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Riding as a passenger on a motorcycle can be dangerous, especially if the passenger does not know the operator or their driving habits. While most motorcyclists are responsible drivers, that simply is not always the case. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of all Maryland motorcycle accidents are the fault of the motorcyclist. In Maryland, common causes of motorcycle accidents include speeding or aggressive driving, distracted driving, and intoxicated driving.

When someone is injured as a passenger in a Maryland motorcycle accident, they may have a claim against several parties, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. In accidents involving more than one vehicle, a passenger can pursue a personal injury claim against the drivers of any of the other vehicles involved in the accident.

In addition, a motorcycle passenger can bring a claim against the operator of the motorcycle. While this may seem unusual because it is likely that a motorcycle passenger and rider know each other, accident claims against friends and family members are not uncommon. Accident victims should not be discouraged from pursuing a claim for compensation, regardless of the at-fault party, because the operator’s insurance company will likely be responsible for any damages.

Over the past fifteen years, bike shares have exploded in popularity, with nearly 100,000 bikes in operation at the end of 2017. In the wake of the success enjoyed by bike shares, companies started opening up scooter shares, which takes the concept of the bike share to a new level. Scooter shares enable commuters to pick up an electric scooter at any number of docks across the city and return the scooter to whichever dock is most convenient for them. Currently, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. each have scooter share programs.

Despite the popularity of scooter shares among users, there is also widespread concern that scooter shares are placing potentially dangerous vehicles in the hands of inexperienced riders. Indeed, in the wake of dozens of recent reports detailing scooter accidents resulting in serious injury or death, Washington, D.C. lawmakers are considering banning scooter shares, or at least strictly regulating them.

One recent accident involved two people who suffered serious injuries after allegedly running a red light. According to a local news report, a man and woman were riding on the same scooter when the driver ran a red light and crashed into an SUV. The SUV, having a green signal, had the right-of-way. Both people on the scooter suffered serious injuries, but are expected to recover. The city’s police chief noted that, while there did not appear to be a law against two riders sharing a scooter, it would seem to be an obvious safety issue. He also reminded riders that electric scooters are not toys and are potentially dangerous vehicles that must follow the posted traffic rules at all times.

Most Maryland motorcycle accidents are often unavoidable, in that there is nothing that can be done to prevent the accident. By the time another driver makes a mistake, it is typically too late. All a motorcyclist can do to protect themselves is take precautions to ensure that they have done everything in their control to reduce the chances of a fatal accident. This includes always wearing a helmet and keeping a lookout for dangerous drivers.

Of course, it isn’t a motorcyclist’s duty to avoid all accidents, and wearing a helmet doesn’t guarantee against injury. Motorcyclists have to rely on other drivers doing their part. Sadly, that is an expectation that is too frequently left unmet.

Late last month, an accident between a pickup truck and several motorcyclists killed seven and injured several others. According to a local news report, the accident occurred on a New Hampshire highway, just before 6:30 in the evening. Evidently, a group of 10 motorcycles was traveling eastbound as they approached a westbound pickup truck towing a flatbed trailer. The pickup truck inexplicably crossed over the center median and collided with the group of motorcycles. Seven drivers and passengers were killed, and three were hospitalized as a result of the accident.

As E-scooters continue to grow in popularity across the country, more and more cities are embracing scooter-shares. Currently, both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore have scooter share programs. A scooter share operates on the same model as bike shares, and allows for users to rent scooters at various docks around the city on a short-term basis and then return the scooters to any other dock. Scooter shares are popular among commuters who do not own a car and have a long commute that may not be comfortable on a bicycle.

Scooter shares, however, present some concerning problems. According to a recent news report, rider irresponsibility combined with poor regulations and lax oversight has created a dangerous situation in which both those who operate the scooters, as well as other motorists, are at risk. Indeed, according to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 20 injuries per 100,000 scooter trips, which is a remarkably high number. Even more startling is the fact that over half of those injuries are serious head injuries. Below are a few interesting statistics regarding e-scooter accidents:

  • In Austin, Texas, there were 193 emergency-room visits due to scooter accidents in the three months following the opening of a scooter share.

Determining liability and the appropriate amount of damages in a Maryland multi-vehicle accident can be a complicated process. In many situations, other motorists will attempt to evade responsibility by blaming each other for causing the accident. This can make it more difficult for those injured in the accident to recover for their injuries. To avoid placing the burden of collecting from each defendant individually, Maryland follows the law of joint and several liability, meaning an accident victim can file a lawsuit for damages against both parties and recover the full amount of damages from any party the jury determines is liable.

Recently, an off-duty Maryland police officer died after he was hit by two vehicles on the Beltway. According to a local news report, the police officer was driving his motorcycle when a sedan lost control and veered into his lane. The driver of the sedan reported that he was trying to pass a slow-moving street sweeper. The police officer was thrown over a barrier and landed in the northbound lane. The police officer was then struck by two additional vehicles. He died from his injuries at the hospital later that evening. It is unclear which parties are at fault for the accident, but initial reports do not indicate that the police officer was responsible for the accident. Maryland State Police are still investigating the crash to determine what parties are at fault.

Maryland car accident victims can recover from multiple parties under the theory of joint and several liability. Joint and several liability allows a victim to recover damages either from each defendant separately or collectively. A typical scenario is when two drivers merge onto the highway and cause an accident or injury to a third driver. In these instances, a judge or jury will determine whether more than one party is responsible for the accident. If it is determined that multiple parties shared responsibility, each defendant will be responsible for all of the damages owed to the plaintiff.

Maryland motorcycle accidents occur in a split second, and most riders do not have time to react before an imminent collision. However, riders should always be prepared to lay the bike down if the need arises. Of course, laying down a motorcycle is a big decision that will result in the damage to the bike and may result in serious injury to the rider. Thus, riders only should ditch a motorcycle in the event of an immediate and unavoidable motorcycle accident.

As we have noted in previous posts, Maryland accident law is unique in that it precludes an accident victim who is partially at fault from pursuing a claim against any other driver involved in the accident. This concept is referred to as the doctrine of contributory negligence; if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent by a judge or jury, then they can recover nothing for their injuries. While the doctrine of contributory negligence is outdated, and most other jurisdictions in the United States have shifted away from its use, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. still employ the doctrine.

Laying down a motorcycle is technically a choice. However, it is not a choice that any rider wants to make. The question arises, then, if a motorcyclist chooses to lie down their bike are they then foreclosed from pursuing a Maryland personal injury claim against another driver whose negligence forced them to make the decision. In reality, a rider’s decision to lie down their motorcycle should be viewed as the rider attempting to mitigate their own damages; however, courts do not preclude defendants from arguing that the plaintiff laid the bike down unnecessarily. As is often the case in the law, these are fact-specific determinations that will come down to the specific circumstances of each individual accident. So, unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question.

The opioid crisis, by nearly all accounts, has turned into an epidemic. While opioid medication may be prescribed with the best of intentions, the addictive nature of the medication too often results in patients becoming dependent on the medication. Indeed, it is estimated that 20-30% of all patients who are prescribed opioids abuse the medication. Considering that there are approximately 214 million prescriptions written each year for opioid medication, the number of people who abuse the medication is staggering.

The “high” that opioid users get from the medication impairs their ability to drive. It is commonly understood that opioids cause drowsiness and impair cognitive functioning. Users may have a hard time fighting off sleep, and they can “nod off” unexpectedly. At the same time, the drug reduces the user’s ability to make rational decisions. Given the number of people who take opioid medication and the significant effects it has on their ability to drive a car safely, it is no surprise that opioids are involved in an estimated 20% of all drugged driving accidents.

If a driver who is under the effects of opioid medication causes a Maryland motorcycle accident, victims who were injured in the accident can pursue a claim for compensation against the driver. Importantly, it is not essential for the purposes of a personal injury case for the victim to prove that the at-fault driver was taking the drug illegally; the relevant question is whether the driver was legally negligent. Driving under the influence of opioid medication – even if prescribed – may constitute negligence and can be the basis of a Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

The tragedy of losing a loved one in a Maryland motorcycle accident is an experience that no one should ever have to go through. However, on average, there are approximately 70 fatal Maryland motorcycle accidents each year. While some of these accidents are attributable to rider error, many involve negligent motorists who failed to take account of their surroundings.

Under Maryland law, when a person is killed due to another’s negligence, the surviving loved ones of the accident victim can pursue a Maryland wrongful death claim against all responsible parties. It is important the families of accident victims understand that Maryland law requires that a proper party file a wrongful death claim. Under Maryland Code § 3-904, a “primary beneficiary” must be the one to bring the claim. Primary beneficiaries are defined as the “wife, husband, parent, or child of the deceased.” If no primary beneficiary exists, “any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased” can bring the claim. These are referred to as secondary beneficiaries.

Once a party establishes that they are a proper party, they must be able to prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of their loved one’s death. In this sense, a wrongful death case is similar to a traditional Maryland personal injury case, requiring a plaintiff to establish the four elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach, causation, and damages.

In most Maryland motorcycle accidents, the parties involved each has their own version of what happened in the moments leading up to the crash. Often, this results in both sides telling their story to the jury, and the jury determining which of the parties’ version of the events is most credible. Of course, the other evidence presented at trial also plays an important role in assessing a witness’ credibility.

One particularly strong type of evidence is a motorist’s decision to leave the scene after an accident before the police arrive. Jurors may rightly wonder why an innocent driver would attempt to flee the scene of an accident. Additionally, a motorist’s decision to leave the scene while there are others who were involved in the crash and may be in immediate need of medical attention shows a certain callousness. For these reasons, Maryland hit-and-run accidents are often strong cases for the accident victim.

After any Maryland traffic accident resulting in injury, property damage, or death, all motorists involved in the collision must stop and provide their name, address, vehicle registration, and insurance information. Additionally, motorists must “render reasonable assistance” to anyone who was injured in the accident when the injured party requests assistance or if it is reasonably apparent that they require medical assistance. A motorist’s failure to comply with these requirements can not only result in criminal sanctions, but can also be the basis of an independent Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

In April 2019, a woman was killed in a Maryland motorcycle accident when a dump truck backed into a motorcycle she was riding on as a passenger. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the collision occurred around 11:30 in the morning in St. Mary’s County, near the intersection of Mt. Wolf Rd. and Chappelear Drive.

Evidently, a group of county public works employees were working alongside the road. One of the crew members passed the work crew while driving a dump truck. The employee pulled the dump truck over to the side of the road, intending on backing the truck up next to the crew. However, as the driver began to back up, he ran into a motorcycle. The driver told police that he checked his mirrors before proceeding to back up, but that he did not see the motorcycle behind the truck.

The motorcycle passenger was taken to the hospital, but soon after died as a result of the injuries she sustained in the accident. The driver of the motorcycle was also hospitalized with serious injuries, but is expected to recover.

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