Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit that presented an interesting issue that many Maryland bicycle accident plaintiffs encounter when seeking compensation for their injuries. The case involved the interpretation of a recreational use statute and required the court to determine whether the trail where the plaintiff was injured was covered under the statute’s grant of immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the trail where the plaintiff’s injury occurred was not the type the legislature intended to include within the statute’s text. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Bike TrailThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured while riding with a group of friends on a paved biking trail. Evidently, there was an area of the trail where the pavement had started to break away, due to vegetation that grew up through the pavement. The trail was paved and was painted with a yellow line to designate directional travel. The path was also used by an electric company to access power lines that ran to nearby neighborhoods. The path intersected not just with other mixed-use paths but also with several roads.

As the plaintiff was riding behind a friend, her friend fell off her bike, causing the plaintiff to fall as well. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city that was in charge of maintaining the path.

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The chances are that anyone who drives even a few miles a day has seen another motorist using a cell phone while driving. Despite the illegality of cell-phone use while driving, most motorists admit to using their phone at least occasionally while behind the wheel. Not only is using a cell phone while driving against the law, but it is also likely to cause a Maryland motorcycle accident.

MotorcyclistTo begin with, motorcycles are more difficult for motorists to see. Add to that a driver who is more focused on their cell phone than the road ahead of them, and the result is a greatly increased chance of being involved in a motorcycle accident. Of course, all Maryland drivers have an obligation to operate their vehicle in a safe manner, and a driver’s failure to do so may result in civil liability.

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Cases

In Maryland, anyone who has been injured in a motorcycle accident can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the party they believe to be responsible for their injuries. In order to succeed, an accident victim must be able to establish that the other driver was somehow negligent in the operation of their vehicle, and the other driver’s negligence caused the accident victim’s injuries.

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Semi-trucks present a danger to all motorists with whom they share the road. In part, this is due to their large and cumbersome size, which does not lend itself to being easily maneuvered in the event of an emergency situation. Additionally, the enormous size of these trucks creates large blind spots that can make it difficult for truck drivers to safely change lanes and make turns.

MotorcyclistWhile all motorists are at risk of being involved in a Maryland truck accident, perhaps none face as high a risk as motorcyclists. With their slim profile, motorcyclists are too often not seen by motorists in cars, let alone truck drivers dealing with blind spots that are several times the size of cars. Despite the difficulties truck drivers face when operating their vehicles on a crowded highway, truck drivers are always required to operate their rig in a safe and responsible manner. This includes making sure that all blind spots are clear before making a turn or lane change.

When a Maryland truck driver fails to take the adequate precautions when changing lanes or turning, they may be held liable for any injuries that were caused as a result of their negligence through a Maryland truck accident lawsuit. These cases can present a number of complex legal issues, including the determination of which parties should be named in the lawsuit. In some cases, a truck driver’s employer can be named as an additional defendant, potentially increasing the likelihood of a full and fair recovery.

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While all ages of drivers are capable of negligent driving, young drivers in particular present an especially high risk for Maryland motorcyclists. Indeed, it has long been understood that young drivers are responsible for the most Maryland motorcycle accidents when compared to other age groups. Some statistics have found that one in five teen motorists are involved in a collision of some sort each year.

Motorcycle in TunnelYoung drivers present such a high risk for a number of reasons. Of course, it goes without saying that young drivers have less experience driving. However, that factor alone does not totally account for the increased rate of accidents because new drivers who obtain a driver’s license later in life do not present as high a risk. Teens, as a group, are more likely to engage in several other risky behaviors while driving, including:

  • Driving while talking on a cell phone;
  • Texting while driving;
  • Talking to passengers in the rear seats;
  • Speeding;
  • Driving aggressively; and
  • Using poor judgment.

Can Parents Be Held Responsible for a Minor’s Accident?

In Maryland, a parent can usually only be held responsible for an accident caused by their minor child if the accident involves a crime. If there is no crime committed, it is likely that the parents of the minor will not be financially liable. However, to the extent that a child is on the parent’s insurance policy, the insurance company will be on the hook for the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case illustrating what can happen if a party fails to comply with the pre-trial discovery process. While the decision was issued by a South Carolina court, the same principles apply in Maryland motorcycle accidents.

GavelThe case arose from a motorcycle accident that the plaintiff claimed was caused by the defendant’s negligence. After the case was filed, the parties each requested discovery from the other side. In the pre-trial discovery process, a party is able to request relevant information that it believes may be in the possession of the opposing side. Once a judge approves a discovery request, the party who has the information is required to pass it. A failure to pass the ordered discovery can result in various penalties, up to and including the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim.

In this case, the defendant requested certain income tax documents from the plaintiff. The judge granted the defendant’s request and ordered that the documents be passed by December 17, 2015. About a year after the deadline, the defendant filed a motion to compel discovery with the court. The court granted the motion and also ordered that the plaintiff pay some of the defendant’s attorney’s fees that related to the prolonged litigation over the documentation.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury involved in riding a dirt bike. Specifically, the court was tasked with determining whether the defendant’s reckless conduct exposed the plaintiff to risks above and beyond those normally encountered while riding a dirt bike. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury by riding the dirt bike and that the defendant did not expose her to additional risks. This concept may be relevant to Maryland motorcycle accident victims as well.

Dirt BikeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and the defendant were in a relationship. The plaintiff was new to riding dirt bikes when she met the defendant, but the two made the activity a joint hobby. One day, the couple decided to take about a two-hour ride to some dunes. The plaintiff was hesitant, and she explained to the defendant that she did not like riding in sand because it made her uncomfortable. Evidently, the defendant was present one time when the plaintiff fell while riding in sand.

The defendant “guaranteed” that there was a hard-packed dirt road the whole way and that the plaintiff would not have to ride in the sand. The plaintiff then reluctantly agreed to go.

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Being involved in a Maryland motorcycle accident is a terrifying experience. If a motorcycle accident victim is lucky enough to walk away from the scene, it is likely that their heart is racing, their adrenaline is pumping, and they may not realize the physical trauma their body just endured.

MotorcycleTo be sure, many Maryland motorcycle accidents result in head trauma, road rash, broken bones, and other injuries that are discovered immediately after an accident upon a medical evaluation. However, some injuries may not appear for weeks or even months after an accident. At other times, what seems like a minor injury turns out to be much more serious than the accident victim originally believed. In these situations, Maryland motorcycle accident victims may pursue a claim for compensation against the at-fault driver as long as the claim is filed within the applicable statute of limitations. In Maryland, this is three years from the date of the accident.

While all cases that are filed within the statute of limitations can be heard by the court, jurors may be suspicious of claims that were filed months or years after an accident without a convincing reason. For that reason, anyone who has recently been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident should immediately consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss their case and determine if a lawsuit is appropriate.

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All drivers should be aware of Maryland traffic laws by virtue of having obtained a Maryland driver’s license. Most drivers can rely on their gut instinct when determining who has the right-of-way in a traffic situation, since the traffic laws have become ingrained in our minds through years of driving. However, there are some situations in which determining who has the right-of-way is not as easily determined.

Left Turn ArrowOne situation in which it is not always clear which person has the right-of-way is left-turn accidents. Of course, the general rule is that the vehicle turning left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle that is continuing straight. However, that is not always the case. For example, if the motorist who is continuing straight is traveling in excess of the speed limit, that driver can be said to have lost the right-of-way, potentially absolving the left-turning motorist of fault.

The idea behind the shifting right-of-way makes intuitive sense when thinking about the knowledge each driver possesses in the moments before an accident. For example, a driver waiting to make a left turn has no knowledge of how fast the oncoming vehicle is traveling and can only make a rough estimate judging by how fast the vehicle is approaching. In most cases, that motorist will reasonably assume that the oncoming motorist is traveling at the posted speed limit and will make the decision of when to turn accordingly.

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Maryland motorcycle accidents are a common occurrence, and too often, they result in the serious injury or death of the motorcyclist. Many times, these accidents are due in no part to the motorcyclist’s actions but are caused by another driver’s negligence. This may be due to the other motorist being distracted or intoxicated or driving in an aggressive manner.

MotorcycleAnyone who loses a loved one in a motorcycle accident is entitled to seek compensation for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. In Maryland, wrongful death lawsuits must be brought by a primary beneficiary, if one exists. A primary beneficiary includes a surviving spouse, parent, or child of the accident victim. If no primary beneficiary exists, a secondary beneficiary can bring the claim. This opens up the class of putative plaintiffs to anyone who was related to the accident victim by blood or marriage and was substantially dependent on the accident victim.

Once it is determined that the proper party is bringing the wrongful death claim, the claim itself must be established. This requires the plaintiff to show that some negligent act or omission of the defendant resulted in the death of their loved one. Proof of negligence can be shown through the admission of cell phone records, traffic citations, accident reports, or eyewitness testimony. If successful, damages normally include not only amounts for actual losses incurred, such as medical expenses, but also amounts for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

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Most cyclists fairly believe that as long as they have insurance, they will be covered in the event of a Maryland bicycle accident. However, insurance contracts can be tricky, and insurance companies often try to interpret insurance contracts in their own favor, potentially limiting the amount of coverage provided to a motorist and at the same time limiting the insurance company’s overall risk.

MotorcycleIn some cases, the insurance company has little to do but settle a case fairly. However, other cases present unique situations in which an insurance company’s clever argument may result in a decrease in the company’s obligations. A recent case illustrates one insurance company’s attempt to characterize the deaths of two bicyclists as a single “accident” under the terms of the policy.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was the surviving wife of a man who was killed in a bicycle accident that was caused by a negligent driver. At the time of the accident, both the plaintiff and her husband were riding on the shoulder of the road. Weather conditions were clear. At some point, a driver came from behind at about 50 miles per hour and first struck the plaintiff’s husband. He was thrown about 165 feet from his bike.

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