motorcycle traveling next to them or misjudging the speed at which an oncoming motorcycle is approaching, a lapse in judgment or a momentary distraction can result in a driver causing a fatal motorcycle accident. When this occurs, the surviving loved ones in the wake of the accident are left grieving.

In Maryland, those who have lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the parties they believe are responsible for the death of their loved one. These lawsuits must be brought by a proper party – usually a spouse, parent, or child. However, in some cases, courts will allow other relatives through blood or marriage to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit. Once the court determines that the proper party is bringing the lawsuit, it must be established that the named defendant was responsible for the accident that caused the death of their loved one. A skilled personal injury attorney can assist family members with this task.

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Over the past few years, the advent of self-driving cars has brought much controversy and conversation regarding the safety of the technology. While early versions of self-driving technology have presented some challenges, it is expected that self-driving technology will continue to improve. However, the widespread use of self-driving technology presents both legal and practical questions.

Yellow MotorcycleThe primary concern with self-driving technology is the safety of those on the road, including motorcyclists. Currently, motorcyclists are disproportionately represented in statistics recording fatal accidents. While motorcyclists account for only 1% of the population of drivers, they account for 14% of all traffic deaths. However, according to one industry news report, as the self-driving technology becomes more popular in newer models of vehicles, the dangers for motorcyclists may decrease.

The article uses left-turn accidents as an example. Left-turn accidents currently account for roughly 1,000 motorcyclist deaths per year, but these accidents rarely involve any fault on the part of the motorcyclist. In fact, most of these accidents are due to a driver either failing to see the motorcycle or failing to properly judge the speed at which the motorcycle is approaching. However, with self-driving technology, it will be possible for the two vehicles to “communicate” with each other, eliminating the chance that the car’s operator is unaware of an approaching motorcycle. Additionally, sophisticated algorithms will determine the speed at which an oncoming vehicle is approaching and prevent a motorist from pulling in front of a motorcycle, decreasing the risk of an accident.

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Motorcycle accident victims have a long road to recovery. At first, there are the physical injuries and emotional trauma that are common after most motorcycle injuries. However, even after the body and mind have healed as best they can, accident victims are often left with recurring symptoms, lingering injuries, and mounting medical bills. As a result, many motorcycle accident victims choose to file personal injury lawsuits against the party or parties responsible for causing the accident resulting in their injuries.

Street SweeperWhen a motorcycle accident victim files a personal injury lawsuit, they will need to name all potentially liable parties who may have caused or contributed to the accident. In some cases, this is an easy task. However, in other cases, especially single-vehicle accidents, determining which parties are at fault can be difficult. In some cases, the poor design of a road or a poorly maintained road can create a very dangerous situation for motorcyclists.

An experienced personal injury attorney can be of great assistance to victims when the only potentially liable parties are government entities. This is because many times government entities are protected from some personal injury lawsuits due to governmental immunity.

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Drunk drivers present a danger to all motorists on the road, but motorcyclists are likely those who are the most at risk of serious injury or death when a drunk driver gets behind the wheel. It seems that drivers of cars and trucks have a difficult enough time keeping an eye out for motorcyclists when they are sober. Add alcohol or drugs to the mix, and the chances of a serious or fatal accident skyrocket.

Highway at NightWhen a motorcycle accident is caused by a suspected drunk driver, the injured party may pursue a negligence lawsuit against the at-fault party. Thankfully, the law allows for the injured party to take a “short cut” when it comes to proving their claim against the drunk driver through the doctrine of negligence per se.

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that has been in effect in the United States for many years. It stands for the idea that if a defendant is found to have violated a law that was in place to protect the public from a certain danger or harm, a plaintiff who suffered the kind of harm the law was designed to prevent does not need to present evidence of the defendant’s negligence at a civil trial for damages. In the drunk driving context, this means that if a driver causes a serious or fatal motorcycle accident, and he was drunk at the time, the injured party doesn’t need to prove that the drunk driver was legally negligent. This may seem obvious, but the doctrine of negligence per se can make establishing liability in a case much easier and faster.

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Whenever a driver’s negligence causes a fatal motorcycle accident, the surviving family of the deceased may wish to pursue financial compensation for the loss of their loved one. In Maryland, this is done through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Motorcycle at SunsetWrongful death lawsuits in Maryland must meet several criteria before a party is entitled to financial recovery. First, the potential plaintiff must establish that they are the proper party to bring the lawsuit. In Maryland, the law requires that a “primary beneficiary” bring the lawsuit, if one exists. A primary beneficiary is defined as a spouse, parent, or child of the deceased. If there is no living primary beneficiary, a “secondary beneficiary” may be able to file the lawsuit. A secondary beneficiary is anyone related to the deceased by blood or marriage who relied on the deceased for financial support.

Once a party has established they are the proper plaintiff, they must prove the elements of a wrongful death claim. Essentially, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed some duty of care to the deceased and that the defendant’s violation of that duty resulted in their death. In most motorcycle accident cases, the duty owed to the deceased is easily established because all motorists owe a duty of care to those with whom they share the road. However, the remaining elements of a wrongful death case must still be proven.

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