Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog

Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

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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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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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 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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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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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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