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In Maryland, the effects of a motorist’s reckless driving can often be severe, especially for those riding motorcycles. Indeed, Maryland motorcycle accidents are among the most fatal type of traffic accident, and reckless driving is a major cause of these accidents. Under section 21-901.1 of the Transportation Code, reckless driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle “[i]n wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property,” or “[i]n a manner that indicates a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

Not only are drivers who drive recklessly subject to criminal penalties, but they may also be liable for negligence or gross negligence claims. Drivers in Maryland have a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. This duty requires drivers to exercise the degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances. The extent of a driver’s duty may change depending on conditions of the weather, the time of day, and other circumstances.

For an accident victim to succeed in a Maryland personal injury claim, they must show that the defendant acted negligently by acting or failing to act in a certain way. General negligence claims require showing that: the defendant had a legal duty to use a certain level of care toward the plaintiff; the defendant failed to meet the standard of care required; the plaintiff suffered damages; and the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care caused the plaintiff’s damages. In more extreme cases, gross negligence claims may be pursued. Gross negligence refers to willful and wanton misconduct, or a wanton or reckless disregard for others.

In a typical Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish the core elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages. However, when there is a statute that governs the defendant’s conduct in a specific situation, the plaintiff may be able to take a “shortcut.” In other words, the existence of a statute can be evidence of a legal duty, and the defendant’s violation of the law can be evidence that the defendant breached that duty.

To establish a Maryland negligence per se claim, the plaintiff first needs to prove that the statute covers the defendant’s conduct. Typically, to do this, the plaintiff must show that the law was passed to prevent the defendant’s behavior that led to the accident and that it was passed to protect from the type of harm the plaintiff suffered. Once the court acknowledges that negligence per se applies, the plaintiff need only show 1.) that the defendant violated the statute; and 2.) that the defendant’s violation of the law was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. There is no requirement that the plaintiff proves the defendant’s knowledge of the statute.

For example, if the defendant causes serious injury to the plaintiff while the defendant was driving while intoxicated, the plaintiff may be able to benefit from negligence per se. In this situation, the drunk-driving statute was clearly passed to prevent drunk driving because drunk driving poses a serious risk to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. From here, the plaintiff would only need to show that the defendant violated the statute and that the defendant’s decision to drive while under the influence was what led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Historically, the state and federal government were entitled to immunity from most types of liability. Thus, unless a government entity specifically consented to being named in a lawsuit, the case would be dismissed by the court. However, about a century ago the federal government, as well as all the state governments, passed laws called tort claims acts. These laws enumerated certain types of claims that could be brought against a government. The Maryland Tort Claims Act allows certain types of personal injury accidents to be filed against the state, including some Maryland motorcycle accidents.

Most states follow one of two types of tort claims acts. The first type allows for a very narrow range of claims to be filed against the government. However, if a claim is allowed, the plaintiff can typically recover significant damages against the government. Maryland’s tort claims act operates differently in that it allows for a very broad range of claims to be pursued against the government, but implements a fairly low damages cap in these cases. Thus, many Maryland personal injury plaintiffs are able to recover, but few recover enough money to fully compensate them for their injuries.

To successfully file a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against a government entity, the plaintiff must comply with the procedural requirements set out in the tort claims act. The Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) typically requires the plaintiff to provide notice of the claim, including her theory of liability and what damages she is seeking. If a plaintiff fails to follow these procedures, her case will likely be dismissed. And if this occurs after the statute of limitations has run, she will be left without any means of recovery. Thus, ensuring total compliance with the MTCA is essential. A recent case illustrates the difficulties plaintiffs can run into when proper notice is not provided.

After someone is injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident, the law allows for the accident victim to pursue a claim for compensation against any parties responsible for the accident. Statistics show that motorcyclists are more likely than other motorists to be involved in a single-vehicle crash. In addition, motorcyclists may be more susceptible to hazards presented by dangerously designed roads. A recent case illustrates the types of issues that can come up when a motorcyclist files a personal injury lawsuit against a city based on dangerously designed roads.

As the court described the facts, the plaintiff was traveling northbound in the left lane on a divided highway. As the plaintiff neared an intersection, he noticed there was a southbound SUV slowly approaching the intersection. The SUV began to make a left turn in front of the motorcycle, cutting the plaintiff off. Having no time to avoid the collision, the plaintiff’s bike slammed into the passenger’s side of the SUV. After the accident, the driver of the SUV claimed that his vision of approaching traffic was obscured by several trees and their wooden supports in the highway’s center median.

The plaintiff initiated a personal injury lawsuit against several parties, including the driver of the SUV and the city where the accident occurred. The plaintiff claimed that the city was negligent in designing the road and placing the trees in the center median where they could obstruct motorists’ view of oncoming traffic.

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court released an opinion illustrating why some Maryland motorcycle accident cases may require the testimony from an expert witness. The case involved a motorcycle accident that was allegedly caused by a defective tire and made worse by the fact that the helmets worn by the plaintiffs were also defective. However, the court concluded that the plaintiffs’ case against the defendants was insufficient as a matter of law because the plaintiffs failed to present any expert witness testimony establishing causation.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiffs were on a cross-country motorcycle trip. While riding through Nebraska, one of the motorcycle’s tires became punctured, causing the tire to deflate rapidly. As a result, the driver of the motorcycle lost control and crashed into the center median. Both plaintiffs were wearing helmets; however, they each sustained serious head injuries.

A few months after the accident, the plaintiffs received notice that the helmets they had worn during the crash were recalled. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against several parties who manufactured, marketed, distributed, and sold the helmets and motorcycle. The plaintiffs claimed that a defective tire caused the accident, and that their injuries were worsened because the helmets were defective.

Motorcycle accidents are often traumatic and may lead to significant property damage and physical injuries. It is important that Maryland motorcycle accident victims receive immediate and continuous medical treatment for the injuries they sustain. Unfortunately, it is often impossible for an accident victim to receive the appropriate treatment when the culpable party leaves the scene of the accident. Because the injuries are often preventable, Maryland hit-and-run accidents are some of the most frustrating types of car accidents.

A hit-and-run accident occurs when one of the drivers involved in an accident intentionally leaves the scene without providing their pertinent identifying information or assisting someone else who was injured in the accident. A person might be considered a hit-and-run driver even if they were not at fault. However, most often, the person leaving the scene is the responsible party.

As noted above, in a hit-and-run accident an injured party may not receive appropriate medical treatment. This delay in treatment can lead to worsened injuries or even death. Moreover, the victim may have difficulty pursuing a claim for compensation without being able to identify the at-fault party.

One of the most common causes of Maryland motorcycle accidents is a motorist’s failure to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist. Failure-to-yield accidents can occur in several ways. A few of the most common types of failure-to-yield accidents are:

  • When a driver attempts to make a left turn in front of a motorcycle;
  • When a driver suddenly pulls out in front of a motorcyclist;

Over the past few years, most major cities across the country have seen at least one scooter share company pop up. As the popularity of electric scooters explodes across the United States, many have raised a concern that scooter shares present an unjustifiable risk, both to those renting the scooters as well as other motorists and pedestrians. Indeed, since the inception of scooter shares in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., there have been dozens of serious Maryland scooter accidents.

An electric scooter is a relatively simple machine, consisting primarily of a motor attached to a frame that is powered by an electric battery. Electric scooters have throttle and brake mechanisms, similar to motorcycles, that allow users to control the speed of the scooter. A series of wires connects the motor to either the front or rear wheel of the scooter, providing the power that spins the wheel. Most electric scooters top out at around 20 miles per hour; however, most manufacturers recommend users do not travel over 15 miles per hour.

While scooters are not difficult to ride, there is a bit of a learning curve, especially for those who are not familiar with riding a motorcycle. Scooter share companies do not require users to exhibit any sort of riding proficiency to rent a scooter. Given the prevalence, low-cost, and ease of scooter shares, many users who are unfamiliar with how to ride a scooter end up putting themselves and others at risk when taking the scooters on the road or sidewalk.

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.

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