Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

The position of a motorcyclist on a Maryland highway is often a precarious one. With cars traveling at high rates of speed, switching lanes with only a moment’s notice, and coming to quick stops in the face of approaching traffic, motorcyclists are presented with their fair share of dangers. However, few things are more dangerous to a motorcyclist than an aggressive driver.

speedway-1198194In fact, aggressive driving is one of the leading causes of fatal Maryland motorcycle accidents. Aggressive driving can take many forms, including:

  • Speeding;
  • Quickly changing lanes;
  • Swerving in and out of lanes;
  • Failing to signal when making a turn;
  • Making illegal turns;
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way;
  • Making obscene gestures;
  • Excessively using the horn; and
  • Making verbal threats.

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Motorcycle accidents have a variety of causes, ranging from drunk or distracted drivers in cars or trucks to speeding motorcyclists and dangerous roadways. All too often, the motorcyclist himself is seen as the at-fault party, especially in single-vehicle motorcycle accidents. However, that is a gross oversimplification, and while there certainly are irresponsible motorcyclists who cause accidents that result in their injuries, most motorcycle accidents require a deeper look to determine what is going on.

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One instance in which a single-vehicle motorcycle accident may not be the fault of the motorcyclist is when the accident is caused by poor road conditions. This may mean that a construction crew didn’t adequately clean up the road and left debris that is dangerous to motorcyclists. It could also be that the roadway was not repaired after a particularly harsh winter that caused cracks in the roadway to expand and become dangerous to riders. In any event, the city or county government that is in charge of maintaining the roadway may be held liable in some circumstances when an accident is caused by a failure to maintain the roadway.

These claims differ from those alleging that the road is dangerous due to a flawed design. Those claims are less often successful because the government’s immunity to tort lawsuits attaches as long as the government agency properly researched the design of the road.

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Accidents that occur when a moving vehicle strikes one or more vehicles that are pulled off to the side of the road have unfortunately become a familiar sight. As much as we’d like to think otherwise, sometimes cars or motorcycles break down and end up on the side of the road until help arrives. Other times, an officer pulls over a motorist for a violation of the motor vehicle code, and the officer and motorist are on the side of the highway for a short time while the officer writes the citation. In either case, those on the side of the road are extremely vulnerable because they are only feet from cars and trucks sometimes passing at speeds upwards of 60 miles per hour.

motorcycle-1450689Maryland’s “Move Over” Law

To limit the dangers to those stuck on the side of the road, the Maryland Legislature passed a bill to protect roadside emergency workers, commonly dubbed the “Move Over Law.” The Move Over Law requires that drivers approaching an emergency vehicle with its lights or sirens on must move one lane over or slow down to a safer speed as they pass. Currently, the law applies to police, fire, and emergency medical vehicles, as well as other government vehicles.

There is also a related law that protects bicyclists and electric personal assistive mobility devices. This law requires that drivers give these operators a berth of at least three feet as they pass them.

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Any accident involving a motorized vehicle and a bicycle has the potential to result in tragedy. And there are no more tragic bicycle accidents than those that result in the death of the bicyclist. Perhaps the only thing that can make a fatal accident worse is when the driver involved in the accident decides to flee the scene rather than stop to see if the bicyclist they just hit needed medical care.

bike-1550923While hit-and-run accidents may shock the conscience of some, they are more common than most believe. In fact, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that approximately 1,450 fatal hit-and-run crashes occur each year. Due to the reprehensible nature of a hit-and-run accident, the Maryland state legislature has enacted strict penalties for those who are found to have fled the scene an an accident resulting in serious injury or death.

Not only can a hit-and-run driver face criminal liability, but also they may be sued in a civil court of law by the injured party or the injured party’s family. These lawsuits are based on the legal theory of negligence and require that the plaintiff prove to the court that the defendant’s negligent actions resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. The fact that a defendant fled from the scene of an accident can be a basis for liability, even if the cause of the original accident is not certain.

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After a serious or fatal motorcycle accident, the road to recovery is a long one. The victim or the victim’s family will likely have to deal with the emotional impact of the accident as well as having substantial medical costs to recoup. This is normally done through a negligence lawsuit brought against one or more of the other parties involved. However, in order to be successful in such a lawsuit, the victim or their family must show that the defendant was legally at fault for the accident.

park-it-1425288In some cases, a police investigation is sufficient to determine who caused the accident. For example, in cases involving a drunk driver who causes a motorcycle accident, the police will likely criminally charge the drunk driver. The accident victim can then benefit from the investigative work of the police department and use the department’s findings to further their own case. However, in some cases, a police investigation is not all that fruitful.

On occasion, an investigating police department will not file criminal charges because they believe the accident to be one in which no single party is at fault. Unlike the example above, this does not help the injured accident victim at all. It is in these situations that an independent, third-party investigation into the accident may be warranted to determine if there was anything that the police investigators overlooked.

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Motorcycle accidents are a scary thought. With nothing to protect the rider except a helmet, a serious or fatal injury is often the result of an accident. While there are certainly many causes of serious or fatal motorcycle accidents, one of the most common causes is another motorist’s failure to see or failure to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist. In fact, by some estimates, these two causes combined account for almost half of all motorcycle accidents.

escaping-1309188The general rule is that vehicles are required to yield to those vehicles with the right-of-way. While the situations giving rise to a potential failure-to-yield accident are countless, a few of the more common scenarios are:

  • Intersections with one or more stop signs;
  • Situations that require one vehicle to merge into another lane, such as a highway on-ramp or off-ramp;
  • Parking lots;
  • Pulling out of a driveway or shopping center exit;
  • Any time a vehicle makes a left turn in front of a motorcycle; and
  • Whenever there is a posted “Yield” sign.

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Earlier this year, a state judge approved a settlement between a motorcyclist and the person he claimed was responsible for the accident that left him seriously and permanently injured. However, the motorcyclist’s claim against the manufacturer of the helmet that he alleges failed to protect him has not yet been resolved.

Potential Parties in a Motorcycle Accident Case

motorbike-1457608While it is commonly held knowledge that a person who negligently causes a serious motorcycle accident may be held financially liable by the injured victim of the accident, that is not necessarily where liability ends. Manufacturers of motorcycle helmets represent that their product can help save lives and reduce the impact to a motorcyclist’s head in the event of an accident. When a motorcycle helmet is flawed and does not do its job, the manufacturer may be held liable under a products liability theory.

The general principle underlying products liability claims is that a manufacturer should be held accountable for what they represent to the public. There are several different product liability claims available, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. They include defective design, manufacturing defect, and breach of warranty claims. Each claim is slightly different and requires a plaintiff prove different elements in order to be successful.

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When someone gets on the back of a motorcycle, they trust the driver of that motorcycle to operate the vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. However, on occasion, the driver of the motorcycle is inexperienced or makes a poor judgment call that results in the motorcyclist and his passenger getting into either a single-vehicle accident or an accident with another vehicle.

e-247384-mIn either of these cases, the motorcyclist’s passenger may sustain serious injuries due to no fault of their own. Under Maryland law, that passenger may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against one or more parties. First, if another motorist is responsible for the accident, the passenger can seek compensation for their injuries from that other driver and their insurance company. However, if the other driver involved in the accident was not at fault, or if the accident was a single-vehicle accident, the injured passenger may consider bringing a lawsuit against the driver of the motorcycle.

Motorcyclists, along with all other motorists, owe a duty of care to their passengers as well as other drivers on the road. This duty requires that drivers operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner. Many times, passengers feel as though they cannot bring a suit against the driver of the motorcycle, either because they know the driver or the driver died in the accident. In these situations, an injured passenger should consult with an attorney to discuss their potential rights and how they can pursue compensation.

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After someone is fatally injured in a motorcycle accident, the family of the deceased is often left not just emotionally distraught but also in a bad financial place. This is especially the case if there were exorbitant medical bills, or if the deceased was an income earner. A wrongful death lawsuit is a way for the aggrieved family members of a deceased accident victim to recover financially for their loss.

Wrongful death lawsuits must be brought by the proper party in order for the court to hear the case. In Maryland, the law prefers that a “primary beneficiary” bring the lawsuit. A primary beneficiary is defined as a spouse, parent, or child. However, in some cases, even a person in one of these three categories will not be eligible. For example, a parent will not be permitted to bring a wrongful death action based on the death of their child if they were criminally involved in the child’s death.

disc-brake-1256065If there is no primary beneficiary available to bring the lawsuit, a secondary beneficiary can file a case. A secondary beneficiary is a person who is related to the deceased by blood or marriage and who was “substantially dependent” on the deceased. In some cases, there is substantial litigation as to whether a party qualifies as a secondary beneficiary. Once a party has proven to the court that they are a proper party, they must then prove that the defendant’s negligent, reckless, or intentional act caused the death of their loved one. This too can be complex, depending on the circumstances giving rise to the accident.

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Earlier this month in Cocoa, Florida, one woman was killed and another man seriously injured when they were involved in a serious motorcycle accident. According to one local Florida news report, the accident occurred in the morning hours of Monday, November 17.

cold-weather-rider-1438885Evidently, the male was operating the motorcycle with the female on the back. As the couple attempted to make a legal left-hand turn, another driver pulled into their path. The motorcyclist was unable to avoid the collision and struck the side of the other driver’s vehicle. Both the driver and the passenger were ejected from the motorcycle. Neither of the two on the motorcycle were wearing their helmets at the time of the collision.

The man was taken to the hospital and admitted in critical condition. Sadly, his passenger, a 64-year-old Florida resident, died shortly after the accident from the injuries she sustained. Police do not believe that alcohol was a factor, but the Highway Patrol is conducting a thorough investigation into the cause of the fatal motorcycle accident.

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