While all motorcycle accidents have the potential to result in serious injuries or death, hit-and-run accidents are especially dangerous. Primarily, this is because depending on the surrounding circumstances, the injured motorcyclist may be left on the side of the road with no way to contact authorities.

MotorcycleAs a general rule, a motorist who is involved in an accident of any kind must stop after the accident and exchange information with the other motorists involved in the accident. Additionally, motorists may have a duty to ensure that anyone who was injured in the accident receives timely medical attention. Most often, this includes calling 911 to make sure that the authorities are aware of the accident and can send the appropriate medical personnel.

When a motorist is involved in an accident and fails to stop and render assistance to the other parties involved, that driver may be held liable for any injuries resulting from the accident. This may even be the case if the motorist was not the one who was solely responsible for causing the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in South Dakota issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case that was brought by a man who was injured when he was unable to stop in time to avoid a line of traffic that had built up as a result of a previous accident. The case was brought against the drunk driver who had caused the original accident. However, due to numerous factors, the court held that the drunk driver’s negligent actions were not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Cloudy RoadThe Facts of the Case

At around 3:00 p.m. on August 5, 2012, an intoxicated motorcyclist failed to negotiate a curve in the highway and ended up driving off the road into a ditch. There was no indication that the motorcycle or any debris was remaining in the road following the accident. The Highway Patrol responded, and the motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Highway Patrol began an accident reconstruction project at around 4:00 p.m., and at this time, traffic was flowing in both directions. A highway patrol officer was stationed to the east of the accident to warn approaching motorists.

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Motorized scooters have become a popular alternative to bicycles and motorcycles, especially for those living in urban areas. However, like those who use other two-wheeled vehicles, scooter drivers are at an increased risk for being seriously injured when they are involved in an accident. Therefore, those who drive motorized scooters should take every precaution to avoid serious accidents, including wearing a helmet.

Retro ScooterThat being said, no matter how careful a motorist is, some accidents are unavoidable. This is especially the case when other motorists are driving aggressively or driving while distracted or intoxicated. When another motorist causes a scooter accident, the accident victim is entitled to seek compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

In order to be successful in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit, an accident victim must be able to prove that the named defendant acted negligently and that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries. In situations in which the other motorist was issued a traffic citation or was criminally charged for their role in causing the accident, this evidence will most likely be admissible in a subsequent personal injury case and can help the plaintiff prove their case. While this process sounds simple in principle, many hurdles can arise throughout the course of a personal injury lawsuit, and it is best to consult with a dedicated injury attorney prior to filing a case.

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While motorcyclists should take every precaution while on the road, it is not a motorcyclist’s duty to prevent accidents that may be caused by other negligent drivers. While there are a number of common causes of motorcycle accidents, drunk driving in particular presents an especially serious risk to motorcyclists, who have less protection than other motorists and often have less time to react to hazards.

Beer TapsMotorcyclists are already at an increased risk of being involved in a serious or fatal accident. Indeed, a recent study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute suggests that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than those who drive cars or trucks. It is estimated that approximately 21% of all at-fault motorists involved in traffic accidents have a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit.

Drunk drivers who cause a serious or fatal motorcycle accident may be held liable through a Maryland personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If successful, an injured motorcycle accident victim can recover compensation to reimburse them for their medical bills and lost wages. In addition, compensation packages may include amounts to cover future medical treatment, if necessary, as well as any pain and suffering caused by the accident.

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There can be little doubt that police officers have a difficult job. The nature of the job requires that they weigh the risks and benefits of a course of action and make a decision quickly. In some cases, police officers make the wrong decision, and someone is hurt as a result.

Police CarAs a general rule, police officers are entitled to immunity from personal injury lawsuits, as long as they are acting within certain boundaries. Normally, a mere showing of negligence will not be enough to overcome police officer immunity. However, when a police officer causes a serious injury due to their reckless conduct, liability may be appropriate.

One common instance in which innocent bystanders may be injured by the actions of police is in a high-speed chase. High-speed chases, by their very nature, involve high speeds and likely also involve numerous violations of the motor vehicle code. This type of driving puts not only the police at risk but also the general public. In fact, in 2014, there were over 375 people killed in police high-speed chases.

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In some cases, the parties responsible for a serious accident are clear. This can make determining against whom to file a personal injury case clear. In other cases, however, figuring out the proper defendant takes a substantial amount of investigation and research.

MotorcyclistDetermining Liability in Motorcycle Accidents and Whom to Name in Subsequent Claims

In general, most individuals are liable for their negligent acts. However, some individuals may not be liable because they lack the requisite capacity to form intent, and other individuals or entities may be protected through immunity or other laws. For example, children may be too young to be held liable — although their parents may be separately liable in some circumstances. In Maryland, generally, children under the age of seven are thought to be unable to form the requisite intent.

The state and local governments may also be held liable in some circumstances. For example, the State of Maryland can be sued in situations provided by statute. Generally, in claims against state and local governments, plaintiffs must also give notice to certain individuals within a specified time period.

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Earlier this month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by an injured bicyclist against the federal government. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which generally grants immunity to government actors acting in a discretionary manner. Ultimately, the court determined that the government employees were acting in a discretionary manner and that the government was entitled to immunity.

Forest TrailThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was with a friend, mountain biking in the De Soto National Forest. The two began their ride on the Couch Loop Trail. However, the plaintiff did not stop at the trail-head’s bulletin board, which displayed a sign indicating that the loop was closed.

The plaintiff rode on the trail for a while, before taking an “alternate route.” This alternate route contained some obstacles that were illegally built by members of a local bike club. The plaintiff rode over one of the obstacles and fell, seriously injuring herself. She then filed a premises liability lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that it was negligent in maintaining the trail, as well as negligent for failing to warn her about the dangerous conditions present on the trail.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Mississippi issued a written opinion that should serve as a warning to anyone injured in a motorcycle accident and planning on filing a claim with either the other driver’s insurance company or even their own insurance company. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss how an insurance policy’s per-person limit can limit or prevent derivative claims from being filed by the loved ones of the injured party.

MotorcyclistThe Facts of the Case

The case was filed by two plaintiffs, who were married. The husband was involved in a motorcycle accident that was caused by another party. His wife was not with him at the time of the accident. After the accident, three insurance provisions were triggered:

  • The at-fault driver’s policy;
  • The plaintiffs’ insurance policy that covered the motorcycle; and
  • The plaintiffs’ insurance company that covered two other vehicles.

Both of the plaintiffs’ policies had an underinsured motorist provision, whereby the policy would compensate the policyholder in the event that an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage was insufficient to cover the policyholder’s injuries.

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One of the major causes of motorcycle and bicycle accidents that involve another vehicle is the other driver’s failure to see the motorcycle or bicycle. Most often, the failure of a driver to see a motorcyclist or bicyclist is caused by one of several things. Perhaps most common is the driver’s inattention at the time of the accident. With the prevalence of text messaging and cell-phone navigation, drivers are spending more and more time on their phones while behind the wheel, even though it is against the law in most cases.

BicycleAnother common cause of a driver’s failure to take notice of a motorcyclist or bicyclist is the slim frame that these smaller vehicles have. Most motorists are accustomed to sharing the road with other cars and trucks, and are able to adjust their behavior when they must share the road. However, the average motorist sees a motorcyclist far less often than they see other cars. This can lead a motorist to overlook a nearby motorcycle, and it can also make it difficult for a motorist to gauge the speed at which an oncoming motorcycle is approaching.

Regardless of why motorists routinely fail to notice motorcyclists and bicyclists, at the end of the day, it is the motorist’s responsibility to be familiar with their surroundings. If a motorist causes an accident because they didn’t see a motorcyclist or bicyclist, that will not necessarily be a valid reason to avoid liability.

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All motorcycle accidents are terrible, but hit-and-run accidents are some of the worst, not just because the hit-and-run driver has shown a total disregard for the safety and wellbeing of a fellow motorist, but because the injured party might have to wait for minutes – or even hours – for help to arrive if they are unable to make the call themselves.

MotorcycleWhile anyone injured in a hit-and-run accident may be entitled to compensation from the responsible party to help them cover the costs of their injuries, finding the at-fault individual is necessarily the first step in the process. In many cases, responding police personnel will look for eyewitnesses, nearby video footage, or even physical evidence left at the scene, such as damaged car parts. This evidence can be crucial in helping police locate the alleged hit-and-run driver.

Once a hit-and-run driver is located, establishing liability may be easier than in a traditional car accident, depending on the specific circumstances of the accident and injuries. For example, if an accident victim’s injuries were worsened due to the lack of timely medical care, this can likely be attributable to the hit-and-run driver. It is also important to keep in mind that it is illegal to leave the scene of any accident, regardless of who was at fault.

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