Earlier this year, a state supreme court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case raising an important issue for Maryland bicycle accident victims who were injured while riding on public property. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a government landowner was entitled to immunity under the state’s recreational use statute when the path where the injury occurred was used for both recreational and non-recreational purposes.

Dirt RoadFinding that there was no language in the state’s recreational use statute requiring that land be used exclusively for recreational purposes in order for immunity to attach, the court determined that the government landowner was entitled to immunity. Thus, the accident victim’s case was dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding a bicycle with her niece along an asphalt path that was owned and maintained by the defendant municipality. The path was designated as a non-motorized path, and it was commonly used for recreational purposes. However, the path was labeled as “mixed use” and was also used by some commuters as a way to get to work.

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Riding a motorcycle on Maryland roads always presents some level of risk. However, that risk is heightened when traveling in a parking lot. While Maryland parking lot accidents are not normally serious when they involve cars or trucks, when the vehicle involved is a motorcycle or scooter, the chance of the accident resulting in serious injuries or death is greatly increased.

Parking LotIt’s common knowledge that, in general, motorists have a difficult time seeing motorcyclists while on the road, due to their slim profile. In a parking lot setting, however, the risks of not being seen are even greater, due to the number of other cars and trucks that could potentially obscure a motorist’s view. Additionally, motorists too often speed or drive aggressively through parking lots, not realizing the dangers that such conduct creates for those around them.

Scooter Operator Killed in Parking Lot Accident

Earlier this month, a 73-year-old woman was struck by another vehicle while riding an electric scooter in a suburban parking lot. According to a local news source covering the accident, the collision took place in the morning hours.

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Earlier this month, one woman was killed and another man seriously injured when they were cut off by a vehicle making a left turn in front of the motorcycle the two were riding. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, responding officers found one helmet at the scene that had been improperly secured by one of the victims.

Scooter HelmetThis tragic case brings up an important issue that many defendants in Maryland motorcycle accident cases try to raise:  the fact that the victim was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. To be sure, all motorcyclists should wear a helmet to protect themselves when they are riding. And it is true that, in some cases, a helmet can prevent serious or fatal injuries. However, under Maryland law, evidence of helmet non-use is inadmissible in a personal injury trial.

If wearing a helmet is required by law in Maryland, why then is the fact that a motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet inadmissible in a personal injury trial? The answer has to do with how liability is determined in Maryland personal injury lawsuits.

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When a motorist causes a Maryland motorcycle accident, they may face two types of liability:  criminal and civil. A criminal case is brought by the local prosecuting authority and is intended to punish an at-fault motorist for the conduct that caused the accident. Thus, when a motorist is found guilty of a criminal offense, they may be fined, placed on probation, or sentenced to a term of incarceration. While criminal cases following motorcycle accidents are appropriate in some cases, the focus of these cases is not to help the accident victim recover from their injuries.

Nighttime IntersectionIf a motorcycle accident victim hopes to seek compensation for their injuries, they should file a civil Maryland personal injury lawsuit. Unlike criminal cases, the sole purpose of a civil lawsuit is to provide the victims of another person’s negligence with compensation for their injuries. This may include amounts for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and a decrease in the enjoyment of life, as well as for any pain and suffering the accident victim has endured as a result of the accident.

In some cases, a driver may face both civil and criminal liability for their role in causing an accident. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a civil case for damages is not contingent upon the filing of a criminal case against the same driver. Similarly, even if a motorist is found not to have been criminally liable for an accident, an accident victim may still be able to succeed in a civil case for damages because civil cases are held to a lower standard of proof than criminal cases.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates an important point to those who have been injured in a Maryland boating accident and believe their injuries were due to the inadequate warnings or defective construction or design of the vehicle. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case against the manufacturer of a personal water craft (PWC) was sufficient as a matter of law.

WaverunnerUltimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case was not sufficient because it relied wholly on expert testimony that was found to be inadmissible at trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding as the fourth passenger on a PWC that was being operated by a 10-year-old child. At the time, the plaintiff had consumed some amount of alcohol, although it was unclear as to her level of inebriation. The plaintiff was wearing a bikini and was not wearing a wetsuit.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case involving allegations that a local police department was liable for an accident that resulted from a high-speed chase that was initiated by police officers. The case is important for all potential Maryland motorcycle accident plaintiffs to understand because it illustrates the importance of ensuring that all procedural requirements are met when pursing a claim against a state or local government.

MailboxThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were riding a motorcycle on the highway when they were struck head-on by another motorist who was traveling the wrong way. One of the motorcyclists was killed in the accident, and the other was seriously injured. As it turns out, the other motorist was fleeing from police when he entered the highway going the wrong direction. As soon as the motorist got on the highway, police abandoned their pursuit.

The surviving motorcyclist believed she had a claim against the police department, arguing that it was responsible for the accident because the officers were negligent in initiating the pursuit. However, the plaintiff did not provide notice of the claim to the local government, as was required by law, but instead proceeded to file a personal injury claim with the court.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raised an interesting issue that may arise in Maryland motorcycle accident cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the plaintiff’s negligent entrustment claim against a rental car agency was sufficient as a matter of law, based on the fact that the agency rented a vehicle to a customer who was under 25 years old in violation of company policy.

Ford MustangThe court ultimately concluded that the fact the agency rented to an underage driver, without any other specific knowledge of the driver’s habits or predispositions, was insufficient to show that the agency should have known the customer posed a risk to others.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle accident when the driver of a Ford Mustang made a left turn in front of the plaintiff’s motorcycle, cutting him off. As it turns out, the 21-year-old driver of the Mustang had rented the car from the defendant rental car agency. The rental car agency had a policy not to rent vehicles to those under 25 years of age. However, the owner of the agency made an exception and rented the vehicle despite the customer’s age.

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Maryland offers thousands of miles of beautiful wooded roads, perfect for those looking to take a relaxing ride. However, anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on a motorcycle knows the anxiety that comes along with driving a motorcycle. No matter how confident a motorcyclist is in their own abilities, there is always the chance that another driver will cause an unavoidable accident.

SportsterAs with other auto accidents, there are many causes of Maryland motorcycle accidents. However, many of the major causes of motorcycle accidents are different from the causes of car accidents. For example, one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is when a driver makes a lane change into a motorcyclist. While this does occur among cars and trucks, it is much less common because these vehicles have a much larger profile and are easier to spot. Another common danger motorcyclists face is a car door that suddenly opens directly into a motorcyclist’s path, leaving little to no time for reaction.

Of course, other causes, such as drunk driving and distracted driving, are constant threats regardless of which type of vehicle a motorist is operating. In fact, it is estimated that these two causes alone explain about half of all motorcycle accidents. Lawmakers have tried to reduce instances of drunk and distracted driving by criminalizing the conduct, but some motorists do not seem to get the point.

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Not all accidents are created equal. Indeed, Maryland law attaches criminal consequences only to some types of accidents, such as Maryland DUI accidents and hit-and-run accidents. Other types of accidents, while not necessarily excusable, will not result in criminal charges, even if someone is found to have been at fault. This shows that, in the eyes of the law, there are various levels of culpability depending on the type of accident involved.

TachometerHit-and-run accidents are among the most strictly punished types of accidents, and for good reason. When someone flees the scene of an accident, they are not only attempting to evade financial and potentially legal responsibility for their actions, but they are also putting people’s lives in jeopardy by failing to get accident victims the help they desperately need.

As noted above, Maryland hit-and-run accidents can be punished criminally by the local prosecutor’s office. However, the victims of a Maryland hit-and-run accident can also pursue a civil claim for financial compensation from the at-fault party once they are located. Hit-and-run lawsuits can, although not always, present unique legal issues, especially when the identity of the driver is at issue. Thus, it is important for anyone considering a Maryland hit-and-run lawsuit to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

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As spring approaches, and the weather starts to get warmer, more and more Marylanders are going to start parking the car in the garage and instead opt to get around on a motorcycle. Using a motorcycle as a primary means of transportation has a number of benefits; however, one of those benefits is not safety. Indeed, each year, there are hundreds of Maryland motorcycle accidents, many of these resulting in serious injuries or death.

Yield SignIt’s a known fact that riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. However, only so much of that danger is within a motorcyclist’s control. While it is estimated that approximately half of all motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcycle, of those accidents involving two or more vehicles, most are caused by another driver’s negligence.

Establishing liability after a Maryland motorcycle accident can be difficult, depending on the specific facts of the case. One of the primary difficulties motorcycle accident victims face is the doctrine of contributory fault. Under the doctrine of contributory fault, an accident victim cannot legally recover compensation for their injuries from any other party if the accident victim is determined to have shared responsibility in causing the accident. Thus, it is very important that motorcycle accident victims reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss their case. An experienced attorney can help accident victims present a compelling case for compensation, reducing the chance that a defendant is able to shift a small portion of fault onto the victim, which would essentially destroy their case.

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