Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

A recently published news report discusses the tragic death of an Illinois man after a tow truck allegedly swerved into his lane of travel head-on, forcing the motorcyclist to lay down his bike to avoid a collision with the truck. Although the man operating the motorcycle was tragically killed in the incident, a passenger who was on the back of his bike survived the crash, likely as a result of the motorcyclist’s quick decision to avoid a high-speed, head-on collision with the truck. According to the article, another motorcyclist who was accompanying the deceased man on the ride also was forced to lay his bike down to avoid colliding with the truck, although this second biker survived the incident with mild injuries.

Tow TruckThe Tow Truck Driver Failed to Stop After the Fatal Crash

According to the friends with the deceased man at the time of the accident, the two motorcycles were traveling side by side on a two-lane undivided highway in Montgomery County, Illinois, when a tow truck and a vehicle it was towing approached the group in the opposite lane of travel and crossed over the center line into their direct path. The bikers were then forced to intentionally crash and dismount from the motorcycles to avoid the near-certain death that would result from crashing head-on into such a large vehicle. According to the news report, the driver of the tow truck failed to stop after the fatal accident. Authorities continue to seek the driver of a black roll-back tow truck with orange and yellow lettering in connection with the crash.

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Serious and fatal motorcycle accidents have a number of potential causes. In some cases, it is the motorcyclist who is at fault for driving recklessly, or operating the bike without the proper level of experience. However, these accidents are far less common than most would believe from reading the news media, which seems to imply that most motorcycle accidents are the fault of the motorcyclist. However, that is simply not the case.

Motorcycle HeadlightCauses of Motorcycle Accidents

Single-vehicle motorcycle accidents account for just one-third of the total of all motorcycle accidents. Of these, it is true that operator error is listed as a potential cause about 65% of the time. However, the vast majority of motorcycle accidents involve at least one other vehicle. Of those accidents, just one-third involve motorcyclist error as a potential cause. In fact, the most common cause of all motorcycle accidents is the other driver’s failure to see the motorcycle. Of course, there can be many reasons for this, including that the other vehicle’s operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The determination of fault has nothing to do with the fact that a serious motorcycle accident can have irreversible effects on a family.

Motorcyclist Liability to Passengers

Even when it has been determined that a motorcyclist was in fact at fault in a motorcycle accident, the operator, as well as their passenger, may be able to recover for their injuries through the driver’s insurance coverage. In cases where a motorcyclist causes a serious accident that injures a passenger, the passenger may be entitled to monetary compensation through the driver’s insurance policy. Indeed, this is the very reason that insurance coverage is mandatory in Maryland.

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Earlier this month, a Mississippi court issued an opinion in a motorcycle accident case brought by the estate of a man who died when he inadvertently entered a construction zone and crashed his motorcycle. In the case, Mississippi Transportation Commission v. Adams, the court made its ruling based on the governmental immunity that state, federal, and municipal governments enjoy when engaging in the discretionary functions of running a government. However, in this case, the court declined to extend the immunity to protect the government because the activity at issue — covering the white lines used to guide motorists — is “ministerial” in nature rather than “discretionary.”

Road Work SignThe Facts of the Case

Adams was riding his motorcycle on a Mississippi highway when he accidentally entered a construction zone. Once in the construction zone, Adams attempted to exit safely, but as he tried to do so, his motorcycle hit an uneven surface, and he lost control. He was ejected from his motorcycle and was then struck by two passing vehicles. He died as a result of his injuries.

His wife filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that the traffic control devices, including the white lines used to guide motorists on the highway, were not effective in preventing motorists from entering the dangerous construction zone.

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Motorcycle accidents, like car accidents, have a number of causes. Most commonly, a motorcycle collision involves one driver not paying as close attention as they should to the road and failing to see the other party. Anyone who has spent much time on a motorcycle knows that one of the most dangerous moments for motorcyclists is when cars or trucks are making a left turn. This is when the car or truck is most likely to overlook the motorcyclist and cause a collision.

IntersectionDrivers of cars and trucks like to try and shift the blame for motorcycle accidents onto the motorcyclists themselves, claiming that motorcyclists “ask for it” by choosing to ride a motorcycle. However, that is not how the law sees it. Under Maryland law, motorists owe a duty of care to everyone with whom they share the road, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, and those riding motorized scooters.

When the driver of a car or truck fails to keep a proper lookout and strikes a motorcyclist, that driver may be held accountable for their actions through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. This includes situations in which the collision was an honest “accident,” since the fact that the driver didn’t mean to cause an collision doesn’t make the recovery process any easier for those who were injured as a result.

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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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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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